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Mesembryanthemum crystallinum (Common Ice Plant)

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Scientific Name

Mesembryanthemum crystallinum L.

Common Names

Common Ice Plant, Crystalline Ice Plant, Ice Plant

Synonyms

Cryophytum crystallinum, Gasoul crystallinum

Scientific Classification

Family: Aizoaceae
Subfamily: Mesembryanthemoideae
Genus: Mesembryanthemum

Description

Mesembryanthemum crystallinum is a low-growing succulent that spreads over the ground with flat, fleshy leaves. It can be annual, biennial or perennial depending on environmental conditions. Leaves and stems are covered with many, tiny membranes that form papillae filled with sap, which look like ice crystals from a distance. The flowers are white to pink to mauve, up to 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter and appear in spring to early summer.

Photo via frozenseeds.com

Hardiness

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 which are not especially large and sometimes very small, and affects the way they need to be treated in cultivation.

The basics of care are very simple, with 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' own adaptability and to follow their growth habits in your particular conditions.

These plants require a loam-based compost with the addition of 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 freezing point. There are some Mesembs which 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.

Origin

Mesembryanthemum crystallinum is native to Africa, Sinai and southern Europe, and naturalized in North America, South Africa and Australia.

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