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Can You Grow Purslane in the Veggie Garden?

Yes, purslane is a vegetable, but also a weed. You might want to forage it rather than grow it. Source:

Question: I wondered if I can grow purslane in my vegetable garden in zone 4. If so, should I bring the plant indoors in the fall to protect it from the cold? I’m asking, because I read that purslane is a staple food in Crete which helps explain their low rate of cardiovascular disease. It’s also a medicinal plant with many virtues.

Nathalie Capilla

Answer: Yes, you can certainly grow purslane in your vegetable garden, but I am not sure you would really want to. Here’s why:

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea), also known as pigweed*, a low-growing plant with thick, creeping stems and succulent leaves, is a fast-growing annual often grown as a vegetable, but which is also a very common weed, possibly native to Asia, but long established throughout Europe and Africa as a pernicious weed and now present almost everywhere in North America, South America and Oceania as well. Once you sow it, therefore, it often becomes more of an enemy than a useful plant.

*The name pigweed comes from its use as pig fodder.

If you do decide to grow purslane, be sure to harvest the stems before the seed capsules open and release their seeds. If not, mulch abundantly to avoid giving the seeds a chance to germinate (they only sprout in bare soil in full sun) …or grow it as a potted plant far from the vegetable garden. Certainly, you should never grow this vegetable in a community garden, as it could cause problems for other gardeners.

Discrete Blooms

Unless you’re an early riser, you’ll never notice the flowers. Source:

How can purslane produce seeds, since it never seems to bloom? In fact, it does bloom, but very discreetly, with tiny yellow flowers that are open only a few hours on sunny mornings and even then, only a few days per season. If you blink, you’ll miss them!

Forage Rather Than Grow

I personally forage purslane rather than grow it and you certainly can do so as well. There is almost certainly purslane growing spontaneously in your area, perhaps in a field or along a road or even sprouting from a crack in the sidewalk, in which case simply harvest it and rinse well before using. You don’t actually have to grow it.

Purslane Indoors

Purslane microgreens. Source:

To answer your second question, above saving purslane from the cold, since purslane is an annual, thus dying at the end of the season, there is no point bringing the plant indoors in the fall. However, you could harvest seeds and sow them indoors to serve as sprouts or microgreens. That way, you can have fresh purslane all year long!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. After studies at the University of Toronto and Laval University where he obtained his B.A. in modern languages in 1978, he succeeded in combining his language skills with his passion for gardening in a novel career as a garden writer and lecturer. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He is a regular contributor to and horticultural consultant for Fleurs, Plantes, Jardins garden magazine and has written for many other garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Rebecca’s Garden and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 50 other titles in English and French. He can be seen in Quebec on French-language television and was notably a regular collaborator for 7 years on the TV shows Fleurs et Jardins and Salut Bonjour Weekend. He is the President of the Garden Writers Association Foundation and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. An avid proponent of garden tourism, he has lead garden tours throughout Canada and to the gardens of over 30 countries over the last 30 years. He presently resides in Quebec City, Quebec.

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