Moss Rose

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Rose Moss, Portulaca grandiflora

Family: Portulacaceae

Also known as: Portulaca, Moss Roses, Eleven O’Clock, Purslane, Sun Plant or Wax Pink

Outside our master bedroom is small terrace with a rather spectacular view of Santiago Bay that stretches out before us.  At the foremost edge of this small, sun-drenched balcony, we’ve firmly ensconced – on solid steel spikes sunk into the concrete tiled floor – a hollow, nearly twenty foot, fiberglass “coconut trunk” planter.

Not only extremely utilitarian, it is quite attractive and generates no few comments in that it looks so very real.  We had it custom made to replace the former, actual, waterproofed and hollowed out coconut palm logs that had a habit of deteriorating every couple of years or so.  In addition to being very nice-looking, it helps prevent folks from leaning/stepping out too far and paying an unscheduled visit to the Pool Terrace some eleven feet below.

In order to savor that southwesterly vista each morning when we wake up – as well as to enjoy the evening breezes – we didn’t want tall plants . . . hence, our choice of Rose Moss.  It was the perfect selection!  But we are far from the first to enjoy this plant.   Locally called, Rayo de Sol, this extremely easy to care for character has been a popular garden flower since the late 1800’s.

But before going any further, let’s set the record straight.  These are neither a rose nor a moss!

Native to northern South America it is an ever-blooming succulent.  Above its needle-shaped leaves, it produces tough, long lasting, strikingly vivid, one inch in diameter, single, semi-double or double, rose-like blooms.   Like Alexander the Great, their life is short (one day) but brilliant.  After the sun has nudged them from their evening slumber and warmed them a bit, they burst forth in varied shades of rose, yellow, white, orange, red, purple, pink, bi-colors and even stripes.  One can but smile when looking at these open, happy flowers.

To keep them blooming, simply pinch off the dried blossoms.  It is easily propagated by cuttings or seeds.  As a further aside, the blooms of newer varieties will stay open longer during the day while the older species open later in the morning, close at dusk and prefer to not “open for the blooming business” on overcast days.  A lot like me, they are sunshine driven!

In the entirety of the Portulacececeae family, there are up to a hundred genera of annual and perennial herbs and shrubs.  Their bi-sexual flowers are radially symmetrical with a solitary cyme – a floral cluster in which each flower stem ends in a single flower.  (I know you can but barely control yourself in now knowing such neat and nifty nuggets of knowledge, right?)

With six to eight hours of full, direct sun every day, it is easy to grow.  It prefers no more than your average, run-off-the-mill, loose, sandy or loamy, well-draining soil. . . . thus an obvious choice for naturally sandy soils and slopes   And, this four to six inch tall, up top 18 inches across, thick stemmed and fleshy leaved plant has little problem with heat and drought as it requires little moisture to thrive and bloom.  In fact, allow the soil to dry between waterings. 

They are perfect for the forefront of your garden, as a border edging, in rock or window gardens, as bedding plants or as simple, attractive ground cover.  They also look good in containers, hanging pots and in those multi-pocketed strawberry jars in which it is difficult to keep other plants well watered.  But remember, moss rose is suited to the dry conditions.

So as to ensure a good start when first planting, add a general purpose, high nitrogen fertilizer.  A high Phosphorous fertilizer is a plus just before blooming and then no other fertilizer application is required.   Once established, prune the plants to create a fuller, neater appearance.  Provide plenty of air circulation through the plants to help avoid fungal disease.

And just when you thought you finally knew it all about this plant:  The seeds are edible, raw or cooked, and can be ground up for soups or sauces.  There’s even a weedy, non-ornamental species that can be eaten as cooked greens or included in salads.  I’m told that it lends itself to stir fry dishes with a slight lemon-like taste and mushroom-like texture . . . but I have not tried it as I’ve not yet found any Betty Crocker or Martha Stewart Rose Moss recipes!

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From above, amid the needle-like leaves, the one inch in diameter pink, rose shaped blooms open in abundance when the sun shines on them.”

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“Look closely at those small rose appearing – or are they more like carnations – blooms.”

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Rosy knows best.” It was she who wisely suggested the Moss Rose as best to meet our specific needs.”