Portulaca Plant Care: Tips for Growing Rose Moss

Pronounced as [por-tew-LAK-uh] [gran-dih-FLOR-uh], the portulaca grandiflora is a relatively easy plant to grow. 

It’s often grown as a hanging plant. It features low growth and small succulent leaves, but produces bright, colorful flowers.

Assorted flowers of Portulaca PlantPin

This succulent belongs to the Portulacaceae family and is native to Argentina, Uruguay, and southern Brazil. It has also popped up in South Asia.

The plant has several common names, including:

  • Rose moss
  • Ten o’clock flower
  • Mexican rose
  • Moss rose
  • Sun rose
  • Rock rose

While it’s commonly grown as an annual, over-wintering is possible. Use these plant care tips to cultivate this easy-to-grow succulent.

Portulaca Plant Care

Size & Growth

This plant is a low growing, spreading or grows in hanging plant, depending on the container. It produces small succulent leaves and thin stems that may reach one or two feet long.

The long, thin stems make it a great choice for hanging baskets.

Portulaca Flowers and Fragrance

The flowers are the main reason that people cultivate this plant. 

It produces a single bloom (there are varieties with double flowers) that should last throughout the summer. To encourage a long bloom, keep the plant in a sunny spot.

The colors vary, depending on the cultivar. Available options include white, pink, red, yellow, orange, and purple. No matter the color, the flowers don’t produce a fragrance.

Light & Temperature

This hardy plant grows well outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 2 to 11. It can tolerate frost, but it grows best in warmer settings.

In fact, this plant thrives when placed under full sun. When grown indoors, keep the plant near a south-facing window. 

Overwintering may be necessary for some regions. While the plant can survive winter in freezing conditions, overwintering encourages fuller blooms the following year.

Place the plant in a sunny spot in a room kept at about 60-degrees to 65-degrees Fahrenheit.

Watering and Feeding

Rose moss requires lots of water. Once established it is very drought tolerant. However, it’s a good idea to allow it to dry out between watering to avoid overwatering.

Use a weak solution of plant fertilizer throughout the warmer months, and feed the plant once or twice per month. Using fertilizer during the summer also helps encourage a longer bloom.

Soil & Transplanting

Young moss rose plants and cuttings should start in a sandy soil. Use a regular well drained soil with added sand to decrease water retention.

Rose moss rarely needs repotting. It doesn’t spread very far or grow very tall – 8″ inches tall at most. 

Grooming

Throughout the year, trim back any stems that appear thin looking.

How To Propagate Portulaca Grandiflora

Propagate rose moss with seeds or cuttings. The seeds are incredibly small. Mix them with a small amount of sand. Prepare a propagating tray with regular potting soil and sprinkle the seed/sand mixture over the top of the soil. 

Cover the seeds with another layer of sand, and then cover the tray with plastic. Ensure that the plastic has holes for ventilation.

Sow the seeds in April, and they should be ready for transplanting before the start of summer.

If seedling are started earlier do not plant outdoors until after the last frost.

Wait until the seedlings are about 10 weeks old before transplanting to a garden or hanging basket.

Cuttings also provide a way to propagate the plant. Take cuttings in the fall or the spring. 

To prepare the soil for the cuttings, mix sand and soil. Add water to moisten the soil, and then plant the cuttings.

Place the cuttings in a bright, indoor location, but avoid exposing the plants to direct sunlight. Keep the cuttings at between 68° – 70° degrees Fahrenheit.

After the cuttings take root, transplant them to their permanent homes. 

What Pests or Disease Problems Does Portulaca Encounter?

When grown outdoors, pests rarely bother the moss rose. If kept indoors, spider mites and aphids are more common. 

When aphids appear, get rid of them with a spray of soapy water. If the water doesn’t stop the infestation, spray a diluted insecticide on the plant. 

Severe infestations may require multiple sprayings.

Spider mites tend to appear indoors. Spraying with water may solve the problem, but infestations typically require insecticide. If the insecticide doesn’t kill the mites, soak the soil with a diluted insecticide.

Another threat is too much water. If the plant starts to appear wilted or frail, inspect the base for signs of rot. 

If you detect rot, allow the plant to completely dry. After the rot goes away, resume watering but limit the frequency. If the rot continues to spread, consider propagating the plant from cuttings using a healthy section of the plant.

The plant is also toxic. Avoid ingesting the stems or leaves, as chemicals in the plant may cause vomiting and digestive distress. In dogs, toxic chemicals may lead to kidney failure and a metabolic imbalance.

To keep everyone safe, avoid letting dogs or small children near the plant unattended. 

Suggested Uses For Portulaca Plants

Grow Portulaca in south-facing windows and balconies with lots of sunlight. Grow in a hanging basket, a tub as bedding plants, or use as a ground cover.

I’ve seen the best results with plants growing in full sun.