Mesembryanthemum: Tips for Growing and Nurturing These Vibrant Succulent Plants

Discover the secrets of these exquisite plants with a journey into their unique beauty

Photo of author

By Alex


Mesembryanthemum, a genus of flowering succulent plants native to southern Africa, graces gardens with its captivating beauty. Let’s see how to take care of them and discover some secrets of these beautiful plants.

Mesembryanthemum: Plant Description & Characteristics

Mesembryanthemum, a remarkable succulent, possesses a striking aesthetic appeal, celebrated for its vibrant summer blossoms. Its versatility extends to being effortlessly nurtured in both pots and garden soil, presenting enthusiasts with the opportunity to enjoy its beauty wherever they choose to cultivate it. This fleshy perennial stands out with its tapestry-like stems and needle-like gray-green leaves, creating a visually pleasing display.

Originating from the Aizoaceae family, Mesembryanthemum proves to be resilient, fearlessly embracing heat and drought conditions. This resilience adds to its appeal, especially for gardens featuring Mediterranean flora and rockery beds.

Characterized as a perennial succulent, Mesembryanthemum takes on the form of a fast-growing, creeping shrub. Its robust and fascicled roots provide stability, while the stems, with their fleshy, silvery light green appearance, undergo a stunning transformation into a vibrant orange-red during winter.

The leaves, long, narrow, and fleshy, exhibit a delicate light down, enhancing the overall charm. Mesembryanthemum’s flowers further contribute to its allure, displaying a captivating deep pink hue, with some species presenting variations in white, yellow, orange, and bright red.

Mesembryanthemum Flowers

Mesembryanthemum’s flowering spectacle is a true extravaganza, unfolding abundantly and lushly from May to October. Singular stems proudly bear a diverse array of flowers, with the captivating deep pink shade standing out as the most prevalent.

The corollas, a focal point of Mesembryanthemum’s allure, exhibit a fascinating behavior—they gracefully open with the sunrise, showcasing their vibrant hues, and delicately close as the sun sets, preserving their beauty for the following day. This rhythmic dance of blooming and closing not only enhances the visual spectacle but also contributes to the plant’s resilience and longevity.

Adding to the sensory delight, Mesembryanthemum’s flowers emit a pleasant fragrance during the night. This aromatic presence creates an enchanting ambiance, especially in outdoor spaces like gardens and rockery beds. As dusk settles in, the sweet scent from these blossoms adds an extra layer of charm to the overall experience, making Mesembryanthemum a delightful companion throughout the day and night in any well-tended garden.


Mesembryanthemum’s Etymology

Derived from the ancient Greek term “mesembria,” signifying ‘flower that opens at noon,’ the moniker “Mesembryanthemum” perfectly encapsulates the behavior of this succulent perennial. In harmony with its name, Mesembryanthemum unfolds its captivating flowers during the day, showcasing their beauty under the sunlight.

However, as evening approaches, the flowers gracefully close, creating a natural rhythm that aligns with the plant’s etymology. This adherence to its linguistic origins adds an intriguing layer to Mesembryanthemum’s character, making it a botanical marvel rooted in both nomenclature and behavior.

Varieties of Mesembryanthemum

Mesembryanthemum encompasses more than 100 species, each contributing unique characteristics to this diverse succulent genus. One notable species is Mesembryanthemum criniflorum, an annual plant boasting narrow, cylindrical leaves that give rise to summer flowers in white, red, or orange hues.

Another captivating variety is Mesembryanthemum acinaciforme, colloquially known as the ‘Hottentot fig.’: this variety showcases large purple-red flowers amid its long, fleshy leaves.

Mesembryanthemum crystallinum, aptly nicknamed ‘ice grass,’ presents a visual spectacle with its light green oval leaves resembling formations of ice crystals. Flowers of white or pale pink hues adorn this annual species. Meanwhile, Mesembryanthemum edulis, a native to southern Africa, stands out for its yellow or purple flowers and a compact growth reaching 20-30 cm.

The Mesembryanthemum tricolor, an annual from southern Africa, boasts narrow, cylindrical leaves and blooms with white or deep pink flowers from June to August. This impressive variety showcases the genus’s adaptability and aesthetic diversity.

With numerous other species such as Mesembryanthemum expansum, Mesembryanthemum fastigiatum, and Mesembryanthemum nitidum, Mesembryanthemum stands as a testament to the botanical wonders found within this captivating succulent genus. Each variety unfolds its unique charm, contributing to the collective allure of Mesembryanthemum in horticulture and natural settings alike.


Caring for Mesembryanthemum

Mesembryanthemum’s simplicity makes it an ideal choice for succulent enthusiasts. Consider these practical tips:

  • Climate: This plant tolerates intense heat, saltiness, and brackish winds; fears frost and cold air currents.
  • Exposure: It prefers sunny locations for extended periods.
  • Soil: Loose, well-drained soil mixed with sand or gravel is needed.
  • Watering: Rainwater may suffice, but during prolonged droughts, additional watering enhances flowering. Potted specimens need regular watering when the soil is dry, with reduced watering during autumn-winter.
  • Fertilization: Apply organic fertilizer every 3-4 months, rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
  • Pruning and Seeding: Remove dry stems and wilted flowers to encourage flowering. Manual seeding in April or protected seedbed sowing at 15°C / 60°F are recommended.

Mesembryanthemum in Pots

For those with limited space, Mesembryanthemum also thrives in pots. Use a substrate mixture of 2 parts peat and 1 part sand, with sand and crushed stone at the pot’s bottom to prevent water stagnation. Repot every two years, ensuring a larger pot to accommodate growth. Mesembryanthemum

Pests and Diseases of Mesembryanthemum

Mesembryanthemum faces potential threats from mealybugs and viruses. Combat these issues with natural remedies such as tea or nettle infusions. Alternatively, use pyrethrum-based sprays, applying treatments in the evening or on cloudy days to maximize effectiveness.

Embark on the journey of Mesembryanthemum care, where beauty meets simplicity in succulent gardening.

More on this topic

You might also be interested in: