Saturday, February 6, 2010

Portulaca grandiflora - Sun Jewels

It's truly a jewel of a plant for any tropics garden ... Portulaca grandiflora is a  fabulous ground cover. 

It's low growing with rather fleshy leaves and brilliantly coloured flowers.  There are so many stunning colours ranging from white ...

 through to yellow ...

 orange ...

purple, pink and apricot.

 Some plants have bi-colours.

They are happy to grow in dry and hot conditions ... they love the full sun and a well-drained soil ... and they thrive on neglect.

It's a plant that doesn't need to be coddled.  Just water them when they're a bit dry and feed them lightly even now and then.  When it gets a bit leggy and looking rather scraggly, give a trim.  On top of all this, they are easily propagated ... just break off part of the stalk that's about to flower or is not flowering and stick it in some propagating mix or even straight into the ground.  It's that easy!

All Portulacas need sun for their flowers to open. The flowers of older varieties closed up around noon. But most plants sold today have blooms that stay open all day, only closing at night and on cloudy days.


  1. Hi, it looks we are living in similar climates. I am in western Nicaragua, where we also get several months of heavy rain then many months of very dry. I am only beginning gardening here, and i don't know many plants. Your blog has taught me several names already! muchas gracias,

  2. Hi Bernie,
    I have never seen the double flowering ones before. I love the white one. I can't seem to keep "sun Jewels" going over winter.
    cheers Ian

  3. G'day Liz ... we certainly have the 'dry' in common as ours lasts for around 9 months of the year ... but our 'wet' season will usually only last around a month or so. How do you cope with months of heavy rain? I find it hard enough to cope with it in just 1 month!

    Had to chuckle over the fact that I've helped you with the names of a few plants ... I've only just become interested in learning the names of my plants over the last year and a bit ... before that I was pretty much in the dark myself!

  4. Hi Ian ... white is actually my favourite even though the doubles are quite spectacular! I too have trouble keeping them going during our long dry winter months ... usually it's the more unspectacular ones that make it through - like the plain orange one. I always take cuttings at the end of summer and that's how I keep the more interesting ones going until the next spring.

  5. It is so fun to have Portulaca in the garden! They are just so generous with the flowers. I love all the varieties that you have here. All so pretty and charming. The one with pink border is special for me :-D

  6. I love Portulaca! I had no idea there were so many varieties! My favorite are still the classic single yellow ones with the little star hiding amongst the stamens... but you might have enticed me to seek out others. They are fantastic container subjects here, keeping going when everything else is wilting in the August heat. :)

  7. That's why they're such a popular plant here too Meredith ... they just love the heat and the sun ... and they sure get plenty of that in abundance here!

    Each summer my favourite nursery usually puts out varied coloured portulacas ... not many at all this year so I think conditions must have be a bit of a challenge this summer! But I'm keeping my eye out!

  8. Thanks Stephanie ... couldn't agree more ... they really are a fun plant for the summer.

  9. Hi Bernie

    here in NZ they can become a pest plant very quickly especially the species with very small flowers. These shown by you are offered by NZ nurseries as bedding plants as well.

  10. What a timely post! We grew portulaca every summer when we lived on the Canadian prairies some 18 years ago, and haven't grown them since. Just two days ago, when we placed our seed orders, we thought, "Why don't we grow some portulaca again?" And we will.

  11. Nice to know my post has a benefit of some sort ... hope you find some lovely varieties of portulaca to grow, Hank.

  12. Lovely to see the photos of the different colours and hear more about the portulaca. 'Thriving on neglect' is our kinda plant. Have been inspired to promptly add the white one to the wish list! It's gorgeous.

  13. Mr and Mrs Rabbit ... it is a fabulous no-fuss plant ... just make sure it gets lots of full sun and doesn't get wet feet. I rather like the double white too ... makes a real statement when it spreads and fills up a pot or garden bed.

  14. G'day Bernie, I have admired portulaca's since my school days, over 20 years ago, when a biology teacher showed us how easy they were to grow, she took a cutting and put it in a glass of water with a teaspoon of sugar, then a few days later we were able to see the roots had sprouted.
    More recently I planted a small stringy looking sample in my garden and kept triming and replanting the cuttings, now it is autumn and i have a large mass, but am a little worried about the oncoming winter, as it gets to minus 4 degrees here in Ipswich QLD

  15. G'day Anonymous ... nice to hear from a fellow Cane Toad! Portulacas are definitely one of my favourite plants because of the ease in striking! It saves so much money when you can have loads of new plants for nothing.
    I think I would probably keep lots of cuttings going through the winter indoors or in some sheltered spot ... I don't think they will survive outdoors through the cold and frost.

  16. Hello Bernie Have just come across this great blog and just have to say something as I'm such a (very recent) portulaca fan! I planted double portulacas - all colours - in my tiny patch of shaley, sunny garden by some steps in November last year. I took care to plant in compost through holes in weed mat. Our garden is shaley and underdeveloped. Mulched the top around the plants. And I was THRILLED! The plants came out smiling every day for months and gave me heaps of pleasure every time I went past - mind you I did tell them how much I liked and appreciated them! But after the rains we had for some weeks recently the flowers have disappeared and just straggly fleshy tangled stalks remain. What should I do? Will they flower again? Or can I strike some new plants - as I've seen in the blog from Anonymous? Do I need to pull up the weed mat and start again given that the soil is so poor? I"m afraid their little feet got really rotting-wet.
    BTW I was puzzled by the choices in" Comment as" I have a gmail address is that a Google account? - Rambling Rose

  17. G'day Rambling Rose ... I'm glad you enjoyed your visit to my downunder garden.

    Portulacas survive in the worst types of soil, out in full sun, with very little watering ... so you definitley chose a great spot for them. That's why they did so well.

    The one thing they don't like is getting wet. Over here my portulacas don't survive our 'wet' season very well ... so I've given up trying to get them through every wet season. I now just snip off bits from every one and put them in my greenhouse garden to strike ... then I have brand new plants for the following 'dry' season. They will strike very, very easily ... they will strike in just sand and in potting mix.

    As for the 'Comments' thing ... yes I'm pretty sure that your Gmail address gives you a Google account ... so you can choose (Google) from the drop-down box when you make a comment.

    I do hope you get back to this comment of mine, because I don't have any other way of contacting you. Let me know if you do get to see this.

  18. Thankyou Bernie
    We have only been here in Bowen for 12 months. We have transformed our 1acre of dry parched hillside (that was 2009), to now in December 2010 we have green and colour everywhere. I renewed my love of Sun Jewels about a month ago when I found one tiny plant, which must be at 6 years old, hidden amongst other pots in my temporary greenhouse. I broke off a couple of pieces, "stuck" them in the soil and VOILA instant colour. Since then I have purchased several colours and am madly planting. I will now sit quietly and peruse your pages for inspiration.

  19. Garden Fairy ... I know the conditions in Bowen well as that's where I grew up. I'm so glad to hear your Sun Jewels have taken off so brilliantly ... they really are such a terrific colourful addition to a garden. It sounds as though your whole garden is providing you with a lot of pleasure these days ... that's fantastic.

    I do so hope you get to read my reply as I can't seem to find you anywhere on the google scene. If you have a blog, let me know as I would love to see how your garden is coming along down there.

  20. Afternoon Bernie
    Hope you faired OK in Cyclone Yasi. Cyclone Anthony was our first ever cyclone. We battened down the hatches, bit scary, at least when we copped the winds from Yasi (which were stronger than the previous blow) I was not as frightened. We had quite a few big branches down, and lots of small stuff. Animals and birds stayed close to home. Our "pet" Rosellas, Doves and Rat Kangaroos are as demanding a usual for their tucker.

  21. Hi Gardenfairy ... it was a lovely surprise to hear from you again.

    Glad to hear you fared OK after TC Anthony. Dad, who still lives down there, only had a few branches from the neighbour's yard on his lawn and that was it. My brother, who manages a caravan park just outside of Bowen said he had a few trees down and some damage to a caravan or two, but nothing too serious.

    I've added some posts about our treatment by TC Yasi. It was a pretty scary night for us and we ended up with lots of tall trees broken and stripped of leaves. We've been cleaning up ever since ... and have created enormous piles of green waste. It's been back-breaking work, mostly done by hubbie, as the tree branches are huge and heavy.

    We're almost finished the clean-up and the place is looking pretty awful. There's huge gaps and holes all over the garden where huge trees used to stand tall. I know things will recover, but in the meantime, it's just not a pretty sight.

  22. Hi Bernie, Ive just purchased Portulaca's and thought what a beautiful ground cover. I've been told it is a pigweed and I'm frightened now I will never be rid of it and it will take over. Am I on the wrong track?

  23. Anonymous ... Portulacas do indeed make a fantastic ground cover and they can take over if they're not contained. I usually plant them in pots or in a contained garden bed that's on its' own away from other areas of the garden. With the occasional trim back they seem to stay put for me.

  24. Hello Love your garden!! I have searched for ages for Grandiflora seeds, where did you get the from?
    Many websites come up on google but when you put the name in they say no results. I love these plants. Would dearly love to know. Thanks so much

  25. Suzanne ... I'm not sure where you are in the world, but here in Australia the seeds are fairly easy to purchase. Our local nursery carries them. They are usually sold as Portulaca grandiflora - Portulaca Sunshine Mix or Portulaca Double Flower Mix.

    I know that the website Dave's Garden also sells Portulaca seeds ... I think that's a U.S. based site.

    Hopefully you'll have more luck finding seeds soon.

  26. Beautiful blooms. My next post will be on potulaca too, but mine are of different variety.

  27. My husband and I love portulacas but have never been successful with them. We buy them from a nursery or Home Depot, they flower for about two weeks,and then become skraggly with their ends knotty or dried up. They're usually in the sun but perhaps Tucson is just too hot for them. Actually I think we must be doing something wrong. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Lee June 12,2012

  28. Hi Bernie I've just stumbled upon your site. Thank you for providing so much education and inspiration. I'm also a big fan of portulacas. I can't help but smile whenever I gaze on the flowers. Some may also be interested to learn of the nutritional benefits and culinary uses of these tough and cheerful plants. GreenHarvest at Maleny sell seeds of the variety commonly known as Golden Purslane. Like many plants it's a blessing or a curse depending on the climate and your point of view. As a child I knew it as Pigweed and enjoyed eating it none the less.

    1. Thanks for dropping by, Katy. I had no idea that there were culinary uses for the Portulaca. You learn something new every day. I've found that I can no longer grow them in garden beds here, as the wallabies will eat every bit of them and even dig up the roots. I have to grow them in hanging pots out in my courtyard now where they can't reach them. It's really annoying not having them out in the garden beds where I love to see them.

  29. I have them in hanging pots under my pergola & their are lots of different colours in the one pot. They look spectacular, they hang outside my kitchen & dining room window. I will have a go a propagating them in the next couple of weeks. Do you think they are all different plants or does just the one plant have all different colours?

  30. Hi Bernie, Lovely blog, and very informative. Have grown portulacas for a while now, got lots of great colours, and have 2 pots that are at least 6 years old now and have grown down the sides of the pots and stands and almost touch the ground now. I did discover they don't like lots of rain,.... I left my baby pots out in the rain one night, and the poor things drowned. Have lost at least half of them and struggling to keep the remainder well and growing. For those parents wishing to introduce their kids to the joy of pot plants, the portulaca is a great way to start. Will definitely be returning to your blog. Great job Bernie :-) NutsDamDam

  31. Hi Bernie
    I"m in Sydney & bought a portulaca for the first time (Bunnings) last Saturday. Soaked it in a bucket on Sunday - looked a bit limp.

    By Monday I had a lovely display of flowers, but today (Tuesday) only one is open, plus whole lot of closed 'buds'. I've never seen one close up & don't know what to expect.

    Do the flowers re-open, please?

    If not, should I remove the spent flowers?

    Also can I plant 2 in a hanging basket 30cm across, or would they be crowded?

    I appreciate your advice regarding rain as I'm on a balcony & will move it to a dry spot when necessary. Usually I leave my plants where they can get wet.

    All the advice tends to be in the USA where it's listed as an annual. The label on my plant says perennial, but I plan to take cuttings.

    It was 34.5 on my balcony last winter, & as they like it hot & dry, maybe that baking western corner will be good for them.

    Thank you

    1. Hi Deb, sorry for the delay in responding to your comment. I don't blog much these days. Anyway to answer your questions...
      Yes, the flowers do re-open. They are at their best in the morning once they've been touched by some sunshine, but they will gradually close in the afternoon. They will re-open the next day.

      Of course, after a while the flowers will die off. You do need to cut off the dead flower heads to stop your plant from getting untidy and lanky.

      You can most definitely plant 2 in a hanging basket. They look fantastic once they've filled out and start overflowing over the sides of a pot.

      Portulacas do love the sunshine and they don't look being too wet. They are very tolerant of heat and direct sun. When young however, they wilt a little in direct sunlight on a hot day.

  32. hello
    I live in Perth western australia in a balcony apartment that is north facing and was wondering if these sun jewels would do ok as I work away for up to a week at a time. if they were to only get a couple hours of sun time a day would they grow ok


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