Habitat: Tropics and warm temperate regions all around the world.
Cultivation: Portulacas don’t require any special care, so they are perfect to adorne your gardens or balconies!
Curiosity: Some species of Portulaca, such as P. oleracea are edible and have been used for the preparation of traditional dishes for 3000 years now! It was considered as a “food for poor people” and to feed pigs, hence the name of the genus (from the Latin word “porcus” – “pig”, and literally means “pig grass”).
Portulaca is a wide genus in the family Portulacaceae, including around 100 species. Many of them have become weeds in their natural habitat, and they invade vegetable gardens and cultivations.
Portulacas can be found all over the world, usually in warm, tropical habitats. Many species are from South America and Central America, but also from southern U.S.A, the Caribbean, Africa, southern Europe and Asia. Usually, these plants can be found in sunny, open locations in sandy or rocky soils.
Portulacas are usually herbaceaous plants with succulent leaves, which spread horizontally at ground level or either form little herbaceous tuft or small bushes. They rarely show an upright habit: one of the most appreciated examples is undoubtely P. molokiniensis. As there are so many species, it is difficult to give a general description of these plants.
Their leaves are usually succulent and turn on differents tinges of green depending on the species: from the light green of P. molokiniensis, to the darker one (with reddish tinges) of the common weed P. oleracea, to the purplish- grey of P. werdermannii. The shape of the leaves changes according to the species: in P. molokiniensis, a very popular Portulaca in the world of ornamental succulents, they are flattened and rather rounded. In other species instead, such as P. gilliesii, they are smaller and more similar to the leaves of Sedums: ellipsoidical and much thicker.
Another flashy, appreciated feature of this genus is the flowers. Depending on the species, they can turn on different colours: yellow in P. molokiniensis, bright pink in P. amilis and P. grandiflora, white in P. villosa, etc… They usually have 5 petals, tongue-shaped with a pointed tip like in P. kermesina, more rounded and velvety like in P. umbraticola, or either irregularly shaped such as in P. grandiflora. P. grandiflora is also an interesting example of double-flowered species, in which, thus, the number of petals is not 5 but 10 or more.
Flowers end up turning into capsules: a capsule, in botany, is a particular kind of dry fruit that opens when ripe. It usually splits from apex to base into separate segments known as valves (the most popular example of this phenomenon is the capsule of the Iris).
VARIETY AND TYPES
Here below are some species of Portulaca:
- P. aurantiaca
- P. aurea
- P. australis
- P. axilliflora
- P. axilliflora
- P. bareschta
- P. bicolor
- P. biloba
- P. boliviensis
- P. boninensis
- P. brasiliensis
- P. brevifolia
- P. bulbifera
- P. eruca
- P. filsonii
- P. fischeri
- P. geniculata
- P. grandiflora
- P. greenwayi
- P. guanajuatensis
- P. guineensis
- P. halimoides
- P. hatsbachii
- P. molokiniensis
- P. werdermannii
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TIPS FOR GROWING
Here below are our cultivation tips:
- Pur your Portulaca in a bright spot: it likes full sun.
- Portulacas prefer mild or high temperatures. When the temperature drops below 10 °C, we suggest to shelter it or to put it indoors.
- Water moderately, waiting for the soil to dry up completely before each irrigation. It is sufficient to water it once a week in spring and summer. In Winter, instead, we suggest to suspend completely any irrigation.
- It doesn’t need a particular substrate, however it prefers sandy and well- draining soils.
- Portulaca doesn’t need frequent fertilizations: it is enough to dilute some fertilizer in the irrigation water once a year.
Propagation is usually carried out trough seeds. Sow seed directly outdoors after last frost date, or start indoors 6-8 weeks earlier. Seeds are as tiny, thus we suggest to mix them with sand before sowing to enhance their scattering. Seeds will need 2 weeks to germinate: until then, maintain the soil moist through daily nebulization. Portulacas are also propagated through cuttings.