Cephalophyllum Red Spike (Cephalophyllum alstonii ‘Red Spike’) or the red spike ice plant is a succulent plant native to South Africa that grows close to the ground. The leaves are thick and fleshy and grow together to form a mat-like appearance. They can reach a height of around three inches.
The flowers are rich pink in color and tend to bloom forth from the months of winter to spring. The plant manages to reach around 15-18 inches in width.
How to Care for Cephalophyllum Red Spike
Ensuring that the Cephalophyllum Red Spike grows well and in a healthy manner is essential, requiring you to maintain the following key care conditions.
Cephalophyllum Red Spike requires full and bright sunlight so that it can thrive. If you are growing this plant in a pot, make sure you keep it on your balcony or a windowsill that receives this kind of full sunlight for several hours a day.
However, you should try to restrict these hours of full sun to the morning hours. If the temperatures go beyond 90°F or 32°C, you will need to provide some shade in the afternoon.
Since Cephalophyllum Red Spike is succulent, the leaves are thick and fleshy enough to store water for a long time, which is why this plant does not require frequent or even regular watering. As long as you can manage to water the plant up to twice a month, you should be okay, although you might need to water it a bit more at the beginning.
A good way to see if it needs watering is to confirm that the soil is completely dry. Do not overwater the plant as this can lead to root rot.
The soil should be extremely well-draining so that all the extra water can seep out of the pot. You can make use of a pot with a drainage hole to help ensure this.
You should also ideally use sandy and loamy soil that has a slightly chalky texture. Make sure the soil is also a bit loose. Its pH can either be a bit acidic, neutral or even slightly alkaline as long as it falls within the 6.1-7.8 range.
Cephalophyllum Red Spike does not need too much fertilizer. Right when the growing season starts, you can feed it with organic fertilizer or a fertilizer that contains low levels of nitrogen. Make sure you also dilute it so that it does not prove to be too strong.
The Cephalophyllum Red Spike plants are hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 9-11. You should ideally propagate these plants in spring or summer. They also continue growing through the winter, although they prefer staying dry during this season, so make sure you water them rarely.
The plants usually tend to flower in winter and spring.
As long as you provide good care conditions with sufficient ventilation, you should be able to avoid pests and diseases, although there are still some common ones you should watch out for. These include mealybugs, red spiders, scales, aphids, thrips, sciara flies and other insects.
If you notice some of these, you can apply an insecticide to get rid of them or simply use some natural oils that can repel the insects from the plant. You might also need to repot the plant if the disease has spread a bit.
If the plant ends up growing too unruly, you might need to prune back some of the older growth. Make sure you also routinely cut off dry and shriveled parts of the plant, including flowers that are past their bloom. A good time to do this is at the beginning of the growing season.
This can help ensure better subsequent growth.
This succulent tends to grow quite quickly, so once it reaches a certain size, you will need to repot the plant into a bigger pot. See if the roots are growing out of the pot or if the growth rate slows down to confirm that you need to repot the plant.
Make sure you use fresh soil and keep the roots intact during this process.
Propagating Cephalophyllum Red Spike
You can either propagate Cephalophyllum Red Spike using seeds or cuttings. If you are using seeds:
- Prepare the seeds and keep them moist in a tray before you sow them in the soil.
- Prepare the pot and fill it with the soil mix and add other materials if required.
- Sow them in the soil and cover them with a thin layer of sand.
- Wait for up to two weeks for the seeds to germinate and ensure that you provide suitable care.
If you are using cuttings:
- Use a knife or shears to remove a branch with its roots in place. Do this in the month of April or May.
- Dry this branch out for a day or two, cut it into stems and dip them in a rooting hormone to quicken the growth of roots.
- Sow the cuttings in the soil and wait for the plantlets to grow.
- You can then transfer each plantlet into a separate pot.