Like so many fad plants that were formerly too popular, Algerian ivy, Hedera canariensis, now has a bad reputation. Ironically though, it earned its reputation for doing what it does best. It covers ground rapidly and efficiently. The problem is that it never seems to stop. It creeps anywhere it can, and climbs trees, fences and anything else that it can grab onto.
Aerial roots of climbing vines ruin paint and stucco, and accelerate rot of wooden fences and walls. Vines that get between planks or into cracks between bricks cause significant damage as they expand. Shrubby adult growth that blooms and produces seed develops where climbing vines reach the top of their support, or spontaneously in sunny locations.
Nonetheless, with diligent edging for strict confinement and to prevent climbing, Algerian ivy works well as a resilient evergreen ground cover for large areas. Once established, it excludes weeds, and tolerates quite a bit of shade. Shrubby adult growth is uncommon if vines can not climb. Climbing vines may be harmless on bare reinforced concrete walls.
Algerian ivy is neither as finely textured nor as shallow as English ivy. Its broader leaves are about six inches wide, with blunter lobes. They stand higher on longer and distinctly blushed petioles. Algerian ivy is rare in nurseries now, but inhabits old landscapes, from which it sneaks into adjacent landscapes. Variegated cultivars are slightly more passive.
Bright pink bloom that can be profuse enough to obscure the succulent foliage below is nothing new for iceplant. Some bloom bright purplish pink. Others are reddish pink. A few are softer pink or white. What is unexpected is iceplant that blooms bright yellow, orange or gold, like Lampranthus aureus does. (Freeway or beach iceplant that blooms soft yellow or pink is not a true iceplant.)
Lampranthus arueus neither spreads as far nor cascades quite as well as other types of iceplant, but if planted a bit closer together, it can cover quite a bit of ground. It gets about a foot deep, or a bit deeper if crowded by other plants. It is very easy to grow from cuttings stuck wherever new plants are wanted. The inch and a half wide flowers are slightly wider than those of other iceplant.
All iceplant are quite undemanding. Although they bloom better and stay greener with occasional watering, they do not need much water. They should only be fertilized if they get wimpy. After the spectacular primary bloom phase early in spring, too much fertilizer might inhibit sporadic bloom later in summer. Unfortunately, the healthiest iceplant may not bloom again after spring bloom.
Why would anyone want to grow annual gazania when perennial gazania that is popularly grown as ground cover lasts for several years? Well, as long as the weather stays warm, annual gazania blooms with an impressive abundance of bigger and more brightly colored flowers. Perennial gazania blooms less profusely and only in midsummer, with simpler and somewhat smaller flowers.
Flowers are warm shades of orange, red, yellow, pink, beige and white, typically with intricate patterns of stripes and spots of other colors of the same range, as well as chocolatey brown. Each upward facing daisy flower is as wide as three inches or maybe four. They close up at night and during cloudy weather, and stay closed briefly in the morning until they warm up a bit in the sunlight.
Mature plants typically do not get much more than six inched deep, but can get twice as deep if crowded. They have no problem getting nearly a foot wide though. Foliage is only slightly bronzed; not quite bronze, but not rich green either. The pretty gray undersides of the leaves are obscured from view by the density of the foliage. Gazania needs full exposure, and is quite tolerant of heat.
Is it really supposed to be the bane of fleas? If so, why? I learned it as Santa Barbara daisy. Is it native there, or was a particular variety of it named for Santa Barbara? Is it a weed? Is it native? Is it a native of somewhere else in California that merely naturalized here? There are so many questions about this simple little flower that is growing wild under a cyclone fence at the backside of a motorcourt at work.
Whether it really is native or not, or whether it is a straight species or a selected variety of one, fleabane happens to do well in drought tolerant landscapes composed of native plants. It naturally spreads out to form shallow but wide mounds. If it gets cut back in its off season, it comes right back. Although it dies after only a few years, lower stems typically form roots and grow into new plants before the original one dies, essentially replacing itself before anyone notices.
If it is a weed, it is polite about it. Stray plants that appear where they are not wanted are easy to get rid of, and do not regenerate too aggressively to be managed. Those that happen to appear in out of the way situation can be left to bloom without much concern of profuse seed dispersion. Weed or not, it is preferred to other nastier weeds that it might prevent from growing simply by occupying the space.
This is one of those plants that many of us have strong feelings about. Many of us who remember it from when it was more popular in the 1970s might consider Algerian ivy, Hedera canariensis, to be an aggressively invasive weed. Those of us who are less familiar with it might appreciate it as a vigorous and resilient groundcover that gets dense enough to exclude most other weeds.
Without regular pruning for confinement, Algerian ivy grown as groundcover becomes a vine to climb trees, fences, walls and anything else it can get into. As the vines mature and get closer to the top of their support, they develop shrubby adult growth. Algerian ivy can easily ruin the surfaces that it climbs, or overwhelm shrubbery and trees, but might not be so bad on bare concrete walls.
Well contained Algerian ivy might get about two feet deep. The glossy dark green leaves are about six inches wide, with three or five rounded corners. Leaves of vining or adult growth are smaller and more rounded. New plants are very easy to propagate from cuttings or by layering. ‘Ghost ivy’ is delightfully variegated with white, but usually loses variegation as new growth replaces the old.