Portulacas – Portulaca grandiflora

Bright five-petalled flowers of red, pink, apricot, carmine, buttercup yellow, purple or white appear in summer on this small, decorative edging plant.

The original Portulacas grew in many of the countries of South America and the West Indies where there is almost constant sunshine. Therefore the fact that the flowers only opened when in full sun was not important. Those which we grow are hybrids produced from these Portulacas can be grown indoors or outside and make ideal hanging plants.

Original plants and many of these have been produced to open in cloudy as well as sunny weather.

This is a small tufted plant that grows to about 15cm (6in) high but some varieties will spread rapidly to measure about 60cm (24in) across. The flowers can be 2-5cm (1— 2in) in size and either single or double. They have a centre of bright yellow stamens.

VarietiesPortulacas - Portulaca grandiflora

P. g. ‘Cloudbeater’ has double flowers that stay open during daylight hours. Blooms can be gold, carmine, scarlet, apricot, white or pink and are 4cm (13/4in) across.

‘Flare Pleno’ is also double petalled, as is the dwarf ‘Double Minilaca’ Which is a neat and compact plant smothered in 5cm (2in) flowers. P. umbraticola ‘Wildfire’ is a decorative, quickly spreading variety.

Display

Portulacas are ideal for edging boxes or tubs or they can be grown on their own in a shallow container to add colour to the front of a container group. They can also be grown indoors on a sunny windowsill or in a sunroom or conservatory.

Growing from seed

Plant seeds indoors in February or March or in the position where they are to flower outdoors in May. Portulacas do not transplant easily so if you are starting them off indoors grow them in peat pots or expandable peat pellets so that you do not need to disturb the roots.

1 Sow seeds on top of moist seed compost. They are very tiny so mix with a little sand before sprinkling them lightly over the surface. Cover the pots and place in a shaded and warm place.

2 When the first true leaves appear, remove the cover, water the plants lightly and place in a light spot, sheltered from the sun. Remove any weak seedlings to leave only the strongest plants.

3 Harden off gradually by placing the pots outdoors for a slightly extended time each day. Plant seedling and pot in position, but only when all chance of frost has passed.

Pests And Diseases

Portulacas suffer from few pests and diseases when grown outdoors.

Plants wilt. This may be due to over- rather than underwatering as these plants dislike soggy soil. Good drainage is important.

Treatment: Check for overwatering by pushing a finger or a moisture meter into the compost. If it is very wet, allow the compost to dry out. In future water more carefully and less often, allowing the surface of the compost to dry after each watering.

PLANT CARE

This decorative border plant is easy to grow in full sun.

  • Potting: Plant seeds in spring in a seed compost or a half-and-half mix of peat and coarse sand. Plant out using a soil-based compost with added coarse sand for good drainage.
  • Water moderately, allowing the top of the potting compost to dry out between waterings. Water tubs and window boxes daily in very hot weather, as these dry out rapidly.
  • Feeding: Use a standard liquid fertilizer every 2-4 weeks.

BEST GROWTH ENVIRONMENT

  • Light: This is an annual that thrives in full sun. Flowers of the species only open completely when the sun is on them, but most of the newer hybrids will flower throughout the day.
  • Temperature: This plant likes a warm spot on the patio, another reason for placing it in the brightest possible position. It will die back when the frosts arrive.

Buying Tips

  • Buy seeds in late winter or early spring. Bedding plants are available in early summer from garden centres and nurseries.
  • Buy seeds packaged for the current season. Choose small, bushy plants.
  • Portulaca is an annual and will die in autumn.

The saucer-shaped single- or double-petalled flowers of Portulaca appear from summer to mid-autumn in a range of colours. They are best used to edge containers.

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