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Planting & growing winter purslane: Tips for sowing & harvesting

 /  Reading time: 10 minutes

Winter purslane is a vitamin-rich leaf lettuce that is ideal as a winter crop. It can be harvested throughout the winter and thus always brings fresh greens into the kitchen. Despite its valuable ingredients, it has been somewhat forgotten, but that can change! In this article, you can find out everything you need to know about growing and caring for it.

This article contains:

  1. Growing winter purslane: An overview
  2. The right location
  3. Purslane: mixed cultivation & crop rotation
  4. Sowing winter purslane: tips for sowing
  5. Maintain the winter purslane: Not necessary!
  6. Diseases & pests
  7. Harvesting winter purslane: how to do it
  8. Process purslane
  9. Obtain seeds: this is how it works
  10. Frequently asked questions about growing winter purslane

Quick Overview

Growing winter purslane: an overview

  • Location: semi-shady - shady, loose soil, low nutrient content
  • Temperature: hardy, optimum temperature is 4 - 8 °C, germination only below 12 °C
  • Mixedcrop/croprotation: compatible with any vegetable
  • Sowing: September-March, sowing depth 0.5-1 cm, spacing 10-20 cm
  • Care: uniform moisture, if sowing too close together, separate plants, mulch
  • Harvest: November - April, 6-8 weeks after sowing

Growing winter purslane: An overview

Winter purslane (Claytonia perfoliata) is an annual, hardy herb from the Montiaceae family. Some people also know it by the names of winter purslane, common pigeon pea or cubic spinach. It is very rich in omega-3 fatty acids and minerals such as magnesium, calcium and iron. At 72 mg/100 g, it also contains more vitamin C than lemons.

Winter postelein with small white flower
The fleshy leaves of winter purslane are easy to recognize. /Photo by Mick E. Talbot, CC BY-SA 3.0

What is Purslane?

You can easily recognize it by its characteristic round to slightly pointed leaves. In spring, it also bears small white to light pink flowers, which are also edible. Over time, it forms a bushy rosette, so you should ensure sufficient spacing when planting. It grows to a height of around 15-30 cm.

Winter purslane originally comes from the Pacific region of North America. Over time, it spread to Mexico and Cuba and eventually found its way to Europe. Despite the similar name, it should not be confused with summer purslane, which is not hardy and needs plenty of sun and warmth.

The right location

Winter purslane is very undemanding in cultivation and is also suitable for growing in balcony boxes and smaller containers. It has no particular light requirements; a shady to semi-shady spot is perfectly adequate. Due to its low light requirement and good ground cover properties, it is ideal for planting under trees. Its bushy growth habit also helps to suppress wild herbs in winter.

Winter purslane grows best in loose, humus-rich soil. However, it is also suitable for sandy soils with an even water supply. As a low-growing plant, it only needs a few nutrients, so you don't need to apply additional fertilizer. On the contrary, the substrate should not be too rich in nutrients, similar to spinach.

Purslane: mixed cultivation & crop rotation

The Montiaceae plant family doesn't really play a role in the kitchen garden, which is why winter purslane is ideal for a healthy crop rotation. It is an ideal succeeding crop for all summer vegetables and can be used very well to fill gaps in the bed. The soil can recover over the winter while being protected by the fresh herbs. Due to its low requirements, it can also be combined well with heavy eaters such as cabbage. There are no known good or bad plant neighbors, so you can simply experiment with different mixed crops.

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Sowing winter purslane: tips for sowing

Winter purslane in the greenhouse
Over time, winter purslane forms a bushy rosette of leaves, so the plants should not be planted too close together. /Photo by Frank Vincentz, CC BY-SA 3.0

And this is how sowing works:

You can either sow winter purslane directly into the bed or pre-grow it in pots. When growing in pots, use 1-3 seeds per pot to create particularly bushy seedlings. The pot does not need to be particularly large; standard-sized or smaller pots are ideal.

However, to ensure that the hardy plants germinate, temperatures should not exceed 12 °C. Temperatures between 4 - 8 °C are better. However, if temperatures fall permanently below 5 °C, it will stop growing. As soon as it gets warmer again, however, it will start to sprout diligently. If temperatures are too low, purslane will stop growing, but it can survive at temperatures as low as -20 °C. However, if you want it to continue growing in winter, you should protect it from the cold. To do this, you can cover the bed with spruce branches or breathable foil, for example. It is also very suitable for growing in cold frames or (mini) greenhouses.

The optimum time for sowing is from September to March, depending on the temperature. Cover the seeds only thinly with soil, 0.5-1 cm is sufficient. The first seeds should start to germinate after about two weeks. When sowing in the bed, you can either scatter the seeds in a wide cube or make rows 10-20 cm apart.

Pricking purslane for more space in the bed

If the individual plants are too dense after sowing, you should separate them to 10-20 cm. Pull out the smallest plants during the first harvest so that the rest can spread out better. The individual plants grow quickly in width, making use of the available space and covering the ground.

Maintain the winter purslane: Not necessary!

Otherwise, winter purslane is very easy to care for. It doesn't need any additional fertilizer and practically grows on its own. Just make sure that the substrate remains evenly moist. A layer of mulch can help to keep the soil moist and can also improve the aroma.

Diseases & pests

The robust winter lettuce is not very susceptible to diseases. Occasionally, snails can attack it due to a lack of food alternatives. A slug fence can help with severe slug problems. In near-natural gardens, however, snails usually have sufficient wild herbs at their disposal and spare the purslane. If slugs do become a problem, you can find more tips on slug control and prevention here.

Occasionally snails can snack on the fresh greenery. /Photo by MichaelGaida from Pixabay

Harvesting winter purslane: how to do it

Only about 6-8 weeks pass between sowing and harvesting. Cut the first leaves as soon as the plants are about 10 cm tall. You can harvest the healthy leafy vegetables from November to April. The plants are cut up to six times over the winter, they grow back again and again in the middle of the rosette (= heart). The only important thing is that the heart remains undamaged!

The flowers are also edible

Winter purslane starts to flower atthe end of March or beginning of April. The delicate white flowers are also edible and can be used to decorate salads and soups. However, you should not cut the plants after flowering, as they can develop a bitter aroma.

Process purslane

Winter purslane has a fresh, nutty and slightly sour taste. With its mild aromas, it refines herb butter and quark. You can also use it for decorative salads, soups or green smoothies. This all-rounder can also be used as a substitute for spinach. It has many uses in a varied cuisine and invites you to experiment. There are no limits to your creativity! Winter purslane tastes best when eaten fresh. It will keep for around 5-7 days in a plastic container in the fridge.

Winter postelein in a green smoothie
Fresh purslane is great in green smoothies.

Obtain seeds: this is how it works

Winter purslane is a self-pollinator, it does not need insects to form fertile seeds. You have several options during seed formation:

  • You leave it in place so that it spreads itself. This way, the seeds germinate again in late fall when temperatures drop and you save yourself the trouble of sowing.
  • If you want to have the purslane in a different place in the bed next season, you can proceed as follows: If some seeds have already formed, pluck out the whole plant and place it where you want it to grow again next fall. This way, you don't have to sow it yourself later and the decaying green leaves also provide a layer of mulch to protect the soil.
  • To collect seeds, you should cut off the whole plant as soon as the first seeds become dark and ripe. Then hang the plants up in a dry, airy room and collect the seeds with a fine net; they will gradually fall off by themselves.

Winterportulak Samen
The fine seeds turn black as soon as they are ripe.

Winter purslane is a real all-rounder and is slowly becoming popular again with amateur gardeners. I hope I was able to get you excited about this little vitamin bomb too! If you have any questions or comments, please write to us at [email protected].

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Annabell is studying agricultural biology at the University of Hohenheim. She also enjoys gardening in her private life, spends a lot of time in nature and loves to be creative.

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Winter purslane is a vitamin-rich leaf lettuce, ideal for winter cultivation, which can be harvested between November and April.

It prefers a semi-shady to shady location, loose soil with a low nutrient content and temperatures between 4 - 8 °C.

Yes, it is compatible with all vegetables and is ideal for growing summer vegetables.

It requires even moisture, and plants should be spaced out if sown densely. Mulching helps to retain moisture.

It is harvested 6-8 weeks after sowing by cutting the leaves, leaving the heart untouched. It can be used fresh in salads, soups or as a spinach substitute.

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