Moss Roses: A Carefree Tough Annual

Moss Roses: A Carefree Tough Annual

Part of Ep. 2103 Problem Solvers

At Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville, meet the tough and colorful annual — Moss Roses — that is the perfect solution for hot, dry locations.

Premiere date: May 15, 2013

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley Ryan:

If you're looking for a drought tolerant, full sun plant that's almost carefree, boy, have we got the plant for you. I'm at Rotary Gardens in Janesville with the Director of Horticulture Mark Dwyer and, Mark, we're talking moss roses and boy, have they come a long way since I saw them and played with them years ago. These are not the moss roses of my childhood.

 

Mark Dwyer:

They are not. And it's one of those things that in terms of developments, breeding developments in particular, the moss roses, or Portulacas, are becoming more and more prevalent in our landscapes. Not only for the drought tolerance that you mentioned, but the beautiful colors.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Well these, yeah, I mean I remember just single flowers, kind of scraggly looking plants, so maybe it was the way I was taking care of them. But this bed behind you is just a wave of color and I'm seeing doubles, stripes, colors that I didn't even know existed with moss roses.

 

Mark Dwyer:

Right. And again the amazing part is the developments in not only the doubles, but some of the streaked petals. There's a great variety called 'Happy Hour Peppermint', which is pink with some neat kind of magenta striping and stippling through it. Now the Portulacas - they're native to South American - Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay. And what's interesting about their growth rate is they love our hot, dry Wisconsin summers.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Better than I do.

 

Mark Dwyer:

So great it a container or a dryer portion of a bed. And again that flower power is something that's very prevalent. And it begins very early. It's important to mention that the flowers do close up. Their peak time of bloom is between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Really? So it's a mid-day plant. It's not going to-- I didn't realize that.

Mark Dwyer:

Right. You won't see them in the evening, but breeders are now to have these portulacas that have a longer period of bloom. And they've even done a major refinement on our traditional perslane, which is also a species of Portulaca.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Well, purslane is a common garden weed. I mean this is something most of us are trying to get rid of in the vegetable garden and in bare soil. Now it happens to be also an edible garden weed.

 

Mark Dwyer:

Right.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So are any of the moss roses in that category of being edible?

 

Mark Dwyer:

I'm not sure about the traditional grandiflora species, but oleraceae, which is traditional purslane, we have some varieties that were bred for flower power that are right behind us. They would also be edible.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay, so check the label. On some of these you could have flowers and some edible leaves for your salad.

 

Mark Dwyer:

For sure. And it's important to mention that those leaves as a vegetative plant, it's one of the most nutritional plants that are out there in terms of greens.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Right, right. And they do taste great in salads.

 

Mark Dwyer:

Right.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So, I mean, you know, again, functional, edible, pretty - great. Now you tend to take one plant, something like this, I mean this is kind of a special display. It won't be here every year.

 

Mark Dwyer:

Correct. Right. Each year we like to select a certain seasonal or annual of choice and we grow every variety we can. So last year for instance was marigolds. We've done salvia, snapdragons, etc. And moss roses we've always grown here in those tough, sunny spots and always enjoyed them. So we thought why not. So we ended up locating 65 varieties.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Sixty five, wow.

 

Mark Dwyer:

And boy, have they filled in. They've been very low maintenance for us. And I think few would argue that, again, that flower power's amazing, particularly with the doubles, which have larger flowers and the very vivid coloration.

 

Shelley Ryan:

And what about, okay, care. Full sun?

 

Mark Dwyer:

Mm-hmm.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Fertilizing? What do we do with these?

 

Mark Dwyer:

Well, full sun or part sun. The issue with part sun is you'll have less flowers. Full sun is ideal. Fertilization - we typically will fertilize once a month with kind of a lower mixed fertilizer - a liquid feed or something of that nature. But if your soil's half way decent, they'll be fine through the season.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So really a carefree plant that way.

 

Mark Dwyer:

They can take very lean soils and, again, with a little more nurturing, you'll get a little more growth and some better flower. So, again, we would fertilize at least four times over the course of the summer.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Now these are all very low growing. Is that pretty much the growth habit that we're going to see, so if I'm using these in a container, they're going to sit there. They're not going to cascade over or anything like that.

 

Mark Dwyer:

It will be a minor cascade. You're right. They don't get over 12 inches in height. But they tend, they'll spill over in a little way, but they're not a cascader. But a great ground cover.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Yeah, that's what I'm seeing. I mean just the beautiful stripes behind us are gorgeous. Do you have any favorites?

 

Mark Dwyer:

Well, aside from that 'Happy Hour Peppermint', there's all sorts of neat names out there that refer to the colors. And usually they're in a series, meaning there's 'Happy Hour Peppermint', 'Happy Hour Banana', which is a beautiful yellow. And it goes on and on. So, in terms of color range, there's just such a wide range of colors and it's a subjective thing. We all like different colors. But if you're looking for reds, oranges, whites, peach. There's some that are very light colored in terms like a terra cotta even. So tough to pick a specific favorite and that's why we encourage people to look at them, take pictures, and find them the next year.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Well, and that's why you do one specific plant. So that people can really get a sense of what it looks like.

 

Mark Dwyer:

Right. Side by side.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Well, thank you. This is fantastic. As I said when I first saw these I gotta get me some of these. Thanks, Mark.

 

Mark Dwyer:

You're welcome. 

 

EPISODE SEGMENTS+
EPISODE RESOURCES+

Funding for The Wisconsin Gardener is provided, in part, by The Wisconsin Master Gardener Association.