Cephalophyllum alstonii is a creeping succulent with spectacular flowers. It is excellent as a ground cover but also as a potted plant on a patio.
Cephalophyllum alstonii Marloth ex L.Bolus
Red Spike Ice Plant
Cephalophyllum franciscii, Mesembryanthemum alstonii
Cephalophyllum alstonii is a beautiful succulent that grows in dense clumps and has creeping stems with erect, greyish leaves. The stems can reach up to 20 inches (50 cm) in length and form roots where their nodes touch the soil. The fleshy leaves are triangular in cross-section, rounded at the base, and can grow up to 4.8 inches (12 cm) long.
During the winter, the plant produces attractive, bright red-magenta flowers with reddish-brown stamens. The flowers are up to 0.4 inches (1 cm) in diameter, open only in bright sunlight, and stay closed at night or on cloudy days. Once the flowers are pollinated, they turn into 18- to 20-locular capsules with persistent stalks and tiny brown seeds.
Cephalophyllum alstonii is native to South Africa. It grows on dry sandstone slopes in the Western Cape province.
How to Grow and Care for Cephalophyllum alstonii
Light: This succulent requires bright light but not too much direct sunlight. So, a windowsill that receives 4 to 5 hours of direct sunlight in the morning and partial shade in the afternoon will be a perfect spot for indoor growing.
Soil: Cephalophyllum alstonii thrives in porous soil, allowing the water to drain away quickly. Therefore, use commercial soil for succulents or make your own well-draining mix.
Temperature: High temperatures are not a problem as long as there is plenty of fresh air, but this plant is not cold-hardy. It grows best in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 9b to 11b, with average minimum winter temperatures ranging from 25 to 50 °F (-3.9 to 10 °C).
Watering: In order to keep your plant healthy, it is most important to know when, how much, and how often to water. During the dormant period, usually in summer, Cephalophyllum alstonii requires little or no water. In the fall, once it grows again, water thoroughly but allow the soil to dry between waterings.
Fertilizing: As long as you repot this plant every two years, it does not need fertilizer.
Repotting: Even if it can stay happy in the same pot for years, once in a while, you can repot your plant to give it more space anytime during the growing season. However, the best time is at the beginning of the growing season.
Propagation: Although it is usually started from seeds, Cephalophyllum alstonii can also be easily propagated by division. Late summer, just before it begins to break dormancy, is the best time to divide the plant, while the fall is ideal for sowing the seeds.
Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Mesembs.
Toxicity of Cephalophyllum alstonii
Cephalophyllum alstonii is considered non-toxic, so having it around kids and pets is safe.
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