Dyckia ‘Burgundy Ice’ is for the non-green thumb gardener

Leave a comment

Julia followed Clara into her kitchen before they were to have dinner with their husbands that evening. “Look, here’s the plant you gave me,” said Clara, as she held up a very sickly looking plant with a smile on her face.  She didn’t realize the plant was hurting.

“I told Mark to re-pot that immediately when I gave it to him for you,” replied Julia.  “This plant really needs well-draining soil.”

It was clear the plant was suffering and had barely grown since last summer when Julia gave it to him to replace a plant Clara had killed. And Mark, Clara’s husband, did not follow Julia’s instructions at all, which surprised Julia because he is an amazing outdoor gardener; he understands the requirements of plants.

But apparently, Mark just placed it on Clara’s windowsill that day to sit beside her many other houseplants.  He knew the fact he didn’t repot it would not be noticed by Clara, or perhaps he felt it was her job.  It is not that Clara does not adore her many houseplants, or that she doesn’t take some time to care for them, but she just doesn’t seem to understand or see the importance of the soil environment.  She overlooks the essential ingredients needed for the plants to thrive.

Clara could tell Julia was irritated by the thought of the plant looking sad, so she told Julia they would repot it after dinner, but she first gave her an enthusiastic tour of her other plants in their dining room.

Julia recognized them all – aloes, jades, African violets, Philodendrons, and Begonias – and every single one of them were growing in dry, poor, overrun soil and in small pots, some without drainage holes.  The white crusty edges on the soil’s surface representing a salt buildup from hard water or fertilizer not leached through was visible in every pot. Many were reaching for light sources and had stretchy growth, but rather than lecture her good friend, Clara, who obviously is a non-green thumb gardener, she took another sip of her Pinot Noir and listened with interest to everything Clara told her about her treasured plants.

Burgundy Ice Dyckia

Burgundy Ice Dyckia


Do you lack a green thumb like Clara?  If yes, a succulent, like Dyckia ‘Burgundy Ice,’ is an option for you.  Succulents store moisture in their leaves, one factor which helps the non-green thumb gardener because it enables the plant to withstand drought.  Dyckia is actually in the Bromeliad family, and it doesn’t store moisture in its leaves like typical succulents, but it is tough all the same and you can refer to it as a succulent in general.

It is accustom to growing on rocks or rough rocky soils and in areas lacking rainfall, so naturally it developed the ability to go dormant to survive dry periods of time.  This is the number one reason why it is perfect for non-green thumb gardeners, because of their practice of forgetting to water their plants.  When it finally gets some water, it pops back to life quickly so you will be relieved you didn’t kill it.

Dyckias also have ability to take cold temperatures, so if you keep the heat low in the house during the winter, it will adjust accordingly.

Heat tolerance is another bonus about these plants.  You can put them out in a hot part of your landscape or outdoor sitting area in the summer months, and pretty much ignore them, but you should remember to give them more watering attention (low to moderate), especially deserving after accommodating all your non-green thumb traits during a long winter.


When you look at the rosette style leaves of this Dyckia hybrid, it looks similar to the top of a pineapple (and pineapples are in the Bromeliad family too), but ‘Burgundy Ice’ has a beautiful and useful dark rich burgundy color with white spines, making it a wonderful candidate to contrast with other tough drought-tolerant type plants in container gardens or smaller pots.

You can find lots of succulents or cacti with spines, stripes and patterns, but not many with a rich darker almost black coloring, making it a little more dramatic and alluring. The rosette shape allows the plant to collect moisture and funnel it towards its roots, and this form gives it an architectural interest too.  Its physical attributes contributes to the visual appeal from a design perspective.

Incorporating this plant into a combination of succulents or drought tolerant perennials or annuals with a lighter or brighter color will give you a great visual contrast situation.

In the photo above, it is growing with a Portulacaria afra (dwarf jade plant or elephant bush/food).  If you look closely, the stems of Portulacaria afra are the same color as Dyckia ‘Burgundy Ice,’ so it “echoes” the color of the focal plant in this glazed blue pot. Additionally, P. afra has a spiller-type habit and smaller rounded leaves. This feature helps to soften the edge of the pot and provides a textural difference in this combination. Always think about mixing the textures; the softer texture will make the bolder texture even more noticeable.

The Dyckia leaves tend to rise up a bit and curve downward at the tips.  Notice the tips sitting above the Portulacaria afra.  This makes the burgundy color more apparent because the lighter color is filled in behind it. Another spiller plant that would work well with this is something like the temperennial called, Dichondra argentea ‘Silver Falls’.  It grows long thin stems with soft silvery fuzzy leaves; a silver contrast to the ‘Burgundy Ice’, or try something like, Helichrysum petiolare (Licorice Plant) with similar coloring, both cascading downward.  Delosperma cooperi or D. floribundum (Ice Plants), a perennial with fleshy shiny leaves is another example of smaller foliage with characteristics to make ‘Burgundy Falls’ stand out.  It has a trailing habit and produces daisy like flowers in midsummer.  Pick a Delosperma cultivar that has a flower color that will pop against the burgundy color of ‘Burgundy Ice.’

Dyckia‘ Burgundy Ice’ is a full sun to part shade plant, so when used outdoors in your container gardens, a full sun location is best because the rosette’s color will intensify. When you move it inside for the winter months, it can take a reduction in light but it will green up more.  Because we tend to get dreary, cloudy days during the winter, placing them by the sunniest window in your home is recommended, so they at least get some sun on the good days.

For the non-green thumb gardener

For the non-green thumb gardener


DY-kee-uh, DIK ee uh, or DICK’ea are three ways.  Just let it roll off your tongue, it doesn’t really matter how perfectly you pronounce it.  If you are a non-green thumb gardener, say it quickly and with confidence and no one will know the difference.  You can just call it ‘my tough succulent’ too if you want.  But because this plant was named after a Prince, you may want to give it a nickname, the “Prince”.  Whatever you name it doesn’t really matter, as long as you continue to enjoy it.


Habit: Clumping.  Blooms:  Mostly for foliage.  Size: 6-12″.  Hardiness/Zones 9-11:  It is treated as an annual here in CT.  Water:  Dry to normal, okay to let go through some periods of drought.  Light:  Full sun to part shade; okay to have low-light in house during winter. Care Level:  Easy – Perfect for the non-green thumb gardener.  Offered by:  Proven Selections.


Container Crazy Cathy T
(860) 977-9473

P.S.  Clara did take Julia into her basement after an amazing dinner, where her potting bench and many broken pots were laid out.  Julia’s face had to be kept straight as Clara pulled out old dusty bags of potting soil, none filled with soil able to hold water anymore – they were very old and dried out.  Julia told her, “Those won’t do.”  So Clara held up a bag of African violet mix, and said, ‘How about this?”  Julia took another sip of wine, and replied with a sigh, “What the heck, give it to me.” 🙂




Colocasia esculenta ‘Maui Magic’ has alluring powers…

1 Comment

Can a plant possess alluring powers, so insatiable, the yearning for more overwhelms your ability to resist?

“I want some more,” says Claudia, the fictional character in the movie, “Interview with the Vampire.”  She is completely seduced from her first taste of blood offered by the devious vampire, Lestat.  And although his immortal companion, Louis, witnesses the transition with regret, he does nothing to stop Claudia’s unthinkable awakening.

Maui Magic Front Ear

Yes, a plant can also possess similar powers that lure you into its plan of seduction. And…, “Of course, you want some more.” After you have experienced its offerings, your senses awaken, the desire to achieve the same feeling or response is sought out, and you ultimately thirst for more of the same, as much as a vampire thirsts for blood.

This is how I felt about Colocasia esculenta ‘Maui Magic’ last season as I witnessed this plant grow long stems and big leaves as rapidly as Claudia’s hair grew right before she opened her eyes.

Colocasia esculenta ‘Maui Magic’

This tropical plant, commonly referred to as an elephant ear or elephant’s ears, drew me into its clutches deceptively, then captured my desire to always want more as it grew into an impressive size while maintaining its beautiful attributes from the beginning of spring to early autumn.  If I didn’t decide to order it last minute, I may have missed out on its powers to grow quickly, create a climactic effect in a container garden, and arouse with its dark-sided hues.  It started with admiring its abundant ornamental leaves, followed by adoring its long stems.  Each held their ears up like a trophy on their tips, making it stand out in the container garden.

August photo; back of 'Maui Magic' leaf

August photo; back of ‘Maui Magic’ leaf

Dressed in a cloak

The heart-shaped leaves of ‘Maui Magic’ snuck-up out of the soil like a vampire appearing from the dark alleys of the streets.  Before I knew it, the leaves grew to two feet long and about half as wide in the center.  The leaves wavy-edged margins are soft and subtle, and provide an elusive cloaking effect as it gently moves by the wind.  The leaf stems, or more appropriately stated, the petioles, grew to three feet tall, lending to an upright exotic thriller bobbing above the container garden’s companion plants.  The mid-ribs were very visible on the backside of the leaves.  By the time August arrived, this plant, started from a small plant in mid-May, was substantial enough to draw me into a complete trance, and kept me there. I couldn’t keep my eyes or hands off it.

Rain drops on the leaves

Rain drops on the leaves

An unnatural pale complexion 

The plant’s foliage coloring starts off as a dark plum-purple, and then fades into an olive green with purple tones.  Having less color is not a sign of ill health as with a vampire, but a transition to maturity.  This did not create a lack of appreciation; the color was still stunning. The leaf stems carried a deep purple tone all the way down to the base of the plant throughout the season.  The look was visually stimulating, but you also wanted to touch the stems.  It sounds weird, but there is a soft texture to the plant, making it smooth to the touch.  I found this irresistible, charming, and as I said, “alluring.”  Taking it down for the fall was as difficult as chopping the head off a vampire in rest, but it had to be done and with good timing.

Yard Stick with Ears

Not harmed by the sun

Unlike vampires, the exposure to sun does not harm this cultivar, so long as you keep it well-watered.  Water to this plant is like blood to vampires; it thrives as it receives more.  But for my container garden, I decided to place it in a shady location, on the north side of my house, where it received more shade than sun.  However, this did not deter it from growing large and showy.  The plant can take either exposure. The leaf stems extended as if reaching towards the edges of the steps in search for the afternoon sun, adding more drama to its presence.  This shady exposure also helped to keep the soil moist, appreciated by many types of elephant ears.  Birds perched on it occassionally, and it never failed to produce new leaves.  When the wind caused some movement, it startled me from time to time because it was as tall as a person and could be seen from inside the house.

The lure of wanting more

The lure of wanting more

Its mysterious origin

As many ponder the true origin of vampires, you may ponder the growth habit of this plant. Whatever you choose to call the base of this plant, a corm, cormel, bulb, tuber, rhizome, or root, the leaf stems arise from the base of a root-like structure.  Even its circumference amazed me, as it reached a good size and produced potential divisions or cormels from the mother plant.  This plant is treated like a tropical in Connecticut; it is not hardy to our zone and requires storage in a cool, dark place, like the coffin of a vampire.  So get out your tools of destruction, chop of its heads, clean of the base, and create its resting place for a return next season when you certainly will “vant some more.”  If handled appropriately and according to specific procedures, this plant will have immortal life in your container gardens.

Tubers at base of stems

Tubers at base of stems

Container Crazy Cathy T

Pronounced:  Koal-oh-KAY-see-uh  ess-kyou-LENT-uh; sounds like some weird vampire language.

Zones:  9-11, tropical and subtropical tuberous perennial.  Used as a tropical plant and stored for winter in CT Zones.  Can be used as an aquatic plant in containers.

Size:  3-4′ tall, rounded form up to 6′ size all together under warm growing conditions. Big, tall, showy, and overpowering.

Exposure:  Full Sun, part sun, part shade – flexible.  Easy to grow, and grows quickly.

Introduction: 2008 by John Cho and the University of Hawaii breeding program.  Propagation is prohibited.

Color combinations:  Try this plant with contrasting vibrant colors since the plant’s tones are on the darkside.  Use different leaf textures, from fine to medium against this coarse and bold statement in your container or garden.  (Shown in this post are a Coleus, Astilbe, and Rodgersia for a shade combination.)  For a sun combination, try Canna with bright, golden yellow, or chartreuse leaf colors, add a blooming annual, like Zinnia or Verbena, for some pops of color.  Select a bright colored spiller, like Lysimachia nummelaria ‘Aurea’ (Creeping Jenny) or Ipomoea batatas (Sweet Potato Vine) annuals.

Container/pot size:  Be sure to use a very large container or pot for this elephant ear due to its size, and to provide adequate soil volume, helping to retain moisture, and nutrients.  And don’t overlook – this plant can make a wonderful statement in the garden too.

After Care:  To learn how to overwinter tropicals, sign up for Cathy T’s fall class, which is hands-on, and held on a dark, gloomy evening with a full moon – just kidding.