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Plant Highlight: Cephalophyllum ‘Red Spike’

February 2006

There are dozens of species of Cephalophyllum, but the hybrid known as C. ‘Red Spike’ is the kind most widely grown in California. It is a member of the Aizoaceae, or ice plant family, and like so many of these amazing plants it comes from South Africa. It is much smaller than the familiar ice plant seen alongside freeways and at the beach (Carpobrotus), and it spreads very slowly to form a compact clump.

The bright magenta-red flowers of Cephalophyllum ‘Red Spike’ start early in the year and last until about March. Their brilliant color would be appreciated at any time of year, but particularly so in the wet and cold of winter, when such vividness can be hard to come by. It grows easily if given a well-drained situation and plenty of sun.