Portulaca plants [por-tew-LAK-uh] or moss rose or common purslane are succulent groundcovers and members of the Portulacaceae family. Portulaca grandiflora earned its specific species name (grandiflora) because of its large flowers.
Portulaca is native to Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil. In these areas, the plant grows naturally as a perennial.
Throughout the United States, it grows as an annual in USDA hardiness zones 2 to 10a. It is possible to grow as a perennial in USDA hardiness zones 10b through 11.
The plant earns its common name, Moss Rose because its flowers look like very like wild roses. The rambling, succulent foliage forms a dense, moss-like mat even in very challenging settings.
Other common names include:
- Sun Plant
- Wild Portulaca
- Rock Moss
- 11 O’clock
Size & Growth
This succulent annual grows to be about 6″ or 8″ inches tall, and each plant has a spread of about a foot or more.
Foliage has reddish stems, succulent, fleshy, cylindrical leaves about 1″ inch long.
Flowering & Fragrance
Portulaca flowers are unscented, rose-like blooms in shades of white, yellow, orange, pink and red (and pastel variations) throughout the summer months and into the fall.
Flowers may be single petaled, double petaled or semi-double. The flowers typically close on rainy and cloudy days.
Light & Temperature
Perennial moss roses prefers full sun and loves heat but can tolerate light shade. Because it is native to South America, the plant prefers a hot setting.
It does very well when grown as an annual during the summer and grows as a perennial in semi-tropical settings.
Watering & Feeding
Once established in a garden setting, the common purslane needs minimal watering if any. When you grow the plant in pots or containers, you should check the soil from time to time to determine your watering schedule.
Wait until the top layer of soil is dry and then water thoroughly at the base of the plant or from the bottom.
Fertilize with a general-purpose high nitrogen fertilizer when first sowing seeds or planting seedlings. The food helps get plants a good start.
When plants start to bloom, use a fertilizer high in phosphorus to encourage more blossoms. You should not need to fertilize more than these two times throughout these plants growth season.
If your plants need more frequent fertilizing, use a balanced 20–20–20 liquid fertilizer, and apply it no more than twice a month.
Another option is to apply slow-release balanced fertilizer in the middle of the grow season.
Be sure to water immediately after applying any fertilizer.
Soil & Transplanting
Portulaca plants grow easily in any well-draining poor to average soil. When transplanting, keep the soil evenly moist until the plant sets its roots and begins to grow.
Taper off and establish a light watering schedule as described above.
Grooming & Maintenance
While your seedlings are still small, pinch them back to encourage bushier growth. Pinch off the first blossoms to encourage more flowers.
Throughout the growth season trim and pinch back as you wish to maintain the plant shape. Deadhead the flowers promptly to encourage more blooms.
If expecting frost, cover plants to avoid losing them.
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How To Propagate Portulaca Plants
Portulaca seeds can be sown directly into the garden in the springtime after the last frost. Start seed indoors, 6 to 8 weeks before the predicted last frost.
Seedlings can be set out following the last frost.
In warmer climates, your plants may reseed themselves and appear on their own as annuals year after year.
Growing Portulaca From Cuttings
Starting plants is very easy. Trim off straggly stems and lay them on top of very slightly damp, well-draining potting mix.
Use a succulent or cactus mix or a homemade mixture using regular potting soil and coarse sand.
Allow the soil to become almost dry before very lightly watering it again. Within a week to 10 days, cuttings will put out roots, and start growing within a month.
Portulaca Plants Pest or Diseases
When kept in a well-ventilated setting with well-draining soil and plenty of sun, Purslane has few, if any problems. If the plant is kept too wet or otherwise suffers, it may attract aphids.
Overwatering and poorly drained soils cause root and crown rot. Be sure to use a sharply draining soil. Planting Portulaca plants in a slightly elevated bed can improve drainage and help prevent problems with fungus.
If you experience problems with insects, gnats and aphids use an insect repellent or insecticide as needed.
Encourage predator insects such as lacewings, ladybugs and the like to help keep these pests under control.
Because these rambling plants are very low growing, slugs and snails can be problematic. This is especially true if you tend to overwater.
Dry, well-drained soil and proper ventilation will discourage moisture loving slugs and snails.
If you do have a problem with them, pick them off by hand and make use of slug and snail bait or natural means of control.
Suggested Portulaca Rose Uses
Portulaca is an excellent choice for xeriscaping, rock gardens, hanging basket, bedding plants, curbside strips and other dry, challenging areas where a ground cover is desired.
These plants make a beautiful border around the flower garden, and they also are a popular choice for planters and parks and other public settings.
It can also be grown in containers and kept indoors through the winter. It also does nicely as a houseplant year round and is attractive in hanging baskets.
This drought tolerant succulent enjoys full sun and relatively dry soil.
It is an excellent low maintenance choice as a groundcover, to naturalize in semi-tropical areas and to grow as an annual in any location.
Is Portulaca Considered Toxic or Poisonous To People, Kids, Pets?
According to the American Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals, Portulaca olearata (cousin variety of Portulaca grandiflora) is highly toxic.
The plants are very similar in appearance. Both are intended to be ornamental, not edible, so err on the side of caution and keep both out of reach of children, pets, and livestock. [source]
Is Portulaca Moss Considered Invasive?
Although this lively succulent may reseed on its own in a conducive environment, it is not robust enough to become invasive.