Wildflower, weed, … or groundcover?
Often, the question of “wildflower vs. weed” is a matter of location. I recently decided to test that concept with the native succulent “weed” Portulaca pilosa, a.k.a. pink purslane.
Trivia factoid #1 – One nickname for Portulaca pilosa is the “kiss-me-quick flower.” This is due to its habit of opening its flowers in the morning, but closing them in the afternoon (or on cloudy days.)
Trivia factoid #2 – The word “pilosa” in means “hairy” – a reference to the fuzzy white hairs that grow along the stems.
While some people consider Portulaca pilosa a weed, these hardy succulents are actually related to the ornamental Portulaca grandiflora, a.k.a. the “moss rose.” Both species of Portulaca can thrive in well-drained, nutrient-poor soils, and can handle full-sun locations.
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade…”
Earlier this spring, following the lemons/lemonade philosophy, I decided to take advantage of the abundant “volunteer” purslanes sprouting in my yard. I was curious to see whether they could be “re-purposed” as a groundcover for difficult sites, similar to their cultivated ornamental cousin, P. grandiflora – a.k.a. the moss rose.
The trial: A sandy, full-sun, non-irrigated “trouble area” was cleared and designated as the “purslane-patch.” Whenever I was weeding the yard, if I encountered a purslane plant, it got re-located to the “purslane-patch.” A few months in, here’s a pic of the progress:
Results and musings:
Thanks in part to a very wet spring, the transplanted purslane plants are thriving, spreading, and blooming like crazy. The stems are knitting together nicely, creating an attractive, low-growing groundcover effect. And aside from a minimal amount of weeding to prevent competition, the area has basically been maintenance-free.
This purslane-patch is an “outside-the-box” example of how gardeners can use a plant’s natural adaptations to our advantage to solve difficult landscape issues. Whether using native plants like these Portulaca, or a cultivated ornamental, following the Florida-Friendly Landscaping concept of matching the “right plant, right place” can help you create a thriving, low-maintenance landscape with minimal inputs of fertilizer, pesticides, or surplus irrigation.
Tampa Bay Community Water-Wise Awards
Have you created an innovative, low-maintenance, “water-wise” landscape at your home or business? Each year, The Tampa Bay Community Water-Wise Awards Program recognizes outstanding examples of Florida-Friendly Landscapes from across the Tampa Bay Region. Applications for this year’s competition are being accepted until June 30. Visit https://awards.tampabaywaterwise.org/ to learn more about the program or to fill out an easy online application.
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