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A portulaca plant with bright yellow and pink flowers.
These pretty flowering succulents provide many months of colour and need minimal care and attention. The most popular form is the annual Portulaca grandiflora, or moss rose, which bears masses of bright little blooms in a range of vibrant colours throughout summer and autumn.

What you need to know about portulaca

Name: portulaca, moss rose, sun plant, rose moss, rock rose, Portulaca grandiflora, Portulaca oleracea.

Height: 15-20cm.

Plant type: annual succulent.

Climate: all climates.

Soil: well-drained.

Position: full sun.

Flowers: single, semi-double or double blooms in shades of red, pink, orange, yellow and white.

Foliage: small, cylindrical or flat and fleshy.

Feeding: feed every one to two weeks with a liquid fertiliser.

Watering: water regularly when first planted, reducing frequency when roots are established.

Appearance and characteristics of portulaca

Portulaca has small fleshy leaves, typical of a succulent, and a low-growing, trailing habit. Plants grow to about 20cm tall with a spread of around 30-40cm. They flower right through the summer months and into autumn. Each plant produces a mass of jewel-like, multi-petalled blooms, about 2.5cm wide, in a range of bright colours, including yellow, pink, red, orange and white.

Portulaca self-seeds readily, so while the whole plant dies off in winter, it’s likely its seeds will sprout once the weather starts to warm in the spring.

Close up of a portulaca plant with bright green leaves. 

Uses for portulaca

Portulaca thrives in hot, dry conditions, so is perfect for providing a wonderfully easy-care splash of colour in garden beds, rockeries or along pathways. Its drought-tolerant quality also makes it ideal for tubs, containers and hanging baskets in sun-exposed positions.

How to grow portulaca

As it is native to hot, dry regions of the world, portulaca does best in full sun and well-drained soil. It can be grown from seed in seed trays or directly in garden beds in spring or early summer. Cover the seeds with a light sprinkling of seed-raising mix, as they need some light to germinate. Water with a fine spray to keep the soil moist until the seedlings emerge (after about two weeks). Alternatively, you can plant nursery-bought seedlings, which are available in spring and early summer.

Caring for portulaca

These hardy bloomers need minimal care. Trim off spent flowers with a pair of scissors to keep plants tidy, and rotate tubs and containers to maximize their sun exposure – flowers will close up if they’re in shade.

Close up of a portulaca plant with round bright green leaves.

How often should you water and feed portulaca?

Water regularly when plants are young and reduce frequency once they’re established. To encourage ongoing blooms, apply a liquid fertiliser for flowering plants about every one to two weeks.

How and when to prune portulaca

With its trailing stems, portulaca gradually spreads as it grows. While it doesn’t need to be pruned, it might benefit from a trim in mid-summer if it gets too leggy or straggly.

Diseases and pests that affect portulaca

While portulaca is not prone to any major pests or diseases, its fleshy leaves can be attractive to birds. If you notice any pecking at the young seedlings, protect the plants with bird netting.

How to propagate portulaca

Portulaca is easy to grow from either seed or seedlings. It can also be propagated from stem cuttings.

If you like this, then try

Cosmos: an annual with long, slender stems and open blooms in various pastel shades.

Angelonia: this perennial flowers profusely over summer and is tolerant of full sun and dry conditions.

Cuphea: a hardy groundcover with small leaves and masses of tiny blooms.

Start planting today

Check out our wide range of plants now and get your garden growing!

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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