Iceplant (Delosperma cooperi) is one of those plants that we sort of take for granted most of the year here on the Central Coast. But come spring when it starts to bloom, you better put your shades on. The bright purple and orange flowers just glow in the sunlight. Easy to grow and care for (they practically thrive on neglect) they are an excellent choice for very poor soil and neglected areas. That’s why I have chosen to expand the existing patch in my yard to cover a sloped area leading to the back half of the yard. Fortunately iceplant is a type of succulent which means it is incredibly easy to propagate. In a matter of 20 minutes today, I was able to get 30 plants well on their way to growing. Here is how:
Here I’ve filled a starting tray with some purchased cactus mix. I like using cactus mix for starting succulents because it drains well and doesn’t hold too much moisture. If the soil gets too wet while the plants are trying to root, they will rot before roots can grow. I’m reusing a starting tray that is about 2″ deep and has 2″ square cells. You can use any type of container as long as it has adequate drainage and is not too tall, say no more than 4″. Aluminum baking pans with holes punched in the bottom work well too.
Take some cuttings that are about 4″ to 5″ long with some semi-hard growth. You want the growth at the bottom to be just starting to turn brown, but not so woody that it snaps easily or so green that you can bend it in a circle. Iceplant roots so easily that I don’t bother to let the cuttings dry and scar over. Trim or pull off the leaves on the bottom couple of inches of stem. The leaf joints will be where the roots will begin to grow.
Here you can see the leaves have been trimmed off. Since the roots are going to grow from the leaf joints, you will want to trim the stem close to a bottom leaf joint as pictured. This will allow me to insert two leaf joints into the soil.
Make a hole for the cutting by inserting a pencil in the soil and stick it in.
I always like to add a friend. By having two cuttings I start out with a bit bushier plant. This isn’t so important for making more groundcover, but if I’m taking cuttings to put in a container, I like to have a decent looking start when it’s rooted and not something that looks like a twig sticking out of pot.
Because I have a spring house where the cuttings can stay warm and dry, I’m able to take them now, in March. If I were doing them outside, I would wait until it is consistently warm and all danger of frost has passed. I then place them in a dry but semi-sunny location and wait. You won’t be watering your cuttings until you start to get roots so you don’t want to put them in full sun. Rooting will take a couple of weeks depending on your weather. You can tell if they are rooting by gently tugging on the cuttings. When you feel resistance, you know you have roots. At that point you will give them some water. I normally wait until they start to show some growth before planting them out in the yard. This shows me that they have a well established root system and will transplant well.
This method works with almost all trailing succulents (donkey tail and trailing jades can be a bit finicky). For other varieties, I would allow the cuttings to scar over (the sappy cut end dries out) in a warm, dry location out of direct sunlight for a few days. I find succulents root so easily I can skip using any sort of rooting hormone and within a very short amount of time I can have a lot more plants for practically no money.