What started as an innocent gift from a dear friend has turned out to be one of the hardiest potted plants in the garden. Oscularia deltoides, which shares its common name, ice plant, with too many other succulent species, is a prolific spring/summer bloomer that never seems to stop growing. Upping the container from its original, each year it cascades down the pot's sides and would endlessly creep along the ground if I did not give it a severe pruning after blooming. The resulting haircut reveals desiccated limbs from years past, but it does not take long to overcome its untidiness to once again flourish beyond its confined space.
I am thinking of areas in the garden where I might transplant it, to let it run free and crowd out any weeds. Am I inviting annoyances by allowing it to expand, or will it be a show stopping ground cover with pink flowers (apparently fragrant, I never tried to smell them) and an unusual leaf shape? It feels right to give it a try.
Sunset features a small section, "Meet the Ice Plants" for general information about their habits, which include at least nine species if not more (p. 371). The University of Arkansas references about 180 species, and most will share similar characteristics as succulents that trail like a ground cover. O. deltoides is one of them. What this ice plant is not, thankfully, is invasive, as several others are listed on California's Invasive Plant Councils database, even featuring one such species on their website's banner.
Since O. deltoides is not listed as invasive, despite its aggressive stance in my garden, it certainly has its place. Clearly, I am ready to give it its freedom and see how it will perform outside of container gardening. More later as I monitor its performance.
Botanical Name: Oscularia deltoides
Oscularia: Latin, osculum for little mouth (the appearance of the foliage)
Deltoides: Triangular, as in the foliage shape
Common Name: Ice plant
Family Name: Aizoaceae
Origin: South Africa
Positioning: Foreground, raised planters, slopes
Garden Themes: Mediterranean/dry, container, pollinator, succulent, moonlight
Uses: Ground cover, mass, hillsides, potted, raised planters to allow cascading, hanging baskets
Form: Mounding, spreading, arching
Size: 1' tall and spreading
Outstanding Feature(s): Flower, foliage
Stem: Slightly red turning gray with maturity
Shape: Three-sided, faceted
Margin: Slight dentate with red tips
Color: Gray-green, blue-green
Surface: Glabrous, fleshy
Flower: Spring to Summer. Small, composite, daisy-like, lavender/pink with slight scent. Showy
Fruit: Autumn. Capsule. Sunset recommends deadheading to eliminate unattractive fruit.
cultural requirements, tolerances & problems
Sunset Zones: 14-24
USDA Zones: 8-11
WUCOLS SF Bay Area Hydro Zone: Low
Texture: Sand, rocky
Moisture Retention: Well-drained
pH: Slightly acidic to slightly alkaline
Branch Strength: N/A
Insects: Not recorded at time of posting
citations & attributions
Bayton, R. (2019). The Royal Horticultural Society's the Gardener's Botanical: An Encyclopedia of Latin Plant Names. London: Mitchell Beazley.
Cal-IPC. "Plants A to Z." California Invasive Plant Council, Berkeley. Accessed on September 4, 2021, from https://www.cal-ipc.org/plants/profiles/.
Klingaman, G. (2013, July 23). "Plant of the Week: Ice Plant." University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture, Little Rock. Accessed on September 4, 2021, from https://www.uaex.edu/yard-garden/resource-library/plant-week/ice-plants-7-26-13.aspx.
Norris Brenzel, K. (Ed.). (2012). The New Sunset Western Garden Book. New York: Time Home Entertainment, Inc.
Plant Z Africa. "Oscularia deltoides." South African National Biodiversity Institute, Brummeria. Accessed on September 4, 2021 from http://pza.sanbi.org/oscularia-deltoides.
Products. "Oscularia caulescens." San Marcos Growers, Santa Barbara. Accessed on September 4, 2021 from https://www.smgrowers.com/products/plants/plantdisplay.asp?plant_id=3819.
Water Use Classification of Landscape Species. "WUCOLS IV Plant List." University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Davis. Accessed on July 27, 2021.
Flower cluster: "IMG 5943-Oscularia deltoides" by C T Johansson is licensed under Creative Commons.
All other photos by TELCS.