Mesembryanthemum crystallinum L.
Common Ice Plant, Crystalline Ice Plant, Ice Plant
Cryophytum crystallinum, Gasoul crystallinum, Perapentacoilanthus crystallinus
Mesembryanthemum crystallinum is a low-growing succulent with trailing, dichotomously branched stems and fleshy, spoon-shaped leaves with undulated margins. It spreads over the ground with the stems growing up to 3.3 feet (1 m) long, and it can be annual or biennial, depending on environmental conditions. The leaves and stems are covered with many tiny membranes that form papillae filled with sap, which look like ice crystals from a distance. The leaves can reach up to 3.2 inches (8 cm) in length and 0.8 inches (2 cm) in width.
The flowers are up to 1.2 inches (3 cm) in diameter, have 20 to 40 white linear petals suffused with pink or red, and appear from spring to early summer. They open in the morning and close at night. The fruits are 5-locular capsules that contain about 200 seeds.
Mesembryanthemum crystallinum is native to Africa, Sinai, and southern Europe and naturalized in North America, South Africa, and Australia. It grows in dry areas and along the coast, where the soil is highly salty.
USDA hardiness zones 10a to 11b: from 30 °F (−1.1 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).
How to Grow and Care
Mesembs are mostly adapted to relatively predictable rainfall patterns rather than extreme drought and irregular rainfall. Total rainfall may be extremely low, but water is available at least seasonally or through fog and condensation. This leads to or allows plants that are not especially large and sometimes very small and affect the way they need to be treated in cultivation.
The care basics are simple: free-draining soil, plenty of sun and ventilation, and regular light watering in the right season. Yet the difficulties are endless, trying to adapt to the Mesembs' adaptability and follow their growth habits in your particular conditions.
These plants require a loam-based compost with extra drainage material such as horticultural grit or perlite. They all like good light conditions and plenty of ventilation.
Some are relatively cold-hardy and can even survive mild winters outside. Most will survive temperatures down to the freezing point. Some Mesembs begin to grow in the fall as the temperature drops and the days get shorter.
Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Mesembs.
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