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How to Care for a Moss Rose Plant for Best Results

Lovely half open moss rose blossoms amidst succulent foliage

Portulaca Grandiflora

Not all of us are graced with properties that have perfect soil. It can be a long term project to try and amend that soil, and it can be very discouraging to try gardening in seemingly inhabitable conditions. But, luckily, there are many plants out there that are completely adapted to those hostile sites (hello, ever heard of a cactus?) and one of them is portulaca grandiflora!

This wonderful flowering plant is loved amongst gardeners in the dried areas of North America because it is wonderfully drought tolerant, easy to grow, and is perfect as a ground cover specimen. This growing habit is what earned the plant its nickname!

Some other common names you may see for the moss rose plant is rose moss, eleven o’clock, Mexican rose, sun rose, rock rose, or moss purslane. All of these names are derived from the ground cover growth habit of the plant and the type of condition it prefers to grow in.

Read on to learn all about how easy it is to propagate and maintain your very own moss rose patch! Gardeners love them in a variety of planting options, including border planting, in a flower bed, in hanging baskets, and they are perfect for containers as well.

What do Moss Roses Look Like?

Beautiful bicolor moss rose flower blooming in the garden

Growth Habit

Moss roses exist an annual plant type. Annuals are plants that experience their entire life cycle within one year and usually perish after they have finished flowering. Though they don’t live long, they are remarkably fast growing!

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These plant grow from shallow roots and produce upright, ascending shoots that branch off close to the base of the plant. They are quite short, only growing to be between 3 and 9 inches in height, and create a dense mat of foliage and small, rose like flowers.

Leaves

The foliage of a moss rose is another wonderful ornamental aspect to these plants. They are a beautiful color and emerge very quickly after the plant has been planted. They’re also a great indicator of how much the plant should be watered… but we’ll get into that later!

Moss rose plants produce succulent leaves. Succulent leaves are thick and fleshy and are a feature of plants who are native to dry and hot regions. Succulent foliage helps retain moisture reserves for the plant to help keep it alive in harsh conditions.

Moss rose have small, thick, and fleshy leaves that are a light to medium green color. They are alternately arranged along the flowering stems, or they emerge in small clusters along the stems. Each leaf is cylindrical in shape and is like a thick coniferous needle.

Flowers

Moss roses are named so because of their similarity to authentic roses! They are like a succulent species of rose flowers. Flowers are comprised of 5 petals that are arranged like a classic rose would be.

The portulaca flower can come in many different vibrant colors, including red, orange, yellow, pink, or white. There are cultivars that have double flowers as well. They will commonly bloom in the summer and last all the way until the first frost of season. After that, they will perish.

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Moss rose plants also let you know when they are not receiving enough sunlight through their blooming habit! Sometimes a moss rose flower won’t bloom on a particularly cloudy day!

Where is the Moss Rose a Native Plant?

Beautiful bright magenta moss rose plants growing as ground cover

Something extremely valuable I have learned throughout my gardening career is that learning about where a plant comes from, really allows you to properly mimic those conditions, which in turn will encourage the healthiest plant possible!

Not every plant is an appropriate choice for certain areas! For example, a person living in Hawaii may struggle with growing a white spruce tree, but they could probably do quite well with planting an orange tree!

The moss rose is a native plant to South America, specifically in Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. It can also exist in North America in regions with similar climates. They can be found growing wild in regions with desert like conditions, and can be planted as ornamental plants in USDA growing zones 2 through 11.

What are the Growing Conditions of Moss Rose Plants?

The more you learn about the moss rose, the quicker you will find that it is the perfect plant for nearly any garden. They can survive and thrive in well developed ornamental gardens, or they can be the starter plant in a developing garden.

Luckily, they are fast growing and very easy to grow as well! They are not very picky about their growing conditions, and something extra cool about them, is that they even let you know if they aren’t happy in very obvious ways!

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Lovely low growing moss rose plants with pink blossoms and succulent leaves

Soil Type

Moss roses are very adaptable to many different soil types, but the one thing that they all must have in common in well draining soil. That is the most essential aspect of moss rose care. If the soil is not well drained, the water will become saturated and the plant could very likely perish.

When growing in the wild, moss roses are very used to growing in poor, low nutrient soils. They’re so used to this that they don’t even like to live in fertile soil! This is why this is such a great plant option for properties that are being amended. They thrive in soil where other plants will struggle.

The perfect soil type for your moss rose patch will be sandy soil that is well draining and higher in acidity. This can be accomplished by incorporating peat moss into their growing medium!

Sun Exposure

Something that moss roses are rather particular about is the amount of sunlight that they receive in a day. It is essential that these plants receive a minimum of 8 hours of direct sunlight a day, as they are a sun loving species.

Living outside of direct sunlight can cause some problems, specifically with their blooming habit. Being planted in partial shade or full shade can result in either flowers that won’t open, or no flower crop at all!

Water Level

Something super duper about these plants is that they have very minimal watering requirements and only need very occasional watering. Not only are moss roses drought tolerant, they are almost drought preferenced!

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Moss roses prefer to live in high heat and low humidity and should never ever be over watered. Watering should only occur once the top 1 or 2 inches of the soil has completely dried out.

If a moss rose is over watered, it will very quickly develop root rot. The best rule of thumb is basically to just forget about watering it, and let nature do its work.

Additionally, because the moss rose is a succulent species, its succulent leaves will let you know when it needs to be watered! You can tell succulents need water once their fleshy foliage starts to wrinkle up. Once they’re watered, they will quickly firm up again.

Patch of moss roses with different colored flowers growing in the garden

Temperature

The moss rose plant is by no means a cold tolerant plant. They will perish the minute frost shows up, but this isn’t such a big deal as they exist as an annual plant species anyway! Just make sure to do your spring planting after the last threat of frost has passed.

Additionally, moss rose seeds will need warm temperatures in order to germinate properly, and it is best that they get established in temperatures ranging between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fertilizer

Knowing that moss roses are used to existing in poor soil in the wild, it is safe to assume that they don’t need fertilizer in order to thrive in your garden! Though they don’t need it, it can be used to promote healthy growth.

Simply use a slow release, high phosphorous fertilizer at the time of their planting in the spring for more enthusiastic flower blossoms.

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Pruning

The pruning requirements for a moss rose plant are rather minimal, as they naturally exhibit a very neat growth habit. The best time of year to prune is in the early spring, and the it can be reserved for parts of the plant that appear as sickly or if they are yellowing.

Additionally, you can snip away any crowded foliage to help create more airflow underneath the plants, which in turn will help reduce the risk of fungal diseases in the leaves.

How do you Propagate a Moss Rose?

Small moss rose plant with small red blooming flowers

Now that you know all about what it takes to keep a moss rose patch happy, it’s time to learn about growing one of your very own! Propagation can occur easily either by sowing portulaca seed or through taking a stem cutting. (Purchasing seeds or established plants will always come with planting instructions too!)

Sowing Seed Method

1. Start your moss rose seeds propagation 6-8 weeks before the expected last frost of the spring.

2. Add portulaca seeds to a potting mix that is slightly moist (this can be done in a small pot or container).

3. Barely cover the seeds with soil, as the seeds require a certain amount of sunlight for successful germination.

4. Simply maintain soil moisture as the seedlings are getting established. Place the pot in a south facing window. Germination should occur in around 2 weeks. Remember, after they are established, they prefer dry soil.

5. Once the moss rose seedlings have gained a couple inches in height, they should be ready to be transplanted outdoors in an area with direct sunlight and well drained soil.

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Lovely piles of cut bouquets of moss roses sitting on a table

Stem Cutting Method

1. Take healthy stem cuttings from an established mother plant that has already been through a flowering period. This should happen in the early spring or late spring, after the last threat of frost has passed.

2. Remove all of the flower buds and leaves from the cutting and place the cutting in a glass of water as you prepare the other gardening items.

3. In a small pot with a hole at the bottom, combine a mixture of sand, peat moss, and soil. Take your cutting and push it (cut side down) 3 inches into the soil.

4. Cover your pot with some type of thin plastic (to help keep the temperature warm) as the cutting is getting established. Place it in a south facing window.

5. The cutting should start developing roots within 2 weeks and you can plant moss rose cuttings outdoors very shortly after!

How are Moss Roses Used?

Pretty light pink moss rose flowers cascasding over a stone wall

Ornamental Plant

The portulaca plant is one of those amazing go-to annual plants that are super reliable and easy to grow. They are loved because they can be planted in a variety of applications, and they are wonderfully versatile! Grow moss rose because they are easy, but also because they are beautiful.

Moss roses are great as a container plant as they won’t spread past their confines. They are perfect for garden beds and borders, and they are very popular to plant in hanging baskets or in rock gardens (ground cover plants are common in a rock garden). Growing moss rose is also great at the base of a stone wall, as their roots can climb up the cracks in the stone wall!

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FAQs

Are moss roses deer resistant?

Something super cool about the moss rose plant is that their fleshy leaves and flowers contain a type of oil that larger pests like deer, squirrels, and rabbits really don’t like, making them resistant to their pesky nibbling!

What are the damaging agents of moss roses?

Many of the damaging agents that moss roses experience is due to being over watered or to existing in compacted soils. These are both very avoidable things. If they are not avoided, the plant can develop root rot and fungal issues, which is most noticed by yellowing leaves or flowering stems that won’t bloom.

Are moss roses annual plants or perennial plants?

Moss roses exist an annual plant type. Annuals are plants that experience their entire life cycle within one year and usually perish after they have finished flowering. Though they don’t live long, they are remarkably fast growing!

Are moss roses succulents?

The foliage of a moss rose is another wonderful ornamental aspect to these plants. They are a beautiful color and emerge very quickly after the plant has been planted. They’re also a great indicator of how much the plant should be watered… but we’ll get into that later!

Moss rose plants produce succulent leaves. Succulent leaves are thick and fleshy and are a feature of plants who are native to dry and hot regions. Succulent foliage helps retain moisture reserves for the plant to help keep it alive in harsh conditions.

Moss rose have small, thick, and fleshy leaves that are a light to medium green color. They are alternately arranged along the flowering stems, or they emerge in small clusters along the stems. Each leaf is cylindrical in shape and is like a thick coniferous needle.

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Can moss roses be grown indoors?

Moss roses can easily be grown indoors as houseplants as so long as their ideal growing conditions can be maintained. They require high heat, low humidity, and ample amounts of sunlight. Ensure that they are placed in a south facing window and don’t water them too much — they should be happy!

Can I grow a moss rose in a pot?

The best way to establish a moss rose plant is in a pot, and they can either be transplanted outdoors or be kept in a pot from there! Just ensure that the pot has a draining hole, as these plants do not tolerate waterlogged or compacted soil.

What is the difference between portulaca grandiflora and portulaca oleracea?

P grandiflora differs from p oleracea in the way that p oleracea grows to be a little bit taller, has more ovular leaves, and bears yellow flowers. Portulaca oleracea is also known as common purslane or little hogweed.

Can moss roses grow in shade?

Something that moss roses are rather particular about is the amount of sunlight that they receive in a day. It is essential that these plants receive a minimum of 8 hours of direct sunlight a day, as they are a sun loving species.

Living outside of direct sunlight can cause some problems, specifically with their blooming habit. Being planted in partial shade or full shade can result in either flowers that won’t open, or no flower crop at all!

How should a moss rose be pruned?

The pruning requirements for a moss rose plant are rather minimal, as they naturally exhibit a very neat growth habit. The best time of year to prune is in the early spring, and the it can be reserved for parts of the plant that appear as sickly or if they are yellowing.

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Additionally, you can snip away any crowded foliage to help create more airflow underneath the plants, which in turn will help reduce the risk of fungal diseases in the leaves.

Will a moss rose plant survive winter?

The moss rose plant is by no means a cold tolerant plant. They will perish the minute frost shows up, but this isn’t such a big deal as they exist as an annual plant species anyway! Just make sure to do your spring planting after the last threat of frost has passed.

When does a moss rose flower bloom?

The portulaca flower can come in many different vibrant colors, including red, orange, yellow, pink, or white. There are cultivars that have double flowers as well. They will commonly bloom in the summer and last all the way until the first frost of season. After that, they will perish.

Moss rose plants also let you know when they are not receiving enough sunlight through their blooming habit! Sometimes a moss rose flower won’t bloom on a particularly cloudy day!

How tall do moss roses get?

These plant grow from shallow roots and produce upright, ascending shoots that branch off close to the base of the plant. They are quite short, only growing to be between 3 and 9 inches in height, and create a dense mat of foliage and small, rose like flowers.

Do moss roses need fertilizer?

Knowing that moss roses are used to existing in poor soil in the wild, it is safe to assume that they don’t need fertilizer in order to thrive in your garden! Though they don’t need it, it can be used to promote healthy growth.

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Simply use a slow release, high phosphorous fertilizer at the time of their planting in the spring for more enthusiastic flower blossoms.

What are some other common names for a moss rose?

This wonderful flowering plant is loved amongst gardeners in the dried areas of North America because it is wonderfully drought tolerant, easy to grow, and is perfect as a ground cover specimen. This growing habit is what earned the plant its nickname!

Some other common names you may see for the moss rose plant is rose moss, eleven o’clock, Mexican rose, sun rose, rock rose, or moss purslane. All of these names are derived from the ground cover growth habit of the plant and the type of condition it prefers to grow in.

How often should a moss rose be watered?

Something super duper about these plants is that they have very minimal watering requirements and only need very occasional watering. Not only are moss roses drought tolerant, they are almost drought preferenced!

Moss roses prefer to live in high heat and low humidity and should never ever be over watered. Watering should only occur once the top 1 or 2 inches of the soil has completely dried out.

If a moss rose is over watered, it will very quickly develop root rot. The best rule of thumb is basically to just forget about watering it, and let nature do its work.

Additionally, because the moss rose is a succulent species, its succulent leaves will let you know when it needs to be watered! You can tell succulents need water once their fleshy foliage starts to wrinkle up. Once they’re watered, they will quickly firm up again.

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