I’ve always admired the lovely hanging baskets of yellow or red purslane.

Ornamental purslanes

Most common are Portulaca umbraticola and Portulaca sativa, which are ornamental purslanes that bloom all summer and are very heat- and drought-tolerant. There are about 40 cultivars currently being grown.

Moss rose (Portulaca grandiflora) is another member of the Portulaca family.

  • Annual succulent herb with various names

Purslane is an herb that is native to Asia but has spread all over the world. An annual succulent, purslane is in the family Portulacaceae and is known by several names including portulaca, red root and pursley; in Mexico it is called verdolaga or Mexican parsley. It is also called Dolly Parton plant for the characteristic that blooms open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and then close up for the evening.

  • Bloom description

This succulent comes in a large variety of colorful blooms, but the stems are always round, smooth and with a reddish tinge. With the exception of moss rose, the leaves are paddle-shaped (obovate), fleshy and rubbery. Flowers have five petals with two lobes. Some of the cultivars have double flowers.

Moss rose blooms more resemble a daisy and its leaves are not paddle-shaped, but needle-like and very plump.

Easy to grow

Portulaca always had a very short lifespan when I got them home. My research has shown me my mistakes.

  • Growing conditions

A succulent that loves full sun to part shade, it needs very little water or care. I was hanging it in the shade and drowning it. No wonder.

It will grow in any type of soil as long as it is well drained. It needs no fertilizer.

  • Growing pattern

Purslane grows outward in a circular shape from a main tap root. Growing close to the ground, it may reach up to 16 inches in height.

To many, especially farmers, the wild version of this plant, Portulaca oleracea, is a weed that is hard to get rid of and grows very quickly. It will sprout and cover newly cultivated areas as well as clear uncultivated spots.

Edible and nutritious

Getting to know more about this fast-growing succulent, I have discovered that it is not only attractive and easy to grow, but is also edible and quite nutritious, with the whole plant being edible.

  • Various tastes, uses

Raw it has a slightly sour and salty taste that is nice in salads. Some think it has a lemony taste and others compare it to spinach. It can be added to soups and stews, omelets and casseroles. If overcooked, it can become a bit slimy like okra.

  • Promotes good health

From ancient times it has been eaten in China to promote health. It is a popular vegetable in Mediterranean regions. Purslane is very high in omega-3 fatty acids, the highest of any other green vegetable and contains vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B, magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron.

Purslane is a very healthy plant to add to your diet. The only warning noted is it is not recommended if you are prone to kidney stones.

This excerpt from the TAMU Aggie horticultural website states, “Although purslane has proliferated as a wild edible around the world for centuries, in its renaissance, purslane is acclaimed for not one but two starring attractions: The rediscovery of its cooking possibilities – its tinker-toy eye appeal, crisp texture and lightly tangy taste – and the scientific discovery of its potentially healthful omega-3 fatty acids.

If this weren’t enough, it has above-average values of vitamins A and C and provides all of these goodies with only 15 calories in a 100-gram portion (as compared with 76 in a boiled potato).”

Propagation

Purslane/portulaca can be propagated by seed or cuttings.

  • Seed

If growing from seed, simply scatter the seeds on top of the soil where you wish the plants to grow. The seed pods explode, throwing seeds quite far from the mother plant. Therefore, it spreads far and fast and can tend to become invasive.

Keep in mind that this herb is an annual, and although it will probably reseed itself, it might be good to collect some seeds for next season. If you harvest purslane to eat, be sure to only use that which has not been chemically treated.

  • Cuttings

To propagate from cuttings, just lay them on top of the soil and water. They will take root in a few days.

Companion plants

Angelonia and calibrachoa are two of various good choices to plant together with purslane. They all thrive in hot weather and have low water and high sunlight requirements.

It is still timely to add purslane/portulaca (moss rose) to your garden or container setting as there is likely a lot more hot and dry conditions ahead.

The Gardeners’ Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or vcmga@vicad.com.

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