Moss Rose Plant Profile

multicolored moss rose plants

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault 

Moss rose plants (Portulaca grandiflora) are popular flowering annuals sold at garden centers in the spring. And if you see any leftover moss rose on clearance in the summer, you might notice the plants are usually just as lovely as they were in the spring, a testament to the plant's toughness. The medium green, cylindrical, succulent leaves of moss rose are another clue to the plant's hardiness, namely its tolerance of drought conditions.

These plants grow to only around 3 to 9 inches tall and spread to create a dense mat, making moss rose a good ground cover option. The flowers come in several bright colors and often have ruffled petals, appearing similar to miniature roses. The blooms grow in clusters on reddish stems and typically don't open on cloudy days or at night. Moss rose is easy and quick to grow and best planted in the spring after the danger of frost has passed.

Botanical Name Portulaca grandiflora
Common Names Moss rose, rose moss, moss-rose purslane, Mexican rose, sun rose, rock rose
Plant Type Annual flowering succulent
Mature Size 3 to 9 inches tall and 6 to 12 inches wide
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Sandy, dry to medium moisture, well-draining
Soil pH 5.5 to 7
Bloom Time Early summer to frost
Flower Color White, orange, yellow, red, pink
Hardiness Zones 2 to 11 (as an annual)
Native Area South America
moss rose flowers as a ground cover
The Spruce / Adrienne Legault 
moss rose flowers
The Spruce / Adrienne Legault  
closeup of moss rose flowers
The Spruce / Adrienne Legault  
moss rose flowers
The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

How to Grow Moss Rose

Moss rose plants are a popular choice for growing in container gardens, as garden bed borders, as edging along walkways, up stone walls, and in rock gardens. In addition, the trailing habit of moss rose works well in hanging baskets. Moreover, moss rose doesn't typically spread outside of its bounds as a ground cover, so it's ideal for a small garden

These plants will flourish in poor, dry soils where many other plants might struggle, and overwatering or soil that's too wet can actually kill them. They generally require very little maintenance. They'll typically keep blooming from summer to the first frost of the fall without any deadheading (removing spent blooms). But you can trim back the plants in mid- to late summer if they start to look lanky to renew their vigor. As annuals, the plants will die at the end of the growing season. But they do produce seeds that might sprout the following year.

Light

Moss rose plants need six to eight hours of full sun on most days to look and bloom their best. If you try to grow them in a shady area, they will keep their flowers closed.

Soil

These plants thrive in sandy and rocky soil, and they demand excellent drainage. If you have clay soil, you should grow your moss rose in containers rather than try to improve the drainage of the clay.

Water

Moss rose plants have low to moderate moisture needs, though they aren't as drought-tolerant as cacti are. The plants will tolerate periods of dryness, but flowering is usually better with some soil moisture. So plan to water if you have a long stretch without rainfall.

Temperature and Humidity

A native of Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina, moss rose likes high heat and low humidity. It will tolerate cool, moist spring weather as long as there is no frost. But its best growth (and blooming) won't arrive until the summer heat comes along.

Fertilizer

Moss rose can tolerate lean soil, so it doesn't absolutely need fertilizer. But feeding it with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer at the time of planting can help to promote healthy growth and profuse flowering. 

Growing Moss Rose From Seeds

If you're growing your moss rose plants from seed, you can either start them indoors six to eight weeks before your projected last frost date, or plant them in the ground after your area's last frost. Add the seeds to slightly moist soil, and barely cover them because they need light to germinate. Germination should take about two weeks. Maintain slight soil moisture until the seedlings emerge, and then water the plants when the top inch of soil is dry. Keep the seedlings by a bright window if you're growing them indoors. 

Common Pests and Diseases

Moss rose doesn't have any notable pest or disease problems. But aphids occasionally bother the plants, especially in the spring. With aphids, you might notice a sticky substance on the leaves, as well as yellowing and wilting of the foliage. Spray affected plants with insecticidal soap to treat the problem.

Varieties of Moss Rose

Consider these stunning moss rose varieties:

  • 'Afternoon Delight': Delays closing its blooms in the evening
  • 'Duet' series: Has bicolor flowers in yellow and red or yellow and rose
  • 'Fairy Tale' series: Resembles bomb-type peonies in that the flowers have a pom-pom center with flat petals that flare around the edges
  • 'Sundance': Has larger flowers than many other varieties
  • 'Sundial' series: Tolerates cloudy days and cool weather better than many other varieties
portulaca grandiflora flower
The Spruce / Adrienne Legault
Duet portulaca
Hemjaa / Getty Images
Fairy Tale portulaca
Debi Matlack / Flickr