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How to Grow Moss Rose — Portulaca

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Portulaca–commonly called moss rose–produces single or double, satin-textured, rose-pink, red, yellow, or white flowers to 1 inch (2.5cm) across in summer. Flowers typically open only in bright sunlight.

Portulaca is an old-fashioned favorite. It flourishes in sunny, dry areas where few other plants will grow. Flowers open fully in sun and close in the late afternoon.

Portulaca is a semi-succulent, spreading annual. Clusters of cylindrical, fleshy leaves are bright to mid-dark green on trailing stems.

There are two popular species of Portulaca; they are moss rose and purslane. Moss rose has fat, needle-shaped leaves; purslane has fat, oval leaves. Both plants are spreading and are a good choice for temporary ground cover. They can also be used in hanging baskets, rock gardens, and edging.

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Moss rose, Portulaca grandiflora
Moss rose, Portulaca grandiflora

Get to know Portulaca

  • Plant type: Annual
  • Growing Zones and range: Annual in all zones
  • Hardiness: Killed by frost; established plants can tolerate hot and dry conditions
  • Height and width: 4 to 8 inches (10-20cm) tall; 8 to 18 inches (20-45cm) wide
  • Foliage: Narrow, tubular, and succulent leaves on reddish well-branched stems
  • Flowers: Small, roselike single or double flowers usually about 1 inch (2.5cm) wide
  • Flower colors: Red, orange, yellow, purple, or pink flowers; some varieties open about noon and close in the afternoon; new cultivars have variegated flower petals and stay open all day.
  • Bloom time: Spring to frost
  • Uses: Beds, containers
  • Common name: Moss Rose
  • Botanical name: Portulaca grandiflora
  • Family: Portulacaceae
  • Origin: Warm temperate and tropical regions of the world

Where to plant Portulaca

  • Grow Portulaca in full sun.
  • Plant Portulaca in average, well-drained soil, preferably sandy.
  • Portulaca prefers a soil pH of 6.5 to 7.5.

Portulaca uses

  • Portulaca is an excellent choice for rock gardens, containers, and hanging baskets.
  • Portulaca can be grown in hanging baskets or containers where it will cascade over the sides.
Moss rose, Portulaca grandiflora
Moss rose, Portulaca grandiflora

When to plant Portulaca

  • Set Portulaca in the garden in spring after all danger of frost has passed.
  • Start seed indoors 4 to 8 weeks before the last frost in spring.
  • Sow seeds outdoors during warm weather; plant seeds in winter in Zones 10-11.
  • Set transplants in the garden after all danger of frost has passed; harden off plants for a few days before transplanting.

Planting and spacing Portulaca

  • Sow Portulaca seed thinly; barely cover the seeds with soil.
  • Seeds germinate in about 7 days at 75°F (24°C).
  • Sow seeds indoors in small pots or flats filled with moist potting soil; grow seedlings in bright light or below fluorescent light.
  • Sow seeds outdoors in well-worked, smooth soil; press seeds into the soil, barely covering them.
  • Thin seedlings growing outdoors when crowded.
  • Set Portulaca transplants in the garden after all danger of frost has passed.
  • Space Portulaca 1 to 2 feet (30-61cm) apart.

How to water and feed Portulaca

  • Keep the soil just moist until plants are established.
  • Once established water Portulaca sparingly, allowing the soil to dry between waterings.
  • Lightly fertilize moss roses at planting with an all-purpose fertilizer. Fertilize periodically during active growth.
Moss rose, Portulaca grandiflora in the garden
Moss rose, Portulaca grandiflora in the garden

Portulaca care

  • Mulch around plants in very dry areas; mulch with aged compost or chopped leaves.

Portulaca pests and diseases

  • Portulaca is susceptible to aphids, thrips, and white rust.

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Portulaca propagation

  • Sow seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost.
  • Germination occurs in 10 to 14 days at 70° to 80°F (21°-27°C).
  • Portulaca will self-sow.
  • Propagate Portulaca by rooting cuttings off the stem section in spring.
  • Take a 4-inch cutting, remove the bottom leaves, and plant in shady, moist, humus-rich, or sandy soil.
Purslane, Portulaca oleracea
Purslane, Portulaca oleracea

Portulaca varieties to grow

  • Portulaca grandiflora has needle-shaped leaves topped with fluffy flowers; this is a favorite garden annual
  • ‘Sundial’ and ‘Sundance’ cultivars have flowers that remain open all day; older varieties close in the afternoon.
  • Portulaca oleracea, purslane, has bright single flowers and succulent, prostrate stems.

Portulaca frequently asked questions

Q: Can I grow portulaca from seed?

A: Portulaca is easy to grow from seed sown outdoors after all danger of frost has passed. Grow portulaca in well-drained, dry, light, sandy, but not rich soil, in full sun. You can start portulaca indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost for transplanting into the garden after the last frost. Seeds germinate in about 10 to 15 days at 70°F.

Q: Doe portulaca self-sow?

A: Portulaca readily self-sows, but seedlings do not appear until late spring after the soil has warmed. Thin crowded seedlings and transplant them to an open space.

Q: Where is a good place for portulaca in the garden?

A: Portulaca is low-growing and nearly prostrate. It can be grown at the front of a bed or border or at the front or edge of a container. It is a tough plant and will not languish if you forget to water it.

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Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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