The plant of the month for January of the is Aptenia a colourful flower that opens in the middle of the day.

Aptenia is a member of the Mesembryanthemaceae family.

That name is formed from the Greek ‘Meshembria’ (mid-day) and ‘anthemon’ which means ‘flower’. And it is true to its name, as the flowers do open in the middle of the day. The name of the species Aptenia comes from the Latin ‘apten’ which means ‘without wings’ because its seeds are smooth and have no wings. ‘Cordifolia’ comes from the Latin ‘cordi’ for heart and ‘folia’ for leaves, and indeed it does have heart-shaped leaves. There are four varieties of Aptenia all of them native to South Africa.

Aptenia Cordifolia grows in the wild at heights above sea level between 20m and 800m in places where it rains in summer. It also grows along the shore in the South Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal. It is an evergreen succulent, a long-lived plant that grows quickly. It produces thick, meaty stems that can reach a length of 60m. Its oval or heart-shaped fleshy leaves are 50 x 25mm in size and water drops lie on the leaves to give the whole plant a sparkling appearance.

Aptenia Cordifolia produces pink or red flowers on short stems, flowers may appear singly or in groups. Each flower has both male and female organs so can produce seed. The plant flowers from spring right through to winter. The flowers only open when the sun is bright, and attract butterflies, bees and other insects.

Ice plant can be propagated by seed or cuttings. Seeds should be sown in summer. It is very easy to grow from cuttings which can be planted straight into the garden. If you are doing this, be sure to add some compost or slow-release fertilizer to the place where you plant your cuttings. Left to its own devices the plant will grow every which way, so it needs cutting back to maintain a good shape.

Aptenia Cordifolia is equally happy in very dry or very wet conditions. In places where fire could be a problem it is planted as a barrier, because its fleshy leaves always contain moisture. There is also a variegated variety Aptenia Cordifolis variegata which, apart from the difference in leaf colour, is identical in all other ways.

In terms of usage in landscaping, the plant is grown for its shiny leaves and bright pink – red flowers and is excellent ground cover. It is happy close to the sea and can be grown in sandy soil. Another use is to plant in walls or rock gardens where it can trail downwards. For example it looks good planted in walls around a terrace. It is equally happy in full sun or part shade. It looks good planted under trees, and its effectiveness as a fire retardant should not be overlooked.

The Palm Centre, Koycegeiz

For a wide range of special plants visit the areas best nursery, The Palm Centre at Köyceğiz.

It is open daily between 1st June – 31st October but you can visit at any other time by appointment.

Access to plant sales is free but a fee is payable to look around the extensive nursery.

Just ring or email (English is spoken):

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Tel : +90 252 262 28 92

Fax : +90 252 262 51 61

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