Text & photographs by
Dr. Mahadeswara Swamy, Scientist
e-mail: [email protected]
For those who are interested in a plant which grows fast, requires less care, yet it produces most charming and multicoloured flowers then Portulaca grandiflora is the perfect choice. It is a beautiful and elegant flowering annual suitable for outdoor garden or balcony. This plant can be grown with greater advantage anywhere in containers (pots, hanging pots; window boxes), flower beds, rockeries, for edging larger plants and lawns.
The richness and grandness of this little plant makes you believe “small is beautiful.” The plant belongs to the family Portulacaceae and is known by many common names like Rose moss, Eleven o’clock, Mexican rose, Moss rose, Sun rose and Rock rose. In some regions of India, it is called “Nau bajiya” or “9 o’clock flower.”
Portulaca grandiflora is a native of South America (Southern Brazil, Uruguay and Northern Argentina). It is a pretty hardy annual with fresh blooming flowers. This neat plant with succulent foliage grows to a height of 15 cm with prostrate habit as the stems tend to lie along the ground. The reddish stems and the bright green leaves which are simple, thick and fleshy are arranged alternately or in small clusters. They vary in shape, either flat or cylindrical with pointed tips as seen in many of the ornamental varieties. Flowers borne on the stem tips, single, semi double or double, in shades o pink, red, yellow, white and orange (except blue). Some are striped or spotted with contrasting colours, many with pretty ruffled petals. They appear successively for nearly 3 months. Flowers wait for sunlight before opening fully and then form a carpet of colourful starlets amidst the decorative foliage. There are several strains, cultivars and mixes available. ‘Margarita,’ ‘Sundial’ series and ‘Calypso mix’ varieties are favourites and produce a large percentage of double blooms in an excellent range of colours. The ‘Sundial’ series cultivars bloom in cooler and cloudier weather with double flowers while ‘Afternoon Delight’ stays open longer in the afternoon.
- Give sunny position, good drainage and aeration, which help in producing an abundance of charming blooms.
- Better water in the evening or early morning, but never after the flowers are open. If watered when the flowers are open, especially in flower beds, the stems tend to bend down with a bad appearance.
- Replace the beds / pots once in 3 months with fresh cuttings / shoots. Otherwise the plants would over grow (overgrowth of foliage) with reduced flowering.
- Give an additional dose of cow dung manure after a month of transplant / cutting, the plant grows profusely. Remove dead heads to prevent self-sowing.
- It is generally free from pests. However, bavistin (1g/lit) and rogor ( 1 ml/ litre of water) at an interval of 15 days keep the plant healthy and green.
- It can also be grown in small containers with ease (waste plastic bowls, ice-cream bowls, used shoes ).
They can be grown either from seeds or cuttings. Seedlings can be raised in beds or seed pans. Simply spread the seeds on the surface of the soil but do not cover, as light aides germination. More importantly one has to handle the fresh seedlings with care while transplanting to pots or beds, as they dislike transplanting. It is easily grown by cuttings which can be planted directly into the soil of a well-prepared bed. Generally 4-5 twigs (terminal cuttings) would suffice for a medium-sized hanging pot. In the bed, the cuttings can be planted at a distance of 6-9”. A mat of foliage starts developing within a month and starts flowering.
Recommended potting mixture is 1 part sand + 1 part leaf mould + 1 part red earth + 2 parts cow dung manure. Fill the pot leaving a space of 1” from the rim. A teaspoonful of superphosphate or handful of bone meal (for a basket of compost) helps good germination and growth. Water normally but allow the compost to dry out in between watering. The plant is resistant to adverse conditions like draught and can thrive well even on a poor soil. Furthermore, the plant can be maintained with a better floral display both during hot and cold seasons, almost round the year, with proper maintenance.
Where to see
Many house gardens and public parks.