Cultivation and care of Aptenia cordifolia

In this article we are going to talk about a highly appreciated ornamental plant when we want to cover a space of land with carpet species. We are talking about Aptenia cordifolia, a fairly resistant succulent plant and ideal for any garden worth its salt.

An important characteristic that is highly valued in gardening is the possibility of having fast growing plants , and this is the case of Aptenia cordifolia,  whose expansion occurs horizontally, covering large spaces of bare soil as long as there is moisture available.

In this article we will tell you about the main characteristics of this succulent plant considered as upholstery of the Aizoaceae family .


The most attractive thing about Aptenia cordifolia  is its appearance, which is why it is used 100% as an ornamental plant for gardens and urban parks. Its fleshy and bright green leaves together with a very attractive flowering of purple and pink colors make it quite common to grow it.

This plant is of creeping ones , so you can combine it with bushes and trees without additional problems. As we have commented, its development is horizontal , covering soil spaces that conserve moisture well. Its movement is branched and it is considered a fast growing species.

Leaf appearance

Aptenia cordifolia  produces a very high number of leaves with a fleshy appearance, something common in succulent plants. They are heart-shaped or oval in appearance, and they store a lot of water, something that makes them somewhat more resistant to drought conditions.

Appearance of flowers

The succulent plant produces small flowers but with bright and attractive colors. In general, it usually produces pink or purple flowers, which have four petals. An interesting aspect of the plant is that these flowers open during the day and close at night, conserving their humidity and allowing them to last longer on the plant.

The flowering of Aptenia cordifolia  occurs between spring and summer , so it will be advisable to provide nutrients just before to allow the greater vegetative and floral development of the plant.

Most cultivated varieties

Within the genus Mesembryanthemum to which this plant belongs, there are many carpet species. The one commonly used in gardening is Aptenia cordifolia, although it offers better benefits as an ornamental plant when it is crossed with Aptenia  haeckeliana  and the result is Aptenia × “Red Apple”.

However, this hybrid is very similar to the original species, for which it often generates confusion. The differences are minimal, but are based on a more vigorous demeanor, faster growth and red flowering.


We are going to go on to gather the main cultivation conditions of the Aptenia cordifolia floor covering plant We anticipate that it is not a difficult succulent plant to maintain and care for, ensuring good levels of fertility (here we are mainly talking about organic matter) and maintaining soil moisture in the warmer stages of the year.


This plant has its origin in southern Africa, so it is used to hot conditions . It adapts perfectly to the Mediterranean garden and even to coastal environments.

It needs a lot of light to develop optimally, although it can live in semi-shady areas. For Aptenia cordifolia,  the more Sun the better .

In cold conditions, we will see how the leaves lose their original greenness, growth stops completely and loses its original appearance. With flowering we will not have problems since full flowering occurs in summer.

Avoid at all costs freezing temperatures or temperatures below 0 ºC.


An interesting aspect of Aptenia  cordifolia is its low demands on soil quality and texture. The ideal is a loamy texture with a medium humidity regime and that they have good drainage, avoiding waterlogging.

The pH can be slightly acidic although it is not a special condition. It is in this range that micronutrients, especially iron, are most easily absorbed.

The fertile soils, where organic matter is added every year or every 2 years (2-3 kg / m2 on average) make the horizontal expansion of this succulent plant much faster, as well as the appearance of its leaves and flowers.


Despite being a succulent plant, we can mistakenly associate that it needs a lot of water. However, it is not necessary, since Aptenia cordifolia  has a good root system and is capable of optimizing water, conserving it in its leaves, which are very thick and are adapted to the African continent so as not to lose water.

It tolerates drought conditions , but the ideal to increase its horizontal development is to maintain constant watering, especially in the spring and summer months, when it develops most and the first flowers appear.

  • Irrigation in spring and summer:  2 to 3 irrigations per week, providing between 3 and 4 liters per square meter.
  • Irrigation in autumn and winter:  1 to 2 irrigations per week, providing 2 to 3 liters per square meter.

To water Aptenia cordifolia, sprinkler irrigation is recommended , since it is a cover plant that occupies a lot of surface. Diffusing drippers or exudative irrigation can also be used .


The fertilizer for this plant must be controlled, since its rapid growth means that it can occupy a large area in the garden. We will keep the soil fertile by providing 2 to 3 kg / m2 of organic matter or decomposed compost .

In spring, when temperatures rise and the pre-flowering process begins, it is advisable to use solid or liquid fertilizers that contain most of the macronutrients.

For Aptenia cordifolia  a high ratio of nitrogen and potassium is advisable, such as NPK fertilizer 12-10-18 + 2MgO with micronutrients . This fertilizer is applied in quantities of 20 to 40 grams per square meter and is reapplied every 30 days (4 to 5 times per year).

If you have a fertilizer machine, it is best to add liquid fertilizers along with the irrigation water, avoiding applying more than 1 ml of fertilizer for each liter of water.

If you notice that the leaves turn somewhat yellow but has good development, you may need to add iron, as it may have a slight iron chlorosis . To correct this deficiency, dissolve iron chelate in water (20 grams per 10 liters of water) and apply by injection in a dropper or in irrigation directly.


The multiplication of Aptenia cordifolia  can be done by seeds or by cuttings . We advise using cuttings because it is easier and results are achieved much faster.

Reproduce by cuttings

To get new plants through cuttings, we will carry out this operation in the spring and summer months . We cut one end of the plant (it will keep 4 to 6 leaves), leaving the lower stem free of leaves and with a perfect scissor cut.

We immerse the first centimeters of stem in water, to which it will be advisable to add rooting hormones or even seaweed to further stimulate the production of new white roots.

When you begin to observe the emergence of these small transparent or white roots , it is time to transplant it to a pot with a substrate of coconut fiber and universal peat, keeping the humidity constant all the time.

It is advisable to have this pot in a place protected from the wind and direct sun, with constant warm temperatures. At this stage we will only provide water , without nutrients, since the salts of the fertilizer can damage the sensitive roots.

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