The Surprising Mesembryanthemum ‘Mesbicla’

Mesembryanthemum ‘Mesbicla’. Photo: Proven Winners

Question: I saw this magnificent container plant that I can’t identify. Do you know what it is? 

Martine

Answer: It’s a succulent with a whole range of names: currently, it is officially called Mesembryanthemum ‘Mesbicla’, although generally sold as Aptenia Mezoo™ Trailing Red. (Aptenia is its former botanical genus, changed to Mesembryanthemum in 1997, while Mezoo™ Trailing Red is a trademark name and has no horticultural value.) You’ll also see it sold as Dorotheanthus bellidiformis Mezoo™ Trailing Red, even though it looks nothing like the true Dororeanthus bellidiformis (now Cleretum bellidiforme).

As for its common names, take your pick! I’ve seen:

  • Variegated heartleaf ice plant
  • Giant sun rose
  • Trailing red Livingstone daisy
  • Variegated heartleaf aptenia

What Is Mesembryanthemum ‘Mesbicla’?

heartleaf aptenia (Mesembryanthmeum cordifolium), with magenta-purple flowers and heart-shaped leaves
This is the true “heartleaf aptenia” (Mesembryanthmeum cordifolium), with magenta-purple flowers and heart-shaped leaves, one of the parents of Mesembryanthemum ‘Mesbicla’.

Mesembryanthemum ‘Mesbicla’ is a hybrid of horticultural origin, resulting from a cross between a long-cultivated plant usually called heartleaf aptenia (Mesembryantheum cordifolium, formerly Aptenia cordifolia) with tiny, magenta-purple flowers and green heart-shaped leaves, and a lesser-known but larger plant called M. haeckelianum with yellow flowers

Succulent plant Mesembryanthemum ‘Red Apple’ with elliptic green leaves and star-shaped red flowers.
Mesembryanthemum ‘Red Apple’ has red flowers and elliptic leaves. Most plants sold as Mesembryanthemum cordifolium are likely this hybrid. Photo: World of Succulents

This cross gave the cultivar M. ‘Red Apple’, with larger red flowers, a denser but still trailing habit and bright green leaves that aren’t heart-shaped like those of M. cordifolium, but rather elliptical. A mutation of ‘Red Apple’ with variegated leaves (green with a creamy white border) appeared spontaneously and was named ‘Mesbicla’. 

Closeup of Mesembryanthemum ‘Mesbicla’, a succulent with green and yellow leaves and a red flower.
Mesembryanthemum ‘Mesbicla’ is a variegated selection of ‘Red Apple’. Photo: Proven Winners

‘Mesbicla’ is a low-growing, trailing succulent with dense, elliptical, succulent green and creamy white leaves. It is rarely more than 3 to 5 inches (8 to 12 cm) in height, but can grow to a considerable width—3 feet (90 cm) or more—if used as a groundcover in a tropical climate. In temperate climates, it’s usually used as an annual for summer containers or as a houseplant and can trail down from its pot for up to 3 or 4 feet (90 or 120 cm).

The flowers are small and bright red, with numerous petals (actually staminodes) and a yellow eye. They open only on sunny days, not all on cloudy days, and close at night, giving the plant one if its common names: sun rose.

Mesembryanthemum ‘Mesbicla’ is in the Aizoaceae or Mesembryanthemum family and its parent species are native to South Africa.

Growing Mesembryanthemum ‘Mesbicla’

Long, trailing specimen of Mesembryanthemum ‘Mesbicla’ with green and white leaves, a few red flowers.
If you want any bloom at all, give your Mesembryanthemum ‘Mesbicla’ as much sun as possible. Photo: suburbansill.com

It’s a sun-loving plant, needing a bright patio or sunny windowsill. It will weaken in anything but full sun. 

It is very drought-tolerant, but will grow and bloom best if kept moderately well watered during the summer months, when it puts on most of its growth and bloom. During the fall and winter, keep it cooler, if possible, and certainly drier, watering only when the leaves start to shrivel. It’s prone to rot if kept in soggy, waterlogged soil. 

It’s best not to fertilize this plant, as that can result in straggly, weak growth. Its parent species grew in poor, arid soils and it seems to have inherited their ability to thrive with few minerals.

Left to grow on its own, it may wander off awkwardly in various directions, so don’t hesitate to pinch or prune as needed to keep it in check. 

Except in tropical areas (hardiness zones 10 to 12), bring it indoors in the fall when nighttime temperatures drop below 50 °F (10 °C). M. ‘Red Apple’ has escaped culture and become a weed in parts of California and Australia. It’s not known if M. ‘Mesbicla’ is as invasive.

Stem cuttings of Mesembryanthemum ‘Mesbicla’ , a succulent with green and white leaves, scissors
It’s easy to multiply your Mesembryanthemum ‘Mesbicla’ through stem cuttings. Photo: cottageatthecrossroads.com

You could also bring in stem cuttings, easy to root in fairly dry soil. No need to cover the cuttings with a clear plastic dome: they don’t need the extra humidity. Do not root in water. 

Curiously, the leaves are edible and can be eaten like spinach. However, if your plant comes straight from a nursery, hold off on tasting it for a few months so that any pesticide residues have time to break down.


Mesembryanthemum ‘Mesbicla’: identifying it has flummoxed even some botanists, but it’s a straightforward and attractive succulent most people find easy to grow.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

2 comments on “Name That Plant

  1. It is still Aptenia reptans to me.

  2. an interesting plant – thanks for sharing. I like that last sentence: that “most people” find it easy to grow. I seem to have good luck with orchids, but not much else by way of houseplants.

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