How to Grow Mesembryanthemum Plants

Guide to Growing Ice Plant, Fig Marigold, Heartleaf Ice Plant, Icicle Plant and Pebble Plant

Members of the Mesembryanthemum Plant Genus are half hardy annuals and perennial succulents. They are often commonly known as Ice Plants

They are very useful in the garden as coverage plants, and they are well known for having very long lasting flowers.

Mesembryanthemum eurystigmatum
Mesembryanthemum eurystigmatum photograph by Dr. Alexey Yakovlev; Creative Commons.

These flowers are daisy like, and usually have rays of pink, white, red, or yellow, and a central disc of yellow. They bloom from spring to the end of summer (dependent upon species).

Mesembryanthemum crystallinum
Crystalline Ice Plant photograph by Judy Gallagher; CC.

Plants reach heights from 10 to 30 cm (4 to 12 inches), making them ideal for use in rock gardens or at the front of borders.

As a succulent they are able to grow in harsh conditions, such as saline soils found at salt marshes and in Coastal regions that have sand dunes and flats.

Some common names for Mesembryanthemum plants include Fig Marigold, Sea fig, Ice plant, heartleaf ice plant, baby sun rose and Hottentot fig.

As a halophyte (salt loving plant), it has become the focus of scientific research for use in land areas that need to have salt removed to lower the concentrations.

The plant gets its common name “Ice Plant” is because the stems, leaves, and even fruit are covered in globular cells. These glisten in sunlight and are said to resemble ice crystals.

Mesembryanthemum Species

It is difficult to estimate how many species this plant genus contains as there are many synonyms, with the plant list suggesting that there may be as few as five true species in this genus.

Numerous members of this genus have now been transferred to different plant genera following genetic sequencing.

Many Ice plants are no longer Classified as Mesembryanthemums by Maria Keays.

Commonly listed Mesembryanthemum plant species in the genus (and Former Members) include:

Mesembryanthemum crystallinum - Ice Plant

Mesembryanthemum Crystallinum
Mesembryanthemum Crystallinum - Ice Plant by Leo-setä; creative commons.

This is a short-lived prostrate growing succulent. It has large bladder cells that retain water.

Mesembryanthemum crystallinum plants grow well on sandy soils that have good drainage. Crushed leaves can be used as a replacement for soap.

Mesembryanthemum nodiflorum - Slenderleaf iceplant

Mesembryanthemum nodiflorum
Mesembryanthemum nodiflorum, Slenderleaf Iceplant photograph by Patricio Novoa Quezada; CC.

Succulent annual plant that is invasive in many areas, including the Western USA and Australia

It thrives and can grow out of control in moist soils. This plant grows in clumps and is mat-forming.

Leaves are slender, knobbly, and green to bright red. The stems are relatively long at 20 cm (8 inches), and carry solitary flowers.

Mesembryanthemum cordifolium - the Heartleaf iceplant or Rock Rose. NB. Reclassified as Aptenia cordifolia

Mesembryanthemum cordifolium Rock Rose
Mesembryanthemum cordifolium / Aptenia cordifolia, Rock Rose photograph by Forest and Kim Starr; CC.

This succulent is named after its heart-shaped (cordate) leaves. It is a carpet growing plant and so can prove useful for ground coverage in smaller gardens.

It only opens its flowers when the sun is shining. It is often grown as an hybrid form in the garden known as Aptenia 'Red Apple'.

This hybrid has bright green flowers and blooms with red flowers.

Mesembryanthemum lehmanni Reclassified as Corpuscularia lehmannii

Mesembryanthemum lehmanni, AKA Corpuscularia lehmannii
Mesembryanthemum lehmanni / Corpuscularia lehmannii photograph by Salicyna; CC.

Mesembryanthemum criniflorum: Livingstone daisy. NB. Reclassified as Cleretum bellidiforme

Mesembryanthemum criniflorum, Cleretum bellidiforme
Mesembryanthemum criniflorum / Cleretum bellidiforme picture by Pierre-Joseph Redouté, image sourced by Rawpixel Ltd; CC.

How to Grow Fig Marigold, Ice Plant, and other Mesembryanthemum Plants in the Garden

Ice Plant and Fig Marigold (Mesembryanthemum) seeds should be sown outdoors sequentially from just after the last frost of spring until the end of May; this will result in a long blooming period.

It is best to sow the seeds on the surface into a sunny part of the garden that has good drainage.

Plants prefer a soil that is sandy and dry, ideally the soil should also be poor in nature.

If growing Mesembryanthemum indoors first, then start the process about three months in advance.

The seeds will take about three weeks to germinate in the dark, at a temperature of about 18 to 24° C (64 to 75°F).

Once growing strong, smaller species can be put out into the garden following the last frost of spring, space at about 15 cm (6 inches) apart, while larger varieties should be spaced at about 20 to 30 cm (8 to 12 inches).

Caring for Mesembryanthemum in the Garden

Once growing, it is best to water Mesembryanthemum regularly, and apply a liquid fertiliser once the first round of flowering has occurred.

Mesembryanthemum Growing and Care Guide

Common Names: Ice plant, Fig Marigold, Icicle Plant, Pebble Plant, Heartleaf ice plant, Sea Marigold, Dumpling, Sea Fig, Baby sun rose, mesembs, or Australian midday flower.
Life Cycle: Half hardy annual. Half hardy perennial.
Height: 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm). Stems are prostrate and can reach about 2 feet (60 cm).
Family: Aizoaceae, the fig-marigolds.
Related Species: Carpobrotus, Carruanthus, Lithops, Tetragonia.
Native: Southern Africa.

Garden Usage Bedding plant, Ground cover, Rock gardens.
Growing Region: Frost tender. Zones 3 to 10 as an annual. Perennial in zones 8 to 11. UK zone: H3.
Blooms: Spring, summer, and autumn.
Flower Details: Pink, white, yellow, red. Open up on sunny days only. Daisy-like ray and disc florets. Solitary or loose flower clusters. Massed blooms. Long lasting flowers.
Foliage: Green through red. Succulent. Fleshy leaves.

Sow Outside: Surface. Sow out at two to three week intervals from just after the last frost until the middle of spring. Spacing 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25 cm).
Sow Inside: Germination time: two to three weeks. Temperature 70°F (21°C). Two months before expected last frost. Transplant outdoors following the last frost.
Propagate: Cuttings in spring.

Requirements: Full sunlight. Good drainage. Sandy soil. Grit. Poor soils. Can survive in dry soils once established. Occasional watering during prolonged dry spells. Supply a feed to perennials after flowering has finished.
Miscellaneous Medicinal use. Leaves possibly used as a traditional substitute for soap.
References / Further Reading: Awkward Botany; The Plant List.

Common Questions

How many members does the Mesembryanthemum genus contain?

The Mesembryanthemum genus consists of about 50 species of flowering plants.

Do Mesembryanthemum members make a good garden or landscaping plant?

Yes, species of Mesembryanthemum are often grown as ornamental plants due to their brightly colored flowers and are ideal for sunny borders, rock gardens, or containers.

Which Mesembryanthemum species are most frequently grown by gardeners?

Among the most popular is Mesembryanthemum crystallinum (Ice Plant) known for its sparkling leaves, and Mesembryanthemum cordifolium for its abundant blooms.

Are Mesembryanthemum plants fragrant?

The flowers of Mesembryanthemum plants are not particularly fragrant.

What is the perfect location to grow Mesembryanthemum?

Mesembryanthemum species thrive in full sun, in well-drained soil. They're ideal for sunny borders or rock gardens.

Is Mesembryanthemum invasive in the USA, if so in which states?

Currently, some species of Mesembryanthemum, like Mesembryanthemum crystallinum, can be invasive in certain states, including California and Oregon.

How do I remove Mesembryanthemum plants from my garden?

Mesembryanthemum can be manually pulled out, ensuring all roots are removed. They can regrow if any roots are left behind.


The Mesembryanthemum plant genus belongs to the Aizoaceae family and comprises succulent plants, often known as ice plants. They are cherished for their daisy-like flowers and fleshy leaves.

To grow Mesembryanthemum, choose a sunny location with well-drained soil. These plants thrive in warm, dry climates, making them an excellent choice for rock gardens or borders. Plant them in early spring and water moderately. They are drought-tolerant and require minimal care.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Mesembryanthemum plants. You may also enjoy the following succulent growing guides: How to grow Rochea, Aloe vera, and Senecio articulatus.