Portulaca oleracea subsp. sativa
Common Name: purslane
Type: Annual
Family: Portulacaceae
Native Range: India
Zone: 2 to 11
Height: 0.50 to 1.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.50 feet
Bloom Time: Flowers not showy
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual, Ground Cover, Vegetable
Flower: Showy
Tolerate: Drought

Culture

After all danger of frost is past, sow seeds in fertile, well-drained soil in full sun about 1/2 to 1" apart with 12" between rows, covering with 1/4" of soil. Provide water generously to facilitate germination and thin to 4 to 6" apart. Once established, purslane can tolerate severe drought. Plantlets can be harvested when 4 to 5 leaves have formed, usually in about 20 days. Once established, harvest can be continuous, picking to within 2" of the base. Regrowth will occur rapidly. Allow one plant to go to seed before frost and collect seeds from mature seed capsules for the next year.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Portulaca oleracea subsp. sativa, commonly called purslane is an annual, low growing plant with up to a 2-foot spread, with thick green oval leaves 1/2 to 3/4" long and thick reddish fleshy stems. Flowers are yellow. Probably originating in the region from the western Himalayas to southern Russia and Greece, today it is distributed over the hot temperate zones of a great part of the world. It is cultivated in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and other European countries, and is a popular winter vegetable in Northern India. The French call it pourpier and the Mexicans call it verdolaga, and both cultures use it in salads, soups, stews, tomato sauces, and even with scrambled eggs. Sativa means cultivated.

It has been cultivated for more than 4,000 years. To get a general idea of the antiquity and geographic dispersion of its cultivation, one needs only note the various linguistic roots of the many common names applied to this plant, including Sanskrit, Hindustani, Persian, Greek, and Latin. Tenth-century Arabic treatises provide detailed information on varieties and cultivation. Seventeenth-century English recipes used by the cooks of Charles II list it as a salad ingredient.

Genus name comes from the Latin name for P. oleracea.

Specific epithet means of the vegetable garden.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Potential insect pests include aphids, gnats, snails and slugs. Stem and root rot may occur in overly moist soils.

Garden Uses

Fresh in salads or cooked. Can be highly attractive if permitted to spread and flower, with bright green leaves, red stems, and sunshine yellow flowers. However, it can be a pest if permitted to reseed.