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Zones A1-A3, 1-45, H1, H2
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Moderate

Portulaca

Portulacaceae
Annuals

Low-growing, fleshy plants. One is called a weed but can be used in cooking and salads. The others are grown for their brilliant flowers, on display from late spring until frost; generally, the blossoms open fully in bright light and close by midafternoon in hot weather.

P. grandiflora thrives in high temperatures and intense sunlight. Not fussy about soil. Bright-flowered types are attractive in rock gardens, parking strips, hanging baskets, or as edgings and bank covers; they don’t require deadheading to prolong bloom.

Portulaca grandiflora
Portulaca grandiflora

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Portulaca grandiflora

From South America. Grows to 6 in. high and 1 1/2 ft. across. Trailing, branching reddish stems are set with narrow, cylindrical, pointed leaves to 1 in. long. Inch-wide, lustrous-petaled flowers are shaped like tiny roses and come in white and many bright and pastel shades of red, cerise, rose pink, orange, and yellow. Available as single colors or mixes, in single- or double-flowered strains. Afternoon Delight and Sundance strains stay open longer in the afternoon. Sunseeker strain also resists closing and has larger (2 in.), double blossoms. All self-sow, but they often fail to come true from seed.

Portulaca oleracea

The unimproved form is thought to have originated in India; it’s an edible weed with tiny yellow flowers and plump, oval leaves to 1 1/4 in. long. Warm weather and moisture encourage its growth. Control by hoeing or pulling before it goes to seed; don’t let pulled plants lie about, since they can reroot or ripen seed. Stems and leaves can be added to salads, soups, and sauces; improved garden strains are sold for the vegetable garden.

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