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Growing Portulaca, the Moss Rose Flower

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Growing Portulaca, the Moss Rose Flower

Moss rose flowers need full sun to put on their display.

Photo © flickr user pizzodisevo

Moss rose plants are popular bedding plants sold in nurseries and home improvement stores in the spring. If you notice any leftover annual plants on clearance in the summer, you’ll notice that the moss rose plants are usually just as lovely as they were in May, a testament to the plant’s toughness.

Latin Name:

Family Portulacaeae, Genus Portulaca grandiflora

Common Names:

Moss rose, Pigweed, Purslane

Zone:

All growing zones as an annual

Size:

8 inches tall, spreading up to one foot

Exposure:

Portulacas need six to eight hours of full sun to reach their potential. If you try to grow portulacas in a shady area, they will pout and close up their flowers. You will also notice the flowers close at night and on cloudy days.

Bloom Period:

Summer until frost

Description:

The succulent leaves of the portulaca are a clue to the wonderful drought tolerance of this low growing annual flower. Many varieties have semi-double to fully double flowers that resemble miniature roses. Flowers come in hot colors, like yellow, orange, red, and bright pink. White, cream, and variegated flower colors are also available.

Planting:

If you’re growing your portulaca plants from seed, take care not to over sow the tiny seeds, which are as small as pepper flakes. You can start the seeds indoors eight weeks before your last frost date for earlier flowers, or plant them in the ground after last frost.

Portulacas demand well-drained soil. If your soil is mostly clay, you should grow your portulacas in containers rather than try to turn the clay into the sandy, rocky soil that these plants love.

Maintenance:

Portulacas are drought tolerant, but they aren’t cacti. The plants will tolerate periods of dryness, and you probably won’t return home to withered specimens after vacation, but flowering is better with regular irrigation. Drip irrigation is best, as sprinklers can disfigure the delicate blooms.

Portulacas may begin to look lanky by July. At this point, you can trim back the plants and fertilize with a balanced flower fertilizer for renewed vigor.

Aphids occasionally bother portulacas, especially in the spring. Spray affected plants with insecticidal soap when the temperature is below 85 degrees F.

Design Tips:

  • The low water requirement of the moss rose makes it a natural choice for the container garden. You can include it in containers that are exposed to winds, such as on a patio or dock.
  • The trailing habit of the moss rose works well in hanging baskets.
  • Portulaca behaves itself as a ground cover, never going out of bounds, so try it in a small garden or fairy garden.
  • Plant portulaca in the rock garden, where it will flourish in poor soils.

Varieties:

  • Afternoon Delight: Delays closing its blooms in the evening
  • Duet series: Bicolor flowers in yellow and red or yellow and rose
  • Margarita series: The Rosita variety in this series is an All-American selections winner
  • Sundance: Has larger flowers than other varieties
  • Sundial series: A good choice for Northwest gardeners, as it tolerates cloudy days and cool weather
  • Yubi series: Single petaled flowers in eight color choices

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