Scientific: Aptenia x 'Red Apple'

Taxonomic note: The accepted taxonomy for this hybrid cross is disputed. The parentage could be Aptenia cordifolia and Aptenia haeckeliana with synonyms being Mesembryanthemum cordifolium and Mesembryanthemum haeckelianum, or visa versa.

Common: Hearts and flowers, baby sunrose, heartleaf iceplant
Family: Aizoaceae
Origin: South Africa, but has naturalized in coastal southern California and in the Mediterranean. This hybrid cross is mostly found in cultivation and is often confused with true species in the Aptenia (or Mesembryanthemum) genus.

Pronounciation: Ap-TEN-ee-a cor-da-FOL-ee-aa

Hardiness zones
All zones (depending on use)
USDA All zones (depending on use)

Landscape Use: In southwest deserts, hearts and flowers is used as a cool season accent plant, a ground cover for protected locations, succulent gardens, raised planters, hanging baskets and containers. In mild coastal California climates it is used also as a small-scale landscape ground cover. In cold climates it is treated primarily as a summer annual.

Form & Character: Spreading, creeping, forming a dense mat, tender and delicate, old fashioned.

Growth Habit: Evergreen, herbaceous short-lived perennial, prostrate and low to the ground, spreading to as much as 3 feet. Growth rate and eventual size in desert landscapes varies with water availability.

Foliage/texture: Succulent leaves and stems, thick and somewhat waxy with small papillae-like bumps (containing water), medium green, leaves ovate to cordate (heart-shaped) to 1 inch in length, foliage will turn a yellow hue with reddish margins when stressed; medium texture.

Flowers & fruits: Terminal and axillary flowers in small stalks, mostly reddish in color. Fruits are a small capsule.

Seasonal color: Subtle cool season floral accent.

Temperature: Frost intolerant, but heat tolerant to 115oF.

Light: Full sun during winter, partial shade suring summer with protection from western sun being most important. During summer grow in an eastern exposure location.

Soil: Tolerant, so long as well drained.

Watering: In desert landscapes, irrigate hearts and flowers regularly except during winter when only occassional supplemental water is needed. In contrast, hearts and flowers is drought tolerant when grown in coastal California landscape.

Pruning: Occassionally head back to control spread.

Propagation: Easily propagated using softwood cuttings during the cool season.

Disease and pests: None

Additional comments: Hearts and flowers is a carefree accent plant for oasis and mesic gardens. Easy to care for. Thrives with protection from western summer sun. Flowers attract bees. Variegated leaf cultivars exist.

This genus Aptenia is endemic to summer rainfall regions of South Africa and consists of four species, A. geniculiflora, A. haeckeliana and A. lancifolia. The flower color of A. cordifolia is purple. The flower color of A. haeckeliana is pale yellow.

Ethnobotany: A. cordifolia has been used medicinally as an anti-inflammatory dressing (poultice), an enema for small infants, and as a deodorant. It has also been used by indigenuous African tribes as a love and good luck charm. Source: Van Wyk, B-E., Van Oudtshoorn, B. & Gericke, N. 1997. Medicinal plants of South Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria.