A Moss Rose By Any Other Name

Odds are that you have never paid one moment’s attention to the variety name on a moss rose label. Most of us don’t. We reach for flats that look good to our eyes, and we visualize those lovely blossoms in our sunniest garden spaces. That’s really sad, though, since hybridizers the world over have spent many years perfecting this long-proven performer. Names like Sundial, Margarita and Tequila are seen in individual colors and mixes as well, but many of us never paid any attention to those names.

Here are some of the improvements those breeders have made in the moss rose you see in nurseries and gardening centers:

Double flowers. This refers to the number of petals on each individual bloom. Old-fashioned moss rose flowers were single, that is, they had only a handful of petals.

Larger flowers. Bloom size has probably doubled with the advent of the many new strains.

More flowers. You’ll notice that your beds are wall-to-wall color. Not that it’s unattractive, but you see less of the foliage with these new hybrids.

Better show later in the day. We used to apologize for the fact that moss rose blooms lasted only one day … or, part of one day. The old types closed up by early afternoon. Today’s hybrids don’t faint from the heat.

Individual colors. These new hybrids are sold to growers either in mixes or in packets of single colors. If you’re trying to create a mass of one color, if you can find a retailer who carries them, moss rose can come to your rescue. Still, many of us prefer the relaxing informality of a sprawling bed, patio pot or hanging basket of mixed moss rose.

Success with Moss Rose

Not only will these plants survive the sun and heat, they prosper in those tough conditions. You can even buy and plant them now, in the middle of a hot Texas summer and have full expectation that they’ll survive and thrive into the fall.

Space the plants 8 to 10 inches apart in the bed so that they can quickly grow together. You should have a dazzling display within just a couple of weeks. Keep them watered, and fertilize them monthly with a high-nitrogen plant food. The more vigorous the plants are, the better they will bloom.

Set out now, portulaca will bloom clear through September, giving way just in time for your mid-fall pansy plantings. Their flower production will diminish greatly as temperatures start to fall.

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Posted by Neil Sperry
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