Understanding the Pruning Needs of Ice Plant
Ice plant needs regular pruning in order to maintain a compact shape, remove dead or diseased growth, and promote new growth. Left unpruned, ice plant can become leggy and loose its attractiveness. Pruning helps control the size and shape, especially for ground-cover varieties. Regular pruning invigorates new ice plant growth by encouraging lateral shoots and eliminating excess foliage that saps the plant’s energy. Die-back of older stems is quite common and should be removed.
More comprehensive information and care guidelines can be read here.
The Best Time to Prune Ice Plant for Optimal Growth
The optimal time to prune ice plant (Delosperma spp.) is late winter to early spring before new growth emerges. This allows the ice plant ample recovery time to regrow foliage and fill out the area by summer. Pruning during the active growth period can stimulate excessive regrowth that may not harden off enough before cold weather arrives.
Wait until late winter, after most active cold weather has passed but before spring growth begins. Often this is in February or March. The foliage will likely start to yellow and die back from colder weather at this stage. Prune immediately after the last expected hard frost in your area.
Early spring pruning allows ice plant to:
- Regenerate for 3 to 4 months before the summer heat stresses the plant
- Fill in bare areas with lush new growth
- Produce a flush of strong stems that can support the large, succulent leaves
Pruning too late, once new growth begins in spring, can be disadvantageous because:
- The regrowth may not harden off sufficiently before winter arrives
- New stems may be weaker and more prone to damage over summer
- Excess growth could deplete the plant’s energy reserves
In summary, a late winter or early spring prune ensures the ice plant has ample time to recover before facing the challenges of summer sun and heat. Following this timing will result in thick, full growth and a compact plant structure.
**Step-by-Step Guide to Pruning Ice Plant **
Follow these steps to properly prune your ice plant (Delosperma spp.) for optimal health and appearance:
Use sharp bypass pruners to cut away any dead, diseased or leggy growth. Make the cuts close to the ground, within 1 to 2 inches of the base.
Cut back any branches that have become unruly or sprawling. Trim branches that cross over each other. Removing these congested stems allows for better air circulation and sunlight exposure to inner plants.
Prune off any seed pods to encourage the plant’s energy to focus on producing foliage rather than seeds. Allowing pods to develop can hamper the plant’s vigor.
Some light thinning of inner branches may be needed for optimal health. Remove branches that seem weak or crowded. This improves air flow and light penetration to lower leaves.
Gently rake or sweep up any prunings and debris to keep the area looking tidy. Dispose of prunings in the trash – do not compost.
Put on garden gloves to protect your hands from the plant’s sap or spikes while pruning. Bypass pruners make clean cuts but sap can still irritate sensitive skin.
Return frequently during the growing season to remove any dead leaves or stems as they appear, as needed. This prevents buildup of disease organisms.
Proper pruning in late winter and ongoing deadheading throughout summer will help maintain an attractive, full structure of your ice plant. Leave at least 4 to 6 inches between individual plants to allow for growth and air circulation around each plant.
Essential Tools for Pruning Ice Plant
The primary tools needed for properly pruning ice plant (Delosperma spp.) are:
Sharp bypass pruning shears:
For stems up to 1/2 inch thick. Bypass blades make a clean cut that is less damaging to the plant.
For thicker stems over 1/2 inch. The anvil blade crushes plant tissue slightly but can handle thicker stems.
To protect your hands from any irritation caused by plant sap or spines on leaves/stems.
Ice plant has thick, succulent stems that are best cut using bypass or anvil pruners rather than scissors. Make smooth, clean cuts close to the base of stems to minimize damage.
For ground-covering ice plant varieties:
Can allow for more precise, angled cuts close to the ground to maintain a tidy shape.
String trimmer with plastic line:
Can be used to take a “lawnmower” approach when ice plant has become overgrown. This evens out the plant’s height.
For all pruning:
Dull blades crush and tear plant tissue, making it difficult to heal and inviting disease. Keep blades clean and sharp-honed.
Optional for most light pruning. But recommended if using power tools near eyes.
In summary, bypass pruners provide the cleanest cuts for ice plant while gloves protect your hands from any irritating sap or spines. For groundcovers, hand shears allow more precise shaping though string trimmers can also be used with plastic line. All tools should be kept sharp for the easiest, cleanest pruning results.
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