Image by Tom Rulkens
By Stan V. Griep
American Rose Society Certified Consulting Rosarian – Rocky Mountain District
A truly beautiful low growing ground cover type plant is called the portulaca (Portulaca grandiflora), or sometimes known as the sun rose or even the moss rose. Portulaca plants are native to Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. Portulaca flowers are easy to grow and enjoy. Let’s look at what is needed for portulaca care.
How to Grow Portulaca Plants
Portulaca flowers tolerate many kinds of soil but prefer sandy, well-drained soil and love the full sunlight. These plants are excellent for 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.