Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
If you’re familiar with the ice plants (Delosperma spp.), chances are you’ll have no trouble recognizing the Hottentot-fig as a relative. These plants are members of the same family, Aizoaceae.
In the U.S., this species is most commonly grown in areas with warm, sub-tropical conditions, such as south and central Florida, and California. It has been introduced to other countries as well, and in various areas of the world it has become naturalized.
Though Hottentot-fig is primarily most useful as an outdoor plant, it can also be grown as a container plant. For that purpose, its spreading stems spill down the edges of the pot. Regardless of how you use it, this species needs full sun.
Originally native to South Africa, Hottentot-fig is common in the Karoo Desert and on the Cape Peninsula. In nature, both yellow and purple flowering varieties can be found.
Hottentot-fig is named for its fruit-like capsules, which happen to be edible. Their edibility is expressed in its Latin name (Carpobrotus edulis). Any plant with the word edulis in its name is edible.
Due to its creeping, wide-spreading stems, this plant is a favorite for use as a ground cover on sandy shores. It is especially recommended for areas receiving salt spray. Hottentot-fig is only about six inches in height. The branches can be three feet or more in length. The long, fleshy, green leaves are triangular, and occur in clusters along the length of the stems.
Hottentot-fig has particularly beautiful, glistening, silky blossoms. Over four inches wide, these are particularly showy. As the blooms age, they usually turn to orangish-pink. The plant is most attractive when it is in bloom, which is mostly during the summer months.
Like most succulents, this species requires a sandy, well drained soil. Rich soils aren’t recommended.
Hottentot-fig is very easy to propagate from cuttings. In addition, the plants can also be divided.
So far as its landscape use is concerned, it is best to use this with extreme caution. With its tendency to spread and become naturalized, there is a strong possibility it will get out of control. In other words, it can become invasive. If you must use it, do so sparingly. The best solution is to restrict its use to container gardens where it won’t have a chance to spread.