Protopian Portulaca Propagation: Michigan Edition

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Heart of the Portulaca blossom by PPJ (2017) CC BY-SA 2.0

Readers of my adventures with Beanstalk Children’s Garden in Kansas City, MO may remember my stint with the Portulaca Witness Protection Program. I was deeply invested in transplanting volunteer Portulaca grandiflora (moss rose) seedlings from the cracks between the garden path bricks into new homes at the base of our raised beds. The relocated plants turned out to be pretty successful at thriving at the new sites!

I also eventually figured out how to propagate portulaca plants from cuttings, though these ended up in flower pots on my deck rather than back in the Beanstalk Garden.

Here in Michigan, I’ve decided to put some of that portulaca cloning to work in my summer garden plot at the community garden. I started with a few portulaca seedlings that I purchased in flats at local nurseries. I planted these in the gaps between the bricks of my raised bed.

 

 

After the initial stress of being transplanted, the portulaca plants recovered and began producing new sprays of fleshy leaves.  I broke off some of the smaller tufts of new growth to produce cuttings for propagation.  From the cutting itself, I also removed the leaves  from the stem portion that would be covered by the rooting medium.

 

 

In an old aluminum foil baking pan, I mixed vermiculite and coir (coconut fiber) with water to create a rooting medium. (Kind of looks like brownies!)  I tucked the cuttings into this substrate, kept it moist and out of direct sunlight until they developed some roots.

 

 

After about 2 weeks, the cuttings’ roots had grown large enough for me to attempt transplantation back into the garden.

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Cutting with roots ready for transplant! by PPJ (2017) CC BY-SA 2.0

Portulaca are hardy plants with succulent leaves/stems that do well in sandy/well-drained soil, as well as tight places like cracks between bricks. In my experience, it’s easier to transplant a small portulaca seedling (volunteer or cutting with developed roots) into a gap than smoosh a whole plant (i.e. from nursery flat) into a larger space.

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Rooting seedlings transplanted to their new homes. PPJ (2017) CC BY-SA 2.0

If the portulaca seedlings take to their new homes, the growing plants will spread out across the bricks, creating a beautiful “carpet” effect, as well as providing nectar to insects. I never keep track of the flower color of the parent from which I take the cuttings, so it will be a surprise to see what colors combinations emerge.

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At Beanstalk Children’s Garden. Portulaca blanket by Protopian Pickle Jar (2015) on Flickr. https://flic.kr/p/QR7jXb

I haven’t had much luck making a cutting and immediately sticking it directly into the soil. The cuttings always seem to dry out too quickly and wither, unless they have a set of well-developed roots. Even with roots, the transplants must be watered frequently for the first few days.

Putting in the baby portulaca seedlings only managed to feed my vision of portulaca carpeting the outside of the brick raised-bed.  So I made some more cuttings from the original parent plants. Still didn’t keep track of colors.

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Round two of portulaca cuttings! PPJ (2017) CC BY-SA 2.0
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