The single, semi-double and double varieties of portulaca all are members of the widespread Purslane family. While small, they have great charm, many uses, and an uncanny ability to transform a poor, sandy spot into a thick carpet of green foliage and colorful flowers. The rugged little plants grow well in ordinary garden soil, but prefer a soil mixture of garden loam, leaf mold, and coarse sand. And although they do reasonably well in partial shade, the flowers will bloom best only in a location that is in full sun, and is well drained.
Even though you may not be able to grow any other flower in a particular spot on your grounds, you'll more than likely succeed with portulaca. Its seeds need moisture while germinating, but once the plants become established, they can withstand desert-like conditions for long periods of time.
Although portulaca does well on a poor soil, it does much better on one fortified with composted manure and leaf mold, turned in a few weeks before planting time. If possible, plant in direct sunlight, no matter how hot the location becomes in midsummer. Three weeks before I sow portulaca seed I work the soil well to a depth of at least 7-inches; because it is naturally sandy, good drainage is provided without adding coarse sand.
Portulaca seed is almost as fine as that of petunias. If just sown loosely, the planting will probably consist of little more than thick, scattered clumps. To prevent uneven sowings, I place the seed in a small paper bag, then drop in handful of dry soil. After giving the bag a good shaking, broadcast the mixture over the worked area, then rake it gently into the top 1/4-inch layer of soil with an iron rake. No other cover is necessary.
If no rain is in sight, I wet the entire planted area thoroughly with a fine spray from the garden hose, and make certain the soil remains reasonably moist until germination takes place. After the plants are about an inch tall, they are on their own, except for a weekly watering perhaps if a long dry spell should hit
Thinning is usually not necessary if seed is mixed with soil or sand before planting. Thinning actually depends on the purpose you want the portulaca to serve. If you grow them mainly for their colorful flowers, space them 4 to 6-inches apart in all directions for better bloom. If you Drefer a thick ground cover. the closer plants are, the better.
Because of their low, creeping habit, portulaca varieties are excellent for rock gardens, borders, around the base of lamp posts, and as turf in hot, dry spots where lawn grass refuses to catch on, or where a sandy embankment needs cover to prevent soil erosion.
Shortly after portulaca plants sprout, they begin to spread and bloom; continuing until frost even though old blossoms and seed heads are not remove. In fact, it is wise to allow seed heads to remain as this is the plant's means of self-sowing for the coming year.
Portulaca is a flower that has been grown and enjoyed in gardens for many generations, and is known by several different names: purslane, sun plant, rose moss, as well as portulaca.
One spring my grand mother planted a pack of seed beside our garden gate Every spring after that the spot abounded in portulaca blossoms of brilliant yellow, pink and scarlet. Much to my childhood delight, they had reseeded themselves from year to year.
So, if you have a problem spot in your garden, or just don't have much time to devote to flowers, brighten your surroundings with masses of cheerful portulaca.
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