Portulaca is a genus of flowering plants in the family Portulacaceae, found in the tropics and warm temperate regions.
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The Spruce / Adrienne Legault
Moss rose plants (Portulaca grandiflora) are popular flowering annuals sold at garden centers in the spring. And if you see leftover moss rose plants on clearance sale in the summer, you might notice the plants are usually just as lovely as they were in the spring, a testament to the plant's toughness. The medium green, cylindrical, succulent leaves of moss rose are another clue to the plant's hardiness, namely its tolerance of drought conditions.
These plants grow 3 to 9 inches tall and spread to create a dense mat, making moss rose a good option as a ground cover. The flowers come in several bright colors and often have ruffled petals, looking very similar to miniature roses. The blooms grow in clusters on reddish stems and typically don't open on cloudy days or at night. Moss rose is easy and quick to grow and is best planted in the spring after the danger of frost has passed.
|Botanical Name||Portulaca grandiflora|
|Common Names||Moss rose, rose moss, moss-rose purslane, Mexican rose, sun rose, rock rose|
|Plant Type||Annual flowering succulent|
|Mature Size||3 to 9 inches tall and 6 to 12 inches wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Sandy, dry to medium moisture, well-draining|
|Soil pH||5.5 to 7|
|Bloom Time||Early summer to frost|
|Flower Color||White, orange, yellow, red, pink|
|Hardiness Zones||2 to 11 (as an annual)|
|Native Area||South America|
This plant does best in full sun—at least six hours per day—and needs direct sunlight in order to bloom, but other than that, it's not too picky about its growing conditions as long as it's dry. "You can treat it like most other annuals (such as geraniums or zinnias) in terms of water, or you can treat it like a succulent, only watering during periods of drought," Hancock says, adding that these low water needs also make it a fine choice for hanging baskets since they tend to try out faster than landscape beds and borders. "In terms of soil type, just about any soil will do, except for one that stays wet."
Because Portulaca thrives in full sun and sandier well-drained soil, it is considered hardy in USDA hardiness zones two to eleven according to Chia-Ming Ro, founder of Coastal Homestead. "In zones two to nine they are grown as annuals due to the frost, however they drop seeds and have proven to often come back as the weather warms up," she explains. "In zones 10 to 11 it is known as a perennial."
Portulaca flowers tolerate many kinds of soil but prefer sandy, well-drained soil and love the full sunlight. These plants are excellent for their high heat and drought tolerance and will seed and spread themselves very well. Some control methods may be needed to keep portulaca plants from becoming invasive to areas where they are not wanted. From personal experience in my garden areas, I can tell you that these wonderful plants do spread easily and very well. I planted some seeds in the gravel mulch at the end of one of my rose beds and the following summer had portulaca plants coming up in several other areas where I had not planted any such seeds.
You do not need to water often for proper portulaca care. The cylindrical foliage of the portulaca flower retains moisture very well, thus, regular watering is not needed. When they are watered, just a light watering will do, as their root zone is very shallow.
When planting the portulaca seeds, it is not necessary to cover the seed at all and, if covered, only very lightly as they need the sun to sprout and grow. The seeds planted in the gravel mulch in my rose bed were scattered by hand over the gravel and the gravel lightly rocked back and forth with my hand to help the seed reach the soil below.
Portulaca flowers are truly beautiful in various garden and landscape settings and have been used to beautify old structures and stone walkways, as they grow well in the old cracks in the structures where winds have deposited just enough soil to support them. Portulaca flowers are beautiful growing around the stones of a garden path with their mix of beautiful colors of pink, red, yellow, orange, deep lavender, cream, and white.
These wonderful plants will help attract butterflies to your gardens as well as acting as eye-catchers for your gardens or landscapes. They may be planted in containers as well such as whiskey barrel planters and hanging baskets. The portulaca plants will grow out and over the edges of the containers, making a grand display of their cylindrical, somewhat moss-like foliage and truly strikingly vibrant colored blooms.
One word of caution though, the area around and underneath where the hanging baskets or other containers are located can easily be populated by more portulaca plants the next summer from the seeds spread by the plants the previous year. This, too, has been the case in my personal experience with this very hardy plant. While portulaca is an annual, they do indeed come back every year without any further help from me.