Portulaca grandiflora: Moss rose

Family: Portulacaceae
Common name: Moss rose, Sun rose, Rose moss, Sun rose, Eleven o’clock, Rock rose, Moss-rose purslane, Mexican rose

It is difficult not to fall in love with these beautiful Moss roses, that grow and bloom profusely without any special attention. The only condition is that they need lot of sunlight.

Moss rose plants can grow to a height of 25-30 centimeters, though most plants only grow 10-15 cms above the ground. They can spread well using reddish-brown stems that grow horizontal to the ground, a single plants spreading over 30 cms.

They are succulents which is said to have originated in Argentina and Brazil, but is currently grown all over the world, especially in warm, tropical weather. Leaves are green, glossy, thick and fleshy. They also come in different shapes like cylindrical, long and pointy; or elongated oval shaped, arranged in small clusters. There are usually whorls of flowers arranged immediately below the flowers as well.

Flowers come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and colors from simple five-petaled flowers to multi-layered flowers with thin ruffled petals. They range in size from 2-5 centimeters. And range in color from white, pink, peach, purple, orange, red, yellow, magenta and a hue of colors in between.

With full sunlight and a well-drained soil, Moss roses bloom profusely, carpeting the garden with a splash of color. But they flower only during the day, and mostly when they get direct sunlight. On cloudy or rainy days, the flowers refuse to open.

Flowers only live for a day, but the sheer number of blooms make sure that the plant is always covered with lovely flowers. They are drought-tolerant and do not need regular watering. The succulent leaves and stem are capable of storing water for later use.

Moss roses are ideal to be grown around garden sculptures, as border plants, in hanging baskets, in shallow ledges, even places with very little soil. They look beautiful when grown in rock gardens or along the edges of pavements.

Moss roses start flowering when the plant is very small, and might get lanky once the plant matures. They can be pruned well to encourage bushy growth, and the cut stems can be planted to produce more baby plants.

These plants do produce capsules and seeds, though it is quite uncommon in garden plants. The bright flowers attract birds, bees, insects and ants who help in pollinating the flowers.

Variants with thick, ruffled feathers look very similar to miniature roses, giving the plant its name ‘sun rose’. Common variants are Afternoon delight, Duet series, Fairy tale series, Sundance and Sundial series; the newer variants capable of blooming for a longer duration of the day.

Moss rose leaves are used to treat burns, eczema, scorpion and insects bites. The entire plant is used to treat hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver.

Propagation is through seeds and stem cuttings, which take root very easily in well-drained soil.

Image credits: Femina Ajith, Rajeev Nair

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