Jewels of Opar
This is a truly lovely plant that no garden should be without. The stunning lime green leaves bring a cooling feel to any garden and the red hazy of flowers look like smoke or cotton candy hanging over the plants. Excellent for hot dry areas or as a pot plant on sunny decks. Needs full sun but is easy to grow and care for, takes little effort with a great reward. Very easy to grow and care for, not only that but you can eat it in your salad too!
Considered a perennial in warmer zones it is grown as an annual in zones 7 and above. This plant is stunning lime green leaves that are elliptic or obobate with a smooth margin. These arise in small clump that can reach two feet in diameter. In early summer it sends up tall red much branched stems that bear small pink bowl shaped flowers continuously throughout the summer and right up to the frost. Flowers open later in the day, so early morning if often appears as if the plant is not flowering. Flowers are followed by small shinny red globular pods which look like a red haze hanging over the plant. Globes finally turn grey and spring open to disperse seeds. Produces large tubers that can be lifted and stored in colder areas. Roots are reported hardy to zone 7.
Location and Care
Prefers a full sun location but can tolerate a small amount of shade for part of the day. Does well in hot dry areas but benefits from some watering but can be drought tolerant for several weeks at a time. Does best in sandy and well drained soils and is tolerant of poor soils and heat. Excellent for rock gardens and hot areas where not to much else grows.
The lime green leaves brighten up any garden and it makes a wonderful border plant or addition to any flower garden. Will reseed itself once established, just thin out the seedlings or transplant to where you want them. If reseeding is undesirable dead head as seeds form. Sadly seeds usually form on same stalks that are still flowering so this is often hard to do.
Does well as a pot plant and is excellent on hot sunny decks where the lime green leaves provide an appearance of coolness.
Seeds are very small so although they can be sown directly outside keeping weeds from the bed while the germinate can be difficult. Indoor germination is recommended. If choose to sow outside do so 2-4 weeks after first frost date when soil is warm.
Start 6-8 weeks before last frost date in good potting soil, in flats or plug cells. Germination is easy and usually begins within 6-14 days depending on temperature and other conditions. Best temps between 65-75°F. Do not cover the seeds as light aids germination.
Transplant to small pots and grow on until small plants, harden off before transplanting out. Do so on a cloudy day with likelihood of rain to ensure plant can establish itself well. Since planting in a hot sunny location plants need to be watered well until established.
The leaves are succulent and make an excellent addition to salads and sandwiches. They are especially valuable since they are available in hot dry weather when little other salad greens is to be had.
The seeds are tiny but nutritious, and could be a good source of Omega3 oils, as seeds of other Portulacca ssp. are avidly collected by indigenous peoples, and have recently been compared favorably with flaxseed.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine this plant is known as Tu-ren-shen and is used to tone the digestion, moistens the lungs and promotes breast milk.
Useful for treating headaches, aphrodisiac, pneumonia, diarrhea, a lot of urine, irregular menstruation, vaginal discharge and a little milk. The roots are used for impotence. The juice from the leaves is used to smooth expenditures, treat ulcers, and increased appetite.
Caution. Poisoning can occur if you use too much. Usually characterized by nausea, vomiting and shortness of breath.
Makes an excellent cut flower. The airy spikes with their shiny red globes make wonderful filler for all kinds of flower arrangement. Stalks can also be dried for longer use in lasting displays.
Jewels of Opar plant and flowers
Jewels of Opar in field
Close up of seed/flower head