The Q&A Archives: Ailing Groundcover

Question: We bought our home one year ago and have a groundcover behind our patio called Red Apple. Is it a succulent? We live near the dessert and I was under the impression that the Red Apple could take the heat (100 to 110 degrees at times) and didn't need lots of water. However, in the cold weather and hot weather some leaves turn yellow and get red spots and then nothing is left but dry sticks. Someone told us it is a virus and nothing can be done. We just gave it Ammonium Sulfate and it looks a little better. Help, summer is on the way.


The groundcover called 'Red Apple' (Aptenia cordifolia) is perfectly suited to arid gardens and should thrive under the conditions you describe. Aptenia is also known as 'ice plant', with fleshy leaves and trailing stems to 2' long, and a profusion of inch-wide, heart-shaped or oval, bright green, fleshy leaves, and bears purplish red ray-type flowers in the spring and summer. As a succulent plant, it requires very little water, even in the hottest part of the summer. The plant can develop root-rot if it's overwatered. Phytophthora, a fungal disease, can cause both root rot and shoot die back. If you can cut the plants back by mowing over them and removing the infected plant parts, it will help control the spread of the disease. You may be able to restore the health of your plants by watering carefully, thoroughly soaking the ground every 3 weeks during the growing season. If the appearance of your groundcover doesn't improve, you may have to dig and remove the sickly plants and start all over again with healthy plants.

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