Delosperma ‘Carmen Lucia’
This is a new perennial we obtained from DeVroomen for trial. You may recognize it as ‘ice plant’ , the same one that seems to be invading California. This cold hardy type has a much more delicate texture with small fleshy leaves and electric bright flowers. It is a very short, perennial groundcover, growing no more than about 3″ tall. Planted in the spring, each plant spread about 18″ wide in the first season.
We obtained the plants as 72 plug trays in spring. Due to the continued cold weather we went ahead and shifted them to 4″ pots and grew them for a few weeks before planting in early June after the soil dried up a bit and temperatures warmed. The series is available in 6 colors, White Pearl, Eye Candy, Strong Red, Pink Ribbon, Perfect Orange and Carmen Lucia. ‘Carmen Lucia’ performed the best for us overall this year but we will also be evaluating the plants for winter hardiness next year. Strong Red was the front runner for vegetative growth and spread early on. The plants spread quickly to cover a larger area but by mid summer Carmen Lucia had caught up in size and had the best flower cover of the series. We have this trial in both irrigated and non-irrigated locations. Plants benefitted by supplemental irrigation over the summer but over the past few weeks of fall with cooler temperatures and a little rain, the difference in growth and flowering is minimal. We are hopeful for their winter survival as they are a very attractive plant with great landscape value.
Plants began blooming in the plug trays and pots and continued to bloom all summer. The heaviest bloom occured in late July but plants did have soem flower cover all summer. Plants continued to bloom during temperatures in the 90s and continued when temperatures dropped to the 50s suddenly for a few weeks in late August.
This plant has great potential as a drought tolerant, flowering, perennial groundcover. It is has a dense growth habit which effectively chokes out weeds. All the colors in the series are attractive but the bright pink of ‘Carmen Lucia’ exhibited the best overall flower color. We had ‘Carmen Lucia planted near a dark blue butterfly bush and Shasta daisy which gave a very bold look. ‘White Pearl’ was a close second in flower cover and ‘easy on the eye’ as a color that combines well with other perennials. ‘White Pearl’ was heavily blooming at the same time as Purple dome aster and Rudbeckia nearby which made for an attractive fall scene. Since these plants bloom all summer they are useful in adding color to many different combinations.
Time will tell if this genera is indeed hardy to Wisconsin winters. Its usually not the cold temperatures that kill off herbaceous perennials in Wisconsin, it’s the wet spring soil. Our heavy clay soils become saturated and poorly drained in spring; a condition many herbaceous perennials just can’t tolerate. This cold, wet spring is usually followed by high heat and humidity in summer. August to September is often droughty with little rain for 4-6 weeks or longer. Winter survival depends a lot on soil mositure and snow cover. If we have good soil moisture going into winter and the ground freezes solid, those minus 20 degree winds can’t blow into the soil pores to kill roots. A good mulch layer always helps. Today is a beautiful fall day but we know winter is coming. I’m glad we have autumn to ease us into the cold days ahead….