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Sea purslane, with shiny, teardrop-shaped leaves
Sea purslane is a hardy, fast-growing native ground cover with fleshy green leaves and red-green stems. The leaves taste like sea salt and are commonly picked and eaten fresh, pickled or added to savoury dishes. Sea purslane is drought-tolerant once established and will happily grow in the garden without much care.


What you need to know about sea purslane

Name: sea purslane, shoreline purslane (Sesuvium portulacastrum).

Height: up to 30cm.

Plant type: perennial herb.

Climate: warm temperate, sub-tropical, tropical.

Soil: well-drained.

Position: full sun to part shade.

Foliage: fleshy and glossy green but can turn yellow or red with age or sun exposure.

Flowering: small pink, star-shaped flowers appear at various times throughout the year and are followed by green, egg-like capsules filled with black seeds.

Feeding: feed a couple of times a year with a complete organic fertiliser.

Watering: water regularly until established.

Appearance and characteristics of sea purslane

Sea purslane is a creeping prostrate herb with fleshy stems and leaves. It grows 30cm tall and 1m wide, although its reach is often wider due to its sprawling habit. It’s typically seen growing as a dense carpet of foliage on coastal sand dunes. The fleshy edible leaves are crisp and salty with a slightly bitter or acidic flavour. Tiny pink flowers can be seen on the plant at various times of the year.

The stems are reddish-green, heavily branched and root easily at the nodes, which means it can spread rapidly. As a result, sea purslane has earned the reputation for being something of a weed, but you can keep it under control by containing it in a pot or giving it a dedicated spot in the garden.

Once established, sea purslane is very hardy and can tolerate drought and sea spray.

A sea purslane plant with pale pink flowers

Uses for sea purslane

This native perennial is ideal for landscaping coastal gardens as it’s tolerant of sandy soils and salt spray. Use it as a ground cover in areas with poor but well-drained soil, allow it to ramble over rockeries or trail from pots and hanging baskets. Pick and eat the leaves fresh or pull the entire plant out. Eat raw or lightly blanch to help reduce the saltiness.

How to grow sea purslane

Choose a spot in full sun to part shade with well-drained soil. Dig in compost and pelletised organic fertiliser and fork in well. While sea purslane can survive in poor soil, improving the soil prior to planting will help it establish faster and grow better. To plant, dig a hole twice as wide and to the same depth as the existing root ball. Remove the plant from its pot, loosen the mix to free the roots and place in the centre of the hole. Backfill, firm the soil around the base of the plant and water in well.

Mulch around the base of the plant with an organic mulch to help retain soil moisture and suppress weed growth.

Pink flowers on sea purslane plant

Caring for sea purslane

Sea purslane needs little care once established and is highly tolerant of neglect. If it becomes unruly, simply cut it back to keep it contained. It is fairly pest and disease free.

How often should you water and feed sea purslane?

Water regularly when first planted. Once established, it is very drought-hardy, but will benefit from an occasional watering during hot, dry periods.

Feeding isn’t essential, but applications of a complete organic-based fertiliser will help nourish and improve the soil and keep plants happy.

How and when to harvest sea purslane

Pick leaves as needed throughout the year. 

How to propagate sea purslane

Cuttings or divisions are the easiest ways to propagate sea purslane. Cut stems 10–15cm long, remove the lower leaves and insert the ends into a tray filled with propagating mix. Position in a warm spot and mist regularly to keep the soil moist. To divide, look for a section with stems that are well rooted to the ground. Use a sharp spade to cleanly cut into the area, lift and plant as desired.

Safety tip

After applying fertiliser, delay harvesting for a few days and rinse well before cooking and eating. If using products to deal with pests, diseases or weeds, always read the label, follow the instructions carefully and wear suitable protective equipment. Store all garden chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.

If you like this then try

Native oregano: a medium-sized shrub with mint-scented foliage and gorgeous purple flowers.

Queensland Davidson’s plum: a bush tucker favourite, with fleshy plum-like berries that grow along the trunk.

Red back ginger: a clumping perennial with attractive red-green leaves that have a mild ginger flavour. 

Start planting today

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Photo credit: Alamy Stock Photo and tuckerbush.com.au


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