Portulaca is quite a hardy species belonging to the genus Portulacaceae.
Though there are close to a hundred species already identified, the most common type grown by many is the Portulaca grandiflora.
Portulaca grows eight inches tall, spreads two feet wide when mature, and produces succulent foliage—a clear proof of its drought-tolerance ability. The plant is an ideal choice for bedding and will work perfectly well in flowerbeds, especially in drier regions.
Portulaca also makes a great ground cover considering its spreading nature.
Where to Grow Portulaca Flowers
Portulaca plants are great candidates for containers and flowerbeds; however, they’ll still thrive in hanging baskets.
They’re able to withstand high temperatures and wind. Therefore, will survive in rockeries with less water supply. Grow them in loose and well-draining soil, ensuring that the location receives between six and eight hours of direct sunlight a day.
Growing Portulaca in Hanging Baskets
For fully open beautiful blooms, ensure you place the plant where it’s guaranteed direct sunlight for most of the day. When it sits in the shade, the flowers close up.
Pair your portulaca with other drought-tolerant, heat-loving plants like spiderwort—to offer color between blooming cycles.
Growing portulaca in containers comes with very minimal care needs. Perhaps, only watering—otherwise, tasks like pruning and deadheading aren’t necessary.
However, you may want to prune the seedpods to prevent the plant(s) from dropping seed, especially if your portulaca is outgrowing other companion plants in the container.
Water regularly (every other week) to encourage more abundant blooms. Let the topsoil dry out before your next watering.
Also, ensure that the soil is well-draining, and consider fertilizing lightly if the flowering process appears slow.
Growing Portulaca as a Ground cover
Though portulaca plants spread to form a dense mat, they aren’t invasive (except for a few varieties) and will just spread within their designated area—making them a perfect ground cover plant choice for small gardens.
Planted in poor, dry soils, they will still flourish. However, you want to keep the soil moderately moist because soggy conditions will easily kill them. Avoid overwatering.
Naturally, Portulaca flowers will thrive in most soil types but will appreciate sandy, well-drained soil.
They’re very tolerant of high heat and drought and easily spread and seed on their own; therefore, the best bet for your summer garden.
Portulaca Oleracea vs. Portulaca Grandiflora
Though they belong to the same family of Portulacaceae, P. oleracea and P. Grandiflora are two different species.
One is edible, and the other is not. Grandiflora is largely grown for ornamental purposes while purslane (P. oleracea) is regarded as the common edible “weed” and used for medicinal purposes.
Both portulaca and purslane produce seeds like crazy—estimated at thousands. In fact, purslane seeds are said to have a viability span of up to forty years.
You’ll notice purslane varieties pop up even in parts of your garden where you never planted them—which can be annoying sometimes. To prevent that from happening, consider container gardening.
For portulaca Grandiflora, consider removing the withered blooms—to help redirect the plant’s energy to producing new blooms and prevent the spread of seeds.
Starting Portulaca Seeds
Portulaca plants can be grown from seed started early indoors then transplanted outside after frost.
Alternatively, sow the seeds directly into the ground immediately after the threat of frost has passed, or even grow them in containers.
Starting the seeds indoors
- Sow six to eight weeks before your area’s last frost, preferably in the spring. Use a seed starting kit.
- Sow the seeds a one-eighth inch deep in your seed starting formula.
- Maintain the soil moisture at 70-75 to help boost germination.
- The seedlings should emerge after ten to fourteen days.
- Once they germinate, offer sufficient light, if possible, on a sunny windowsill. Alternatively, grow the seedlings under fluorescent plant lights—place them 3-4 inches beneath the lights for approximately 16 hours a day.
- The lights should be on 16 hours a day then off for 8 hours during the night.
- Be sure to keep raising the lights as your plants grow taller.
- Once the seedlings develop two sets of leaves, consider thinning to a single seedling per cell.
- Since they won’t require much fertilizer, only feed at three or four weeks old with a starter solution, making sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions.
- Remember to harden off the seedlings before planting them in the garden. This helps harden the cell structure of the plants while also reducing transplant shock.
- Begin by moving them outside for a week—in a sheltered place. Offer protection from hot sun and wind at first.
- Bring the containers indoors (or cover) at night if there is a frost threat, then take them outside again in the morning.
- To further reduce transplant shock when transplanting, use compost.
- Unlike fertilizers, compost requires only a few applications and will stay longer, ensuring the soil remains healthy.
- The additional nutrients also help the plant adapt to its new environment and lower stress levels—which is paramount to an excellent transplant.
- Be sure to amend the soil with compost before planting to give your plants a good start.
- Avoid using immature compost as it may cause more difficulties to the plants.
- Consider mulching to help maintain even soil temperatures and retain soil moisture.
- Mulching also helps keep weeds at bay.
Caring for Your Flowers
Once planted, portulaca flowers require virtually no care.
- Water only when the soil feels dry (to the touch) at the top. Use a watering can or garden horse to water the plants’ base—making sure not to wet the blooms.
- Offer to feed when necessary. If you decide to use fertilizers, apply a balanced slow-release type in mid-summer. Always adhere to the specifications labeled on the package. Then water immediately.
- Remove wilted blooms to discourage self-seeding and to also promote continued blooming the entire season.
- Regularly check the plants for aphids. Spray with a strong water stream or insecticidal soap spray to get the insects off the plants.
The Takeaway on Growing Healthy Portulaca in Your Garden
Care for it, neglect it…it will still thrive. However, portulaca won’t survive in a waterlogged environment.
And so, depending on your intended use of the plant, you may want to consider growing either one or both.
For edible or medicinal purposes, go with common purslane. Choose seeds labeled Portulaca oleracea. You can as well try Portulaca sativa (golden purslane) or Portulaca pilosa (pink purslane). They’re also edible.