Delosperma Echinatum ‘Pickle Plant’ Care Guide (2023)
The lovely thing about Delosperma echinatum is that it has succulent leaves that are surrounded by bristly hairs. At first glance, you’ll be afraid to touch those hairs as it looks like they’re going to hurt. But thankfully, those spine-like white hairs are soft. Be ready to add this unique plant to your collection.
Common Name: Pickle plant, Ice plant
Scientific Name: Delosperma echinatum
Origin: South Africa (Eastern cape)
Habitat: Rocky habitats
Size: 45 cm (18″) tall
Toxicity: Non-toxic to pets and humans
Blooms: White to yellow flowers from spring
Light: Full sun
Watering: Light watering
Temperature: 0 to 40oF or -17 to 4oC.
USDA Zone: 7a to 10b
Air humidity: Low to moderate
Soil pH: 6.0 to 6.5 (slightly acidic)
Fertilizing: Feed once a month with diluted fertilizer (spring and summer)
Propagation: Division, cuttings, or seeds
Re-Potting: Once every two years
Pruning: Judicial pruning
What’s Unique About Delosperma echinatum?
Pickle plant succulent is known for its evergreen appearance. It retains its leaves even during fall or winter. This makes the plant worth caring for as it gives you a year-round beauty to enjoy. A unique and rare beauty coming from South Africa, this succulent naturally inhabits rocky areas. But it also makes a great indoor plant.
Compared to other succulents, it has more tolerance to colder temperatures. It won’t easily give in when there’s frost. However, that’s not the reason why Delosperma echinatum common name is ice plant. Rather, its translucent hairs refract the light, allowing them to spark like ice crystals.
This fuzzy pickle is a low-growing shrub that can spread or sprawl to the ground. Overall, it has a spiny texture because of those tiny hairs covering it. While this succulent plant is popular for its foliage, it also produces attractive flowers. This makes the entire plant even more beautiful.
The foliage of Delosperma echinatum is what makes it remarkable. Each leaf resembles the shape of a small pickle which can grow to a size of one inch. This pickle leaf is filled with moisture which is a common characteristic among succulents.
The foliage has a green or lime color. It’s surrounded by those small, translucent hairs. Under full sun, those hairs can reflect and refract the light making them spark. The presence of these spines is part of the pickle plant’s protective mechanism. In the wild, these hairs help drive away enemies like herbivores who tend to graze on low-growing plants.
The pickle plant succulent flower starts to appear when the spring or summer season hits. A mature plant will produce flowers that look like small daisies. They range from colors white to yellow. They appear on top of each stem as if they’re the crown. Such an additional source of attraction is all the more reason why plant lovers are getting hooked.
However, Delosperma echinatum flowering may not occur all the time. There are several factors that could lead to delayed or no flowering at all. This includes a lack of exposure to bright light and a limited supply of nutrients in the soil.
Size and Growth
When it comes to the size of Delosperma echinatum, don’t expect too much. This plant is a small succulent. It can grow only up to 45 cm (18″) tall and is really low-growing. But, it can spread widely on the ground filling in bare spaces.
Just give extra patience because Delosperma echinatum growth rate is a bit slow. Don’t worry if it takes time for the plant to increase in size. The natural growing process takes 3 to 5 years. As long as you’re providing the right growing conditions, no need to fuzz over your pickle plant. Let it have its own sweet time.
Gardeners report that there is no distinct Delosperma echinatum fragrance that you can expect. This plant has no fragrant odor even when the flowers start to bloom. What they offer is just an attractive appearance, which is already more than enough.
If you wish to have a fragrant succulent, you may opt to grow the “Little Pickles”, also known as Othonna capensis species. Just like the pickle plant, it also produces yellow daisy-like flowers. The difference is that its flowers are fragrant. You may pair this up with your Delosperma echinatum. These two pickles will surely make a good partnership.
As gardeners, we should also be aware of the threats our plants carry. The first thing to know is whether the plant is safe or not for pets and humans. Thankfully, the Delosperma echinatum toxicity isn’t something that should worry you. This species is listed as non-toxic and is completely safe to cultivate at home.
Despite its intimidating look, the Delosperma echinatum succulent is a harmless one. It does not contain any toxic properties that could possibly harm humans. This is a friendly choice for gardeners who have kids at home. You won’t have to worry about them getting intoxicated by the pickle plant.
So, what about the spiny hairs around it? We know that this plant resembles a cactus that looks like a pickle, which often hurts when touched. Nevertheless, these hairs are nothing like those. They are soft to touch. So, it is less likely for your skin to get pricked and irritated.
Likewise, the pets are also safe when they’re around a pickle plant. Even if they ingest its leaves, it will not cause them trouble as it is non-toxic. So, there is nothing to worry about especially for fur babies who are fond of munching over plants.
However, to maintain the beautiful Delosperma echinatum shape and appearance, place it in areas away from your naughty pets. It is difficult to control fur babies when they run and play around the house. They might bump over your pickle plant causing it enough damage. And we do not want that to happen, right?
If you have a huge space outdoors, growing Delosperma echinatum is a great option. It will make an attractive groundcover for an outdoor garden. Match them with other species of cacti and succulents, particularly those of varying sizes and colors. It will surely create a stunning picturesque.
If you wish to keep Delosperma echinatum plant indoors, that will do as well. You can have it in pots, in hanging baskets, in terrariums, or in dish gardens. Your plant will surely love compact and small containers filled with loose potting mix. You can have it displayed anywhere at home as long as favorable conditions are present.
Delosperma echinatum Care
Pickle plant care is relatively easy and requires little effort. You’ll be happy to include this plant in your collection because it isn’t fuzzy and demanding. The following lists down the simple care tips for this plant. Make sure to take note of the important things so you’ll be guided.
Full sun condition will satisfy the Delosperma echinatum light requirements. That’s why it is best to place it outside where there’s full access to sunlight all throughout the day. A little shade will also do especially when there’s scorching heat around. It will protect the plant from possible damage.
For indoors, we recommend that you find the brightest spot and place it there. A windowsill that receives direct sunlight will be of advantage. Sufficient exposure to sunlight will help the pickle plant bloom. If light is lacking, you may supplement it with indoor lights. Avoid low light conditions as much as possible.
The soak and dry method applies to watering of Delosperma echinatum. It is best to leave the soil to dry before you water again. Your plant is better off this way rather than keeping it moist all the time. It has the ability to tolerate drought for an extended period of time.
Since the pickle plant has fleshy leaves, it has enough moisture to use during the dry periods. Water the plant once or twice a week during summer and spring. But reduce this frequency to about once every two weeks when it’s winter. Your pickle plant won’t lose that much moisture anyway.
Part of your care for a pickle plant includes providing the right temperature. A range between 0 to 40oF or -17 to 4oC is ideal for your succulent. This range is a bit lower than the temperature requirements for other species of succulents. If you’re living in colder areas, this plant is an excellent choice.
Make sure to meet the Delosperma echinatum temperature needs. Enough heat units are required for plant growth and development. If the correct temperature is not provided, your pickle succulent will have trouble growing. As a pro tip, avoid prolonged exposure to extreme temperature conditions to prevent stress.
When it comes to humidity, nothing is much required by the pickle plant. It will thrive in an average room humidity so there’s no need for misting. In fact, it’s better to keep the plant away from excess moisture. It loves to dwell in a dry environment. So, let it be that way.
It pays to monitor your Delosperma echinatum humidity from time to time. High humidity can be dangerous to your succulents. It can cause stem and root rot because of excess moisture. Remember that this plant has storage of water in the form of its fleshy leaves.
A porous and well-draining medium makes the best Delosperma echinatum soil. The well-aerated structure allows the air to penetrate well. Additionally, it helps drain excess water freely out of the pot. This is very essential to maintain the plant’s health by preventing root rot.
The ideal soil pH is slightly acidic (6.0 to 6.5). Try to maintain this condition as much as possible. If you’re unsure, you can always use a soil pH meter. There are various cacti and succulent mixes available in the market that you can purchase. Choose the one that’s been previously sterilized to prevent soil-borne diseases.
Pickle plants do well even in nutrient-deficient soil. We told you this plant isn’t demanding. Even when you don’t fertilize regularly, it will remain healthy and thriving. But if in case your plant needs a little boost, go ahead and apply fertilizer. Feed once a month with diluted fertilizer during the spring and summer seasons.
But make sure to do this in moderation. Although a steady supply of nutrients is beneficial, their heavy concentration can cause toxicity. You’ve probably heard horror stories of what happens to over-fertilized plants. Our advice is for you to try to avoid committing this mistake
There’s nothing new to expect when it comes to the propagation of Delosperma echinatum. Like most succulents, you can multiply this species using three methods. First is by division, then by cuttings. Sowing seeds is also another option depending on your preference.
Pickle plant propagation is a lot easier through vegetative means. When you have a mature plant, you can split it into two or three depending on its thickness. You may plant each separately. Another method is using stem cuttings. Find a mature and healthy stem and cut at least 5 to 6 inches long. Plant each stem and water it regularly until roots develop.
Re-potting Delosperma echinatum will have to take place once every two years. The plant is a slow grower so it won’t need frequent repotting. And even as it matures, it prefers to be pot bound. That’s why it’s better to leave it that way.
During repotting, choose a container that is only an inch larger than the old one. We don’t want to use extra-large pots because it will encourage the pooling of water. Also, ensure that it has enough drainage holes. Fill it in with a well-draining potting mix. Then, carefully transfer the pickle plant to its new home.
Pruning Delosperma echinatum isn’t really required. You can just let the foliage grow and spread naturally. If there are dead and rotten stems, remove them right away. They might cause the spread of certain diseases to other parts.
Once the plant gets really thick, you may cut off some of its mature stems. This is a form of thinning out to give the plant enough air circulation and light penetration.
And please, don’t throw those stems away! You can use them for pickle plant propagation. So, you save both time and resources doing pruning and propagation at the same time.
Delosperma echinatum Common Problems
Luckily, there are not many Delosperma echinatum problems to encounter in the future. This is a big blessing for starters who lack the experience intending to pickle plants. There are only a few pests and diseases to take note of. And they are specified in the following sections below:
Mealybugs, scale, fungus gnats, whitefly, vine weevils & root mealybugs are the specific Delosperma echinatum pests. Be sure to keep an eye on these foreign organisms. They can be subtle in their presence and action. If you’re not vigilant, you may end up losing your pickle plant to these tiny monsters.
The key to preventing infestation is to check your plant regularly. Make an action during the exact time you’ve noticed their presence. Spray them off with water, or diluted dishwashing liquid mixed with horticultural oils. This solution helps kill these organisms. Do this as often as needed, preferably in the morning.
On the other hand, root rot, leaf-spot disease, botrytis, rust, powdery mildew & southern blight are the identified Delosperma echinatum diseases. These diseases surface out once the plant becomes weak and vulnerable. That’s why it’s important to keep growing conditions ideal most of the time. Keep moisture level down to the minimum.
Ensure that you have a proper diagnosis of which disease is present in your pickle plant. If unsure, you may consult a horticulture expert or a plant pathologist. Doing so will help you decide on which treatment is best suited to cure your diseased plant. If possible, use natural products to combat diseases.
Root rot caused by overwatering is the most common problem you’ll encounter when growing a pickle plant. This is also true for all succulent species because they don’t like so much moisture in their potting mix. It also leads to a number of diseases due to the proliferation of pathogens during moist conditions.
Nevertheless, if you are faithful to providing the best Delosperma echinatum care, you won’t encounter these problems. That’s why we’ve provided all these tips for you so you’ll know what and what not to do. Pickle plants are not difficult to cultivate after all. So, no worries.
How do you care for a pickle plant?
Provide full sun, little water, ideal temperature, and less humidity to help your pickle plant thrive. Make sure it’s planted in a well-draining succulent mix.
How often should you water a pickle plant?
Apply the soak and dry method. Let the soil dry completely before watering again. Make sure the soil drains well before placing it back in its location.
Why is my Delosperma echinatum dying?
Overwatering is the common reason why a pickle plant will die. Excess water will cause root rot in most succulents. Repotting may be necessary to prevent death.
How big does a pickle plant get?
The pickle plant will grow only up to 45 cm (18″) tall. This succulent species is low-growing making it a good choice for ground cover.