Portulacas are Tough and Versatile Succulents

Curious little plants, portulaca plants, or the moss roses, inject a treasure trove of color and life into any garden during summer. 

These fabulous plants don’t require much from you in return, and help attract pollinators into your garden, while helping to suppress weeds.

Interested in knowing more about portulaca? Here’s what you need to know.

What Is Portulaca?

Portulacas are beautiful and robust plants which are succulents. If you know anything about succulents, you may be aware that most of them tolerate dry spells and hot weather with no problem at all, sometimes going for a week or two without irrigation.

You may also see them referred to as the moss rose, or purslane. They come from the Portulacaceae plant family, which contains over 100 different species of plants suitable for warm climates. 

Confusingly, there is a type of rose which is also called the moss rose, and it’s not related to portulaca at all, as it is a true rose, with feathery, moss-like foliage.

If you love roses, but your garden is too dry or the soil is too poor, shallow, and rocky, portulaca is a great substitute, producing a carpet of cheerful blooms in many shades of pastel and vibrant tones.

How To Recognize Portulaca Succulents

Portulaca plants flower from spring all the way through to fall, readily self-seeding, spreading, and blooming where they can.

Single-flowering varieties look like species roses, and doubles look like the rambling roses, or rose of Sharon blooms, depending on the type you go for.

As with many compact plants that serve as ground cover, portulaca succulents spread outward rather than upward, reaching anywhere from 7cm to 20cm tall, reaching about 30cm wide. 

While they stay fairly compact, they spread easily, and can get unruly unless you keep them in check by dividing them.

The flowers open when they feel the sunlight, and close when the sun goes down or goes behind a cloud.

While they are unscented, they are among some of the brightest, easy-growing flowers available in a succulent plant, so they don’t need fragrance to attract pollinators. 

They’re found in warm parts of the world, including the tropics. Portulaca oleracea, or common purslane, is edible. The leaves contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins, but it’s also classed as invasive in some places. 

Some people grow it as a leaf crop rather than an ornamental plant, using the foliage in salads and soup.

While we can eat it, it’s important to note that this plant is toxic to both dogs and cats, so you may want to reconsider this plant if you have either.

It’s worth knowing that these plants are absolutely adored by chickens! 

Portulaca grandiflora is one of the main portulaca species grown for its ornamental value, mimicking the flowers of a rose. These plants are readily available, and make a great addition into any garden.

Portulaca Care And Maintenance

Portulaca plants love full sunlight for as long as possible, and well-draining, dry soil. Ideally, the poorer the soil, the better these tough little plants will thrive.

They won’t do well in very fertile or constantly wet soil, so you may have to grow them in containers if that sounds like your garden.

You can try growing portulacas in dappled shade, but you won’t see as many flowers, and the growth won’t be as vigorous. 

They make a great addition to wall-planting schemes, rockeries, containers, and between stepping stones to add life and color into tricky areas.

They can be grown in most climates as a short-lived perennial, being summer annual plants in colder parts of the world. 

Because the roots are so fibrous, they don’t need as deep a soil depth as most plants require.

This makes them perfect for ground cover on rockeries, or in shallow stone planters, or between garden paving, where other plants wouldn’t be able to root.

While they are drought tolerant plants, portulacas won’t stand long dry spells for months on end as many succulents can. However, even when they are wilting, it is easy to revive them with some water.

It also helps that you won’t need to fertilize them, either. As you might imagine, portulacas are not hungry plants, preferring poor and well-draining soil over rich and loamy compost. 

Final Thoughts

Portulaca plants are perfect for adding rose-like flowers into your garden, in those areas where roses, and other flowering plants, simply won’t grow. 

These succulent plants are also very cheap and readily available, only adding to their attractiveness.

Gardening can be expensive, especially if you’re just setting out on your planting journey, and these plants will help bring plenty of color into any bed you choose without breaking the bank.

These striking plants are sure to brighten up any area of your garden, and as they need so little of your time past the occasional watering, they should be a must-have on your grow list, at least once.

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