Low-growing, fleshy plants. One is called a weed but can be used in cooking and salads. The others are grown for their brilliant flowers, on display from late spring until frost; generally, the blossoms open fully in bright light and close by midafternoon in hot weather. The various plants described here thrive in high temperatures and intense sunlight. Not fussy about soil. Bright-flowered types are attractive in rock gardens, parking strips, hanging baskets, or as edgings and bank covers; they don't require deadheading to prolong bloom.
P. grandiflora. MOSS ROSE, PORTULACA. From South America. To 6 in. high, 1 ft. across. Trailing, branching, reddish stems are set with narrow, cylindrical, pointed leaves to 1 in. long. Inch-wide, lustrous-petaled flowers shaped like tiny roses, in white and many bright and pastel shades of red, cerise, rose-pink, orange, yellow. Available as single colors or mixes, in either single- or double-flowered strains. Magic Carpet, Cupcake, Margarita, Afternoon Delight, and Sundance strains stay open longer in the afternoon. Happy Trails is a low, spreading strain that reaches 6-9 in. tall and twice as wide. The Sundial strain also resists closing and has larger (2-in.), double blossoms. Sunseeker strain also resists closing and has larger (2-in.), double blossoms. All self-sow, but they often fail to come true from seed.
P. oleracea. PURSLANE. Unimproved form is thought to have originated in India; it's an edible weed with tiny yellow flowers and plump, oval leaves to 1 in. long. Warm weather and moisture encourage its growth. Control by hoeing or pulling before it goes to seed; don't let pulled plants lie about, since they can reroot or ripen seed. Improved forms offer larger, showy flowers in colors of red, orange, yellow, pink, and white.