Portulaca-The Moss Rose
Don’t be deceived by their fragile appearance. The moss rose or portulaca is one tough plant. Tolerant of heat and drought, this floriferous plant produces dazzling blooms from spring until frost.
Though the flowers may vary in color, all the moss rose plants look pretty much alike. They have small, plump, succulent leaves-an inch or less in length. Usually, the branched, fleshy, reddish, stems have a trailing growth habit, which explains why the plants are used for hanging baskets and as ground covers.
Moss rose is suitable for hot, dry places. They’re especially common in Southern gardens where they can withstand the heat very well. They’re ideal for rock gardens, along walkways, and at the edge of flowerbeds and borders.
Only six inches tall, they are about a foot wide. Some varieties spread more than others. In outdoor gardens, space them about six inches apart.
The flower color depends upon the cultivar you choose, but I guarantee you they’ll be bright and eye-catching. The rose-like flowers with notched petals are either singles or doubles, 1-2½” wide. Generally, the blooms will close in the late afternoon, though a few will remain open longer, with examples being Sundance and Afternoon Delight.
Moss roses are fast growing plants. After you buy them in the spring and plant them, they reach a mature size very quickly.
A native of Brazil, the Latin name for moss rose is Portulaca grandiflora. In Latin, porto means carry, while lac refers to the white sap of some species. Grandiflora describes the large flower.
Moss roses are related to purslane, a widespread garden weed. It is sometimes eaten as a green by French, Mexicans, and others.
Like all succulents, moss rose can be grown from cuttings. This is the method used for double-flowering varieties. The others can be grown from seed. During the spring months, the plants are readily available as bedding plants from garden centers and nurseries.
So far as care is concerned, moss rose is an easy care plant. It requires no deadheading, and rarely suffers from insect or disease problems. Give it a well drained spot, and it will be happy. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings, as it can tolerate dry conditions. The plants will tolerate light shade, but they won’t be as floriferous. Full sun is better.
As beautiful as the moss roses are, the hard part may be choosing the varieties you want. The Yubi Summer Joy series, introduced for 2003, have extremely bright blooms, and tolerate exceptionally high temperatures. This series includes twelve colors, including solids and a rose with a red eye.
The Fairytale Series includes Cinderella. This delightful variety features flat, oversized, yellow petals and hot-pink centers. What a winning combination.
A photo of Margarita Rosita, 2001 All-America Selections winner, can be seen at the All-America Selections website(www.all-americaselections.org).
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