Learn About Portulacas
p>Botrytis: This fungus causes a grey mold on flowers, leaves, stems and buds. It thrives in cool wet weather conditions. Burpee Recommends: Remove affected plant parts, avoid watering at night and getting water on the plant when watering. Make sure plants have good air circulation. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.
Damping Off: This is one of the most common problems when starting plants from seed. The seedling emerges and appears healthy; then it suddenly wilts and dies for no obvious reason. Damping off is caused by a fungus that is active when there is abundant moisture and soils and air temperatures are above 68 degrees F. Typically, this indicates that the soil is too wet or contains high amounts of nitrogen fertilizer. Burpee Recommends: Keep seedlings moist but do not overwater; avoid over-fertilizing your seedlings; thin out seedlings to avoid overcrowding; make sure the plants are getting good air circulation; if you plant in containers, thoroughly wash them in soapy water and rinse in a ten per cent bleach solution after use.
Root Knot Nematodes: Microscopic worm-like pests that cause swellings (galls) to form on roots. Plants may wilt or appear stunted. This is a serious problem in many Southern states. Burpee Recommends: Do not plant into infested soil. Try planting ‘Nema-Gone’ marigolds around your plants.
Root Rots: A number of pathogens cause root rots of seedlings as well as mature roots. Burpee Recommends: Practice crop rotation and do not plant related crops in the same area for several years. Pull up and discard infected plants. Make sure your soil has excellent drainage. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations. Keep plants healthy.
White Rust: White rust cause branches and leaves to swell. Raised pustules can form on the front as well as the back of leaves. Branches can be deformed, erect and spindly. Burpee Recommends: Remove infected plants. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.
Common Pest and Cultural Problems
Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps who feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.
Mealybugs: Mealybugs are 1/8 to ¼ inch long flat wingless insects that secrete a white powder that forms a waxy shell that protects them. They form cottony looking masses on stems, branches and leaves. They suck the juices from leaves and stems and cause weak growth. They also attract ants with the honeydew they excrete, and the honeydew can grow a black sooty mold on it as well. Burpee Recommends: Wash infected plant parts under the faucet and try to rub the bugs off. They may also be controlled by predator insects such as lacewings, ladybugs and parasitic wasps. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pesticide recommendations.
Scale: Small bugs look like brown, black, gray to white bumps on the stems of plants. Scale may not have any apparent legs and may not move. Scales have a sucking mouth part. Scale may produce a honeydew so leaves and stems may be sticky. Scale can weaken the plant causing it to grow very slowly and it may wilt at the middle of the day. Burpee Recommends: Completely spray the stems with Insecticidal soap. For a severe infestation contact your local County Extension Service for recommendation for your area.
Spider Mites: These tiny spider-like pests are about the size of a grain of pepper. They may be red, black, brown or yellow. They suck on the plant juices removing chlorophyll and injecting toxins which cause white dots on the foliage. There is often webbing visible on the plant. They cause the foliage to turn yellow and become dry and stippled. They multiply quickly and thrive in dry conditions. Burpee Recommends: Spider mites may be controlled with a forceful spray every other day. Try hot pepper wax or insecticidal soap. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for miticide recommendations.
Thrips: Thrips are tiny needle-thin insects that are black or straw colored. They suck the juices of plants and attack flower petals, leaves and stems. The plant will have a stippling, discolored flecking or silvering of the leaf surface. Thrips can spread many diseases from plant to plant. Burpee Recommends: Many thrips may be repelled by sheets of aluminum foil spread between rows of plants. Remove weeds from the bed and remove debris from the bed after frost. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls.
Sign in to Blooming Secrets
One of my family members once described Portulaca, also known as Moss Rose her “happy flower” and when you decide to grow this flower in your own garden you’ll know why. Portulaca is among the easiest flowers to grow either directly by seed or by buying plants at the garden center. I have been successful growing it both ways but if you are growing them from seed it is a good idea to mix the very small seed with sand to make planting the seed a little easier. Although it is considered an annual flower, meaning that it grows and flowers all in one growing season, it is a prolific self-seeder when it finds an environment that it enjoys and therefore it acts like a perennial flower coming back year after year. Portulaca only gets 6” to 9” high so it is a good plant for the edge of your flower beds and it is useful in both containers and hanging baskets.
Portulaca comes in a range of colors like yellow, orange, red, and bright pink with white, cream, available as well. It has a long flowering season in most areas of the country starting in the later part of spring and continuing to produce flowers all the up to the first fall frost but it can benefit from being trimmed back and fertilized with Miracle Gro or a granular fertilizer in late July. A particularly desirable trait is that Portulaca is very tolerant of heat and dry conditions. As a matter of fact it is considered a succulent which is a plant that has thick stems or leaves that help retain moisture. It is so hardy that it has re-seeded itself in my garden in between patio stones and even in the grooves of my concrete driveway and I have easily pulled these seedlings and transplanted them in more desirable places. I have also found that it is highly insect resistant and I’ve never had to treat it for any infestations although I have read that aphids can sometimes be a problem.
Like most plants Portulaca does have some drawbacks. It is a “sun worshipper” and many varieties have flowers that close late in the afternoon and their blooms may not open on particularly cloudy days or if planted in shady areas. Seed companies are working to develop new varieties that will overcome these limitations. Although it can do very well without a regular watering schedule it does flower best when it is given some additional water during particularly hot spells. However, it does not tolerate soil conditions that are very damp such as where there may be standing water or poor drainage. Although it has the ability to grow in spaces such as those found between patio stones or stepping stones it does not stand up well to being stepped on. Finally, I have found that the deer in our area find Portulaca to be a tasty meal and if you have problems with deer you will want to plant Portulaca in areas that the deer can’t get to it or treat it with some deer repellant. All that being said Portulaca is a worthwhile addition to your garden and if you’ve never grown it before you may want to give it a try.
Portulacas are Tough and Versatile Succulents.
Portulaca Grandiflora. Mixed Jewels.
Portulacas are perennial succulents – drought and heat tolerant plants which require very little maintenance. They may look like roses and may often be called Moss Roses, but the leaves are the giveaway. Moss Roses are, in fact, a type of true rose belonging in with the Centifolias.
Their other name is the common Purslane and is often seen in herbal remedies and even in cooking. Purslane is full of Omega 3 Fatty Acids, lots of Minerals and Vitamins and many other nutrients which are certainly worth investigating if you are interested in Herbs.
My Portulacas have always grown from spring right through to autumn and well into winter, perhaps because they loved their hot, dry climate and their hot, dry bed. I honestly think they could live on a rock with just a little dew in the mornings. However, they do look lovely in between the gaps in a rock garden. I would thoroughly recommend this plant as the first for your rock garden if you are thinking of building one. Magnificent specimens, but addictive – once again – as so many plants are.
And they’re cheap. Buy one and you’ve got many by pinching off bits of the leaves and planting them. They also self seed. They come in singles and doubles. The singles really do look like single roses but their leaves are narrow and pointy and very succulent. You can pinch one off anywhere and you will get a whole new plant.
Portulacas come in white, yellow, pink, orange and red. But with the modern hybrids and cultivars, the doubles have more colours. They can be grown from seed, but I wouldn’t have the patience for this. Besides, the seeds are so tiny that they’re barely visible. The double looks spectacular in deep crimson pink.
Portulaca Grandiflora. Beutiful.
They are short and showy and will spread horizontally, not vertically. They are fantastic as bedding and edging plants. I had borders of Evolvulus and popped the Portulacas in just under them at the front. Their colours looked striking against the blue flowers of the ground covers. See the Evolvulus on the Perennials page.
Portulacas grow in a little mound from about 3″ to 8″ high and will spread about 12″ across. The yellow ones look and feel like buttercups and as I said, the rest look like roses. I can’t think of a better, more cheerful little plant to give your garden a lift. They open during the day in the sun, and they close at sundown to conserve water and energy. Originally from South America, they can be grown just about anywhere except in cold or high mountainous regions. They have no perfume; they were not built for that! They don’t need it.
Portulaca Grandiflora Singles Mixed.
They are surface rooters, meaning they have a fibrous root system rather than a tap root (like a rose does). They love sandy soil which doesn’t need to be very deep, just an inch or so, and they require very little care. They are often called the ‘Ten O’Clock Flower’ because that’s the time when they are fully open or awake. Because they are so versatile and hardy, they can be started indoors earlier on and then transplanted outdoors when the cold weather is gone. One thing they will not tolerate is frost. Mine all went black when we had a very cold night. Warning: They do close up in the evening. This saves considerable energy when it’s hot and dry. They just want sunshine .
There are lots of cultivars which open up access to many different colours. They even have a tendency to ‘trail’ if grown in hanging baskets. Being succulents, they will tolerate a certain amount of neglect, but it’s best if they have well-drained soil and some water about three times a week. Unlike the cacti which can survive for months to years without water, they can’t go dry for too long. They’ll spring back though and are very forgiving. But I have had some die because I left them way too long without a drink. I mean months. They are an ideal choice for a rock garden. Another drought-tolerant plant is Dusty Miller. It will really show off your moss roses. Beautiful! And there are so many different types of Portulacas nowadays, from tiny flowers to big and fluffy blooms.
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Photo: Penny Woodward
It was obvious early on that this summer was going to be hot and dry in my neck of the woods. So I hunted around for the best seedlings to give me great colour, but I also wanted ones that wouldn’t wilt in the direct sun and wouldn’t need too much water. The obvious candidates were portulaca, also known as moss rose (Portulaca grandiflora). These cheerful, no-nonsense plants can be grown from seed sown in spring or autumn, but I usually leave it too late and end up buying seedlings. Although I planted mine in early December, even now it wouldn’t be too late to purchase and plant them in temperate regions of Australia.
Seedlings transplant easily and spread rapidly. I put three small seedlings in each pot, which they rapidly filled and then overflowed the edges. They also work well on the edge of a garden bed or even in a hanging basket. I like buying the mixed punnets so that I get a profusion of colours, but if you are into colour co-ordination, then you can also get them in single colours. An occasional feed with some worm juice, seaweed solution or dilute fish emulsion will keep them growing and flowering right into autumn and early winter. Cut off dead flower heads to stop plants getting too lanky.
The only two downsides to these colourful plants are that the flowers are at their best in the morning, and gradually close in the afternoon, but then re-open the next day. The other is that in hot weather the birds love to nibble on the succulent leaves to obtain moisture. As long as your plants are growing well, and there aren’t too many birds, then it’s not a problem. But when the plants are small and not well established then it is a good idea to put a temporary net, cage or bit of wire netting over the top to protect them. At any time of year there will be different annuals you can plant. Pop some into a pot and enjoy their colourful contribution for many months.
By: Penny Woodward
First published: January 2016
Portulaca is great for containers, rock gardens, between sunny stepping-stones, as an edging, or in any well-drained or dry garden spot. The sunnier the better. Heat, drought, and poor soil bring out the best of this plant. In fact, it flowers better in poor soil than rich.
Portulaca is covered with many large, semi-double flowers throughout the warm months to form a cheerful summer ground cover or trailing plant. The blooms need sunlight to open, so they close in the evening and on cloudy days. Portulaca grows vigorously, even in sandy soil. It is also salt tolerant, making a great choice for the beach. Plant in spring after all danger of frost is past. Also known as moss rose.
Some Bonnie Plants varieties may not be available at your local stores, as we select and sell varieties best suited to the growing conditions in each region.
- Type Annual
- Light Full sun
- Plant spacing 8 inches apart
- Plant size 4 to 6 inches tall
Some Bonnie Plants varieties may not be available in your local area, due to different variables in certain regions. Also, if any variety is a limited, regional variety it will be noted on the pertinent variety page.
Category: Flowers SKU: 1089