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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - August 15, 2008

From: Buchanan, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Winter care for non-native ice plant in Virginia
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have an ice plant in my garden and it is doing very well. What would be the care for winter. Ground seldom freezes, temperatures mostly 20 but can get in single digit occasionally. Very little snow and seldom lasts more than a few days

ANSWER:

We're going to name this one "The Great Ice Plant Mystery." We've heard of ice plants for years, knew they were succulents, were pretty sure they were non-native to North America, and that's about it. So, when we went looking for websites on ice plant, we had three different genus names pop up. The first one is Lampranthus, the second is Delosperma cooperi and the third is Corpobrotus chilensis or edulis. We looked at pictures of them-all very similar, with similar pinky-purple flowers, and chubby succulent leaves. We looked at descriptions-all said to be members of the Alizaceae or fig-marigold family, and all natives of South Africa. We even looked at the USDA Plant Profiles for them-they all seem to be growing only in California, or California and Washington State, or California and Florida. And in California, they are considered a noxious weed, taking over the native plant life of sand dunes, and gardeners are advised not to plant them in Zones 7-10, where they could be expected to become invasive.

So, we decided to pick one, Lampranthus, and found this Botany.com website which seems to have the best all-round information. Buchanan, in west central Virginia, appears to be in USDA Hardiness Zone 7a, with minimum average temperatures of 5 deg to 0 deg. According to the information we found, while intense and prolonged frost can cause damage, the plant will recover vigorously in the Spring. It does, however, need excellent drainage, lean soil and can tolerate considerable drought. We found one gardening forum which said ice plants grow in several places in Virginia, and it should grow in your garden, too.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the use and propagation of plants native to North America and to the area in which they are being grown. We also wish to be on guard against invasive plants, native or non-native. While this plant is considered invasive on sandy beaches in California, you probably do not have the favorable temperatures or soil to permit the ice plant to be invasive in Virginia.

 

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