How to Grow Portulaca (Moss Rose)

Updated on January 9, 2020
OldRoses profile image

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.

Semi-double flowers
Semi-double flowers | Source

When I was a child, portulaca was a popular ground cover. I loved its rose-like flowers and fat succulent leaves. Then it seemed to go out of style. I’m so happy to see it regaining popularity. It’s a colorful, tough and versatile bedding plant.

What Is Portulaca?

Portulaca, also known as moss rose, is an annual plant that is related to purslane. The foliage is so similar that you should be careful in the spring when you are weeding purslane out of your garden that you don’t weed out portulaca seedlings too! It’s easy to tell them apart if you look carefully. Purslane leaves are flatter while portulaca leaves look like fat, fleshy pine needles.

Full grown portulaca plants are only 6 to 8 inches tall. Their thick leaves mean that they are drought tolerant. Be careful not to over water them. Grow portulaca in well-drained or even sandy soil. It is salt tolerant so it’s perfect for gardens and containers near the ocean. The plants need full sun, 6 to 8 hours per day, for best growth and bloom.

Single Flowers
Single Flowers | Source

The flowers can be single, double or semi-double. They come in a variety of colors including red, orange, yellow, pink, violet, white and cream. They can also be bi-color. Bloom time is from mid-summer until frost. The flowers open in the morning and close at night. If the day is very cloudy, they may not open at all. When grown in partial shade conditions, the flowers will close during the shady part of the day.

A big drawback of this plant is that it is a prolific self-sower. You will want to keep this one deadheaded so that it doesn’t produce a lot of seed that will sprout all over your garden next spring. Deadheading will also encourage your plants to keep blooming until they are killed by a hard frost in the fall.

Portulaca grown in a container.  It drapes nicely over the sides of the container making it appear lush and full.
Portulaca grown in a container. It drapes nicely over the sides of the container making it appear lush and full. | Source

The Best Places to Grow Portulaca

Portulaca is a very versatile plant. It can be used as a ground cover because it is so short. Or you can use it in your rock garden along with your short alpine plants. It’s a great cover for areas where you grow spring bulbs. Its sprawling habit will cover the empty spaces after the foliage of your bulbs dies. Its tolerance of dry conditions means that it you won’t need to worry about your bulbs rotting in the ground from too much water.

Portulaca also drapes nicely when planted in containers and hanging baskets. Because it requires little water, it is perfect to tuck into stacked stone walls and between pavers in paths. Or it can be used as an edging along paths and flower beds.

Portulaca used as an edging.
Portulaca used as an edging. | Source

How To Start Portulaca Seeds Outdoors

Thanks to its propensity for self-sowing, portulaca is very easy to grow from seed. You can direct sow it in your garden after your last frost. Ideally the soil should be 65⁰F. The seeds are very tiny so the easiest way to sow them is by mixing them in sand. Broadcast the sand and seed mixture over the area where you want your portulaca to grow. This will ensure even coverage of the seeds. However, do not cover the seeds with soil. They need light to germinate. Gently tamp the soil to ensure good contact between it and the seeds. I usually water the soil before planting fine seed like portulaca because the seed will wash away if you water with a garden hose or watering can after planting. Germination should occur within 10 to 14 days. If necessary, thin your seedlings to 6 inches apart.

Double flowers.  They remind me of antique roses.
Double flowers. They remind me of antique roses. | Source

How to Start Protulaca Seeds Indoors

If you prefer, you can start your seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost. Surface sow the seeds. Do not cover them. They need light to germinate. You can hasten germination by using a heat mat, otherwise expect your seeds to germinate with 10 to 14 days. You can transplant your seedlings outdoors in your garden after your last frost. Seedlings should be spaced 6 inches apart. Be careful while transplanting. Portulaca does not like its roots disturbed.

Germinating your seedlings in biodegradable peat pots or cowpots allows you to plant the entire container in the garden without disturbing the plants’ roots. The pots will decay into the soil, adding nutrients, during the growing season. An alternative to purchasing biodegradable pots is to make your own using paper or newsprint. A quick search on Youtube shows that there are many ways to make these pots. One caveat is to use plain paper or newsprint only. Glossy magazine pages do not break down as easily in the soil and the inks may contain heavy metals. The ink used in newspapers is vegetable based so it won’t harm your plant or your soil.

Questions & Answers

  • Will my moss rose plants be happy in Manchester, England?

    Yes as long are you are growing them in full sun (6 to 8 hours daily) and well-drained soil and not over-watering them.

  • Will Moss Roses come up on their own for the second year?

    Yes, portulaca seeds will germinate on their own in the spring. Portulaca is an annual, which means that it will only live for one growing season. If you see it again in your garden the following year, what you are seeing is plants that have grown from seeds that were dropped on the soil the prior year.

  • Does portulaca come back the next year via seed even in cold weather climates/ zone 4?

    Unfortunately, the seed will only survive the winter as far north as zone 5. If you allow the flowers to go to seed in the fall, you should be able to collect the seed to sow the following spring. Keep the seed cool during the winter. I keep my seeds in my refrigerator.

  • Why does my portulaca not germinate well?

    My best guess would be that you are covering the seeds. Sow them on the surface of the soil and don't cover them at all. The seeds need light to germinate. If you cover them with soil, they will not germinate.

© 2018 Caren White


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      24 months ago

      Linda, you are in luck. Portulaca is deer resistant. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      24 months ago from Washington State, USA

      This brings back wonderful memories. We had portulaca at our first home (newlyweds). I've not tried to grow them where I am now because they look so delectable--I've convinced myself that the deer would gobble them up, but I don't know that to be true. Do you know if they are deer proof?

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      24 months ago

      Mary, I hope they will be a happy reminder of your childhood! Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      24 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      We used to have these in our house when I was growing up but I haven't planted them in my own garden. I'll certainly do this next year.

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      24 months ago

      So glad to meet another fan of these flowers! Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      24 months ago from Houston, Texas

      I have grown these little moss roses (portulaca) many times in our garden. I love the colors and hardiness of this little low growing plant that offers almost continuous blooms throughout the growing season.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)