The Varieties of Portulaca
Portulaca is the name of a genus of flowering plants. There are many varieties of portulaca and most are hardy to USDA zones 7 to 11. Generally found wherever conditions are hot and dry, portulaca are planted for their colorful flowers in rock gardens or in masses, as ground cover. Some portulacas have a milky sap that may cause dermatitis in sensitive individuals.
Commonly known as purslane, this portulaca variety grows 3 to 10 inches in height, and loves the heat and direct sunlight. Yellow flowers appear in July and, if you don’t snip them off before they produce seed, you can end up with lots of baby purslane. Each plant can produce over 200,000 seeds, according to the University of California at Davis. While many gardeners consider purslane a weed, others like eating it. If you want to grow it to enjoy its flowers, consider the ‘Yubi Summer Joy Scarlet’ variety.
Portulaca grandiflora is commonly known as moss rose and is the main species sold in gardening centers. This variety of portulaca is another sun-lover that hails from Brazil. A tender annual, the moss rose will grow to 6 inches in height. It thrives in dry soil. Generally used as ground cover in the residential landscape, it also looks pretty trailing over the sides of a hanging basket. Moss rose flowers in white, yellow, pink, orange and red.
Portulaca umbraticola, or wingpod purslane, is a summer annual that grows to 2 inches in height. Native to the Sonoran desert, wingpod purslane blooms in tiny yellow flowers with red tips. This is a low-maintenance plant that will do well in a xeriscape situation. It will also attract bees and butterflies into the summer garden. Wingpod purslane is hardy to USDA zones 7b to 11.
Care For Portulaca
At heights of no more than 6 inches, portulaca, also known as moss rose or sun plant, is a low-growing stunner with cactus-like blooms that last all summer. The blooms, in bright jewel tones of orange, pink, purple, yellow, red and white, grow on thick, succulent foliage. It is grown as an annual in most climates. However, the plant is perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture growing zones 10B through 11. Plant portacula in a rock garden, patio container or hanging basket. Once planted, portacula requires virtually no care. Water the plant only when the top of the soil is dry, as portulaca is a drought-tolerant plant that thrives in dry, desert-like soil. Portulaca rots in soggy soil. Apply fertilizer according to the specifications on the package label, and then water immediately. Dislodge the aphids with a strong stream of water or spray the plant with insecticidal soap spray.
- University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension: Purslane: Weed It or Feed It?
- University of California at Davis: Common Purslane
- Free Patents Online: Portulaca Plant Named ‘Summer Joy Scarlet’
- University of Vermont: Portulaca
- Desert-Tropicals.com: Portulaca, Moss Rose
- Cornell University Extension: Portulaca
- University of Florida Extension Service: Portulaca Grandiflora
- Floridata: Portulaca Grandiflora
- The New Sunset Western Garden Book; Kathleen Norris Brenzel
- The Firefly Forest: Wingpod Purslane
- "A-Z Plant Encyclopedia of Garden Plants"; Christopher Brickell and H. Marc Cathey; 2008