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Publication #FPS-47

Aptenia cordifolia Baby Sunrose1

Edward F. Gilman2


Inch-long, dark green foliage and bright red, aster-like flowers combine to make baby sunrose a spectacular hanging basket or ground cover for small, exposed, well-drained gardens (Fig. 1). Glossy foliage sparkles in the sun forming a supurb backdrop displaying the 3/4 inch blossoms nearly year-round. The moderately thick, succulent stems are flexible and easily snapped. They appear to crawl along the soil and hug the ground forming a tight, almost clipped appearance. Plants grow no taller than about 3 to 4 inches.

Figure 1. 

Baby sunrose.

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Aptenia cordifolia
Pronunciation: ap-TEE-nee-uh kor-dif-FOLE-ee-uh
Common name(s): baby sunrose
Family: Iozoaceae
Plant type: ground cover
USDA hardiness zones: 10 through 11 (Fig. 2)
Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round
Origin: not native to North America
Uses: hanging basket; cascading down a wall; ground cover; mass planting
Availability: somewhat available, may have to go out of the region to find the plant
Figure 2. 

Shaded area represents potential planting range.

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]


Height: 0 to .5 feet
Spread: depends upon supporting structure
Plant habit: prostrate (flat)
Plant density: dense
Growth rate: slow
Texture: fine


Leaf arrangement: opposite/subopposite
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: ovate
Leaf venation: none, or difficult to see
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen
Leaf blade length: less than 2 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no fall color change
Fall characteristic: not showy


Flower color: red
Flower characteristic: spring flowering; summer flowering; fall flowering


Fruit shape: unknown
Fruit length: unknown
Fruit cover: unknown
Fruit color: unknown
Fruit characteristic: inconspicuous and not showy

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: not applicable
Current year stem/twig color: green
Current year stem/twig thickness: medium


Light requirement: plant grows in full sun
Soil tolerances: acidic; slightly alkaline; sand; loam
Drought tolerance: high
Soil salt tolerances: unknown
Plant spacing: 24 to 36 inches


Roots: not applicable
Winter interest: no special winter interest
Outstanding plant: plant has outstanding ornamental features and could be planted more
Invasive potential: not known to be invasive
Pest resistance: long-term health usually not affected by pests

Use and Management

More often grown in a hanging basket in well drained media, its small stature and slow growth make it suited for a ground cover in a small landscape or rock garden. Locate it in front of an upright, grass or grass-like plant such as one of the ornamental grasses, Africa iris or spartina to make a stunning, contrasting combination.

Be sure to locate baby sunrose in the full sun, and keep the soil on the dry side once it becomes established to prevent root rot. It is best suited for a coastal landscape where wind and sandy soil keep the soil dry. A light fertilization two or three times during the year should be all the plant needs to maintain a good appearance. After watering plants in containers, be sure to allow the media to become fairly dry before the next irrigation. Established landscape plants should require little if any irrigation in most years. Do not plant in a landscape soil unless it is very well-drained.

Pests and Diseases

If soil is kept too moist, roots can rot, causing poor growth, chlorosis, and plant death.



This document is FPS-47, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at


Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.