In Praise of Portulaca

The clay bowls that flank my front steps are overflowing with portulaca, or moss rose, a semi-succulent that thrives in poor soil.

At the beginning of the summer, I inserted baskets of calibrachoa in the bowls. I went to my neighborhood nursery looking for a medium height ornamental grass, and something else that would flower, and something else that would drape over the bowl edges–a classic combination for containers.

The nursery owner showed me calibrachoa, and tempted me with the promise of beauty and constant blooms with less trouble and expense than putting together a complex container garden. She assured me the delicate yellow flowers would survive full-day exposure to the summer sun.

They might have, if I could have watered them twice a day. The label directions, “Water as need to keep soil evenly moist,” should have been printed in bold, red type.

We came back from our first summer trek the Gulf to find withered brown stems where the masses of yellow blooms had been.

Leery of another new selection in midsummer, I wanted a plant I could rely on. Portulaca is proving why it’s an old-fashioned favorite. Though the seeds are so tiny that I’ve never managed to collect any, I have had portulaca reseed in Columbia and Charleston, S.C. and Pensacola, Fla. Late next spring, I’ll find out if portulaca will reseed in Birmingham.


		
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