Chances are, the following tips and tricks on how to grow purslane are not needed in your neighborhood. Purslane is prolific. However, it’s taking hold in gardens as a groundcover and even a garden crop, so here are instructions if you’re encouraging purslane somewhere it doesn’t appear naturally.
Purslane is also called duckweed, fatweed, pursley, pussley, verdolagas and wild portulaca, and this thriving plant has fleshy succulent leaves and stems with yellow flowers. Succulent aficionados commonly remark on its similarities to baby jade plants. Originally native to India and Persia, this plant will grow well (too well, according to some gardeners) in any location that has a two-month growing period.
Commonly thought of as a weed, in fact purslane is more than that—it’s the most commonly reported weed species in the entire world. The stems of these far-flung plants radiate flatly on the ground from a single root. This can sometimes lead to large, circular mats of leaves underfoot.
Hold off on trying to defeat this leafy irritant from inhabiting a garden, though. While some gardeners tend to think of purslane as simply a weed or a nuisance, others are taking advantage of its overabundance by serving it in dishes on their dinner tables. Purslane is joining the ever-growing list of crops called superfoods, such as kale and pomegranate. High in omega-3, which is good for keeping the heart healthy, and beta carotene, this leafy green is just as good for you as salmon is, without the large price tag or environmental considerations. There’s no need to worry about the environmental impact of overfishing, for example, when you can get your heart-healthy fatty acids from your front lawn (or anywhere you find purslane thriving).
Growing Conditions for Purslane
Purslane finds many growing conditions suitable, as long as the area it is planted in has a two-month growing period. It tolerates a wide variety of light, from full sun to full shadow, as well as broad temperature ranges and soil types. Its succulent characteristics make purslane drought resistant. This plant can be tended to and cared for by even those who are unfamiliar with gardening. There’s no need to worry about killing this hardy plant, even with the blackest of thumbs. Additionally, this plant is so resilient that garden pests and diseases do not typically bother it. This plant is so hard to kill that before people knew of its health benefits, studies were conducted to learn the best way to eradicate it.
How to Plant Purslane
This plant also requires very little human intervention when planting. Its habit of growing like a weed is where purslane may get its weed-based reputation. Whether growing it from seeds, a cutting, or a stem piece, purslane will take root wherever you want it to. The only consideration gardeners must take when planting purslane is that the seeds do not like to be sown more than a half an inch deep. Tilling the seeds will bring them to the surface, allowing the seeds to germinate more easily.
The downside is that purslane sometimes takes root where it is not wanted. A large consideration when planting purslane is that it may quickly seed and germinate parts of the garden where it is not welcome. The key to keeping this stubborn plant under control is making sure it does not go to seed. Three weeks after seedlings are noticed, flowers and seeds will start being produced by the plant. To help keep purslane under control, make sure to remove these plants before they seed. Plants that are uprooted but not removed can find their way back into the soil, so make sure that they are fully removed from the area.
Uses for Purslane
As previously stated, this plant is slowly shedding its weed reputation and becoming known for its deliciousness and health benefits. Purslane has a slight lemony taste, along with a crunch when served raw. Purslane fans liken it to watercress or spinach, and many substitute purslane for spinach in recipes. Raw purslane leaves can add a textural crunch to salads or sandwiches, or they can be steamed or stir-fried if a crunch is not desired. If something is needed to thicken soups or stews, reach for the purslane, with its high level of pectin (known to lower cholesterol) which would act as a thickening agent.
The hardest part of taking care of purslane is to make sure it does not grow too out of control and take over a garden—or even an entire yard. Purslane will take over a plot or flowerbed in a heartbeat if given the opportunity. The good news is that this hearty and stubborn plant is very hard to kill. Those who do not want it in their garden may find this fact frustrating, but a good way to keep purslane under control is to take it inside and serve it as a part of dinner (or lunch—purslane is good at any time of the day).
Whether you choose to purchase seeds or take your specimens from wild purslane, this plant will be a good choice for any rookie home gardener—or those who find that their plants are more likely to die than live. Give purslane a try, both in the garden and the kitchen.
Abbie Carrier graduated from Texas Woman’s University with a Bachelor’s of Science in history and a minor in political science, and she is currently working on a Master’s of Arts in arts administration from the University of New Orleans. With this degree, she hopes to gain a position in museum curation, and she currently works as a grant writer for nonprofit organizations. She enjoys writing about the arts, history, politics, and topics related to science, health, lifestyle, and entertainment.
Want to learn more about growing purslane?
Chicago Tribune covers Purslane: A Weed Worth Eating
Grow A Good Life explores Purslane: Weed or Food?
Hobby Farms covers 6 Tips For Growing Purslane
Nutrition and You covers Purslane nutrition facts
University of Illinois Extension explores Purslane