Care for Non-Variegated Aptenia

by Bridget Kelly

Busy gardeners who don’t want to fuss with lawn care often choose to grow non-variegated aptenia (Aptenia cordifolia). This succulent creeping plant, typically used as a container plant or ground cover, only tolerates winter temperatures within U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and 11. The variegated variety is commonly known as red apple (Aptenia cordifolia “Red Apple”), while the non-variegated type is called baby sun rose or heartleaf ice plant. It requires little care, and because it’s a succulent, too much care may kill it.

1. Light and Temperature

Although non-variegated aptenia is hardy to the coldest winter temperatures of USDA zone 10 -- 30 degrees Fahrenheit -- when actively growing, it requires temperatures of at least 50 degrees. You'll get more flowers if you grow the plant in full sun, although it survives in partial shade. The hotter the garden, the more shade you can safely provide the baby sun rose.

2. Water and Fertilizer

Keep the soil dry if you want the baby sun rose to remain compact, watering only when the soil is completely dry at the plant’s roots. In wetter soils, the plant has a tendency to become aggressive and may overwhelm anything planted in the vicinity. The plant is considered invasive in California, so keep an eye on its spread. Baby sun rose requires no fertilizer and may develop soft growth that's susceptible to rot if subjected to excess nitrogen.

3. Diseases

Baby sun rose doesn’t tolerate wet roots, whether from ill-draining soil or overwatering. If the plant begins turning soft and mushy and has a bad odor, it may have developed root rot, typically caused by the fungal pathogen Pythium splendens. Symptoms begin at the bottom of the plant and move up. The only thing that can be done for the baby sun rose in this case is to cut out any rotted parts and cut back on watering.

4. Pruning

Baby sun rose can be pruned anytime, and it's a good idea to keep it trimmed. Sterilize your pruning shears before setting to work on the plant by soaking them for five minutes in a solution of 1 part household bleach to 3 parts water. Place the soaking shears out of the reach of the little ones. After removing them from the bleach solution, rinse them in clear water. Cut the plant immediately above leaf clusters. To control unruly aptenia, use the lawnmower.