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How to Grow and Propagate Moss Roses or Portulaca

Nolen is an avid gardener who has planted moss roses for several years now in hanging baskets, pots and flowerbeds.

This article will break down how to care for and propagate moss roses, also known as portulaca.

This article will break down how to care for and propagate moss roses, also known as portulaca.

What Are Moss Roses?

Moss roses, also known as portulaca (Portulaca grandiflora), is a plant that is native to the desert areas of South America, including Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. These succulent-like plants evolved with the ability to store large amounts of water in their leaves and to remain dormant in dry conditions, allowing them to tolerate drought until rains come.

Shortly after being exposed to water, they burst forth in foliage and create a colorful blanket across the South American desert. Since these flowering plants are so hardy, they're also an easy one for even beginner gardeners to grow, either as ground cover, or in hanging baskets or pots.

Moss roses tolerate being planted with other species quite well, and can be grown with succulents such as cacti (as seen in the photo below), which may have similar watering needs.

They come in several different varieties and are often sold in the ground cover section of your local nursery. Our own favorite varieties are Happy Hour, Sundance and Calypso.

Moss roses can be planted in the same container as succulents, such as spineless prickly pear.

Moss roses can be planted in the same container as succulents, such as spineless prickly pear.

Where to Grow Moss Roses

You can grow moss roses almost anywhere that you have ample sun. These are sun loving plants, whose seeds must have exposure sunlight to germinate. They don't tend to do well indoors, unless they're placed in a window which gets direct sun for at least six hours a day.

We've had our best luck growing moss roses outside in the summertime. They don't tolerate cold very well however, and in most climate zones in the US they will die back in wintertime. An outdoor planting of moss roses may return in the spring, either from dormant seeds or roots, but it's best to go ahead and replant them from scratch each year for the best blooms.

Moss roses also do very well when grown in hanging baskets as well as in larger containers. These hardy flowering plants generally tolerate being grown with other desert plants or succulents quite well.

Separating moss roses to grow new plants.

Separating moss roses to grow new plants.

Growing Moss Roses From Seed

You can easily grow moss roses from seed. They need sunlight to germinate, so plant your seed by scattering it on top of your soil in a container that you place in a sunny place.

The best conditions for moss rose seed germination are when soil is above 80°F, when sunlight is reaching the container for most of the day, and when watered every few days (careful not to over-water).

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You can transplant moss roses from your starter pots to your outside beds when the danger of frost is over. It's best to plant young moss roses about 12" apart, since they can grow up to a 6 inches tall and foot wide.

Tips

  • Start seeds indoors in a sunny area using a potting mix containing sand.
  • Water a couple of times a week or when the top layer of soil feels dry to the touch.
  • Expose seeds to sun.
  • Transplant young plants to the garden after all frost danger has passed.
  • Plant young moss roses about 1 foot apart.
  • Plant outside in sandy, well drained soil where there is lots of sun.

Varieties of Moss Rose You Can Grow From Seed

Varieties of moss rose or portulaca that you can grow from seed include Happy Hour, which we planted this spring, along with Happy Hour Peppermint, Red and Orange.

How to Care for Moss Roses

Caring for moss roses is quite easy. They like well drained soil and any regular potting soil which contains some sand works well, as long as the container has good drainage. If your potting mix doesn't include sand, you can mix cacti and succulent potting mix with houseplant potting to obtain a mixture that moss roses thrive in.

They don't require much fertilizer. If you wish to give them a boost every now and then, however, you can give them a small amount of Miracle-Gro houseplant fertilizer.

Most insect pests tend to leave moss roses alone, which in addition to their hardiness is another reason why we love to grow them. If you do get an insect infestation, products such as Safer Soap, diluted and sprayed on the plant, can often solve the problem.

How to Propagate Moss Roses

Moss roses grow in ever expanding clumps. You can often start new plants by carefully digging up the main plant and separating off a section of roots, as seen in the photo below.

Once you've separated the moss rose plants, place each in a new container and lightly water them.

The Happy Hour Peppermint variety of moss rose.

The Happy Hour Peppermint variety of moss rose.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Nolen Hart

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