If you want to try growing something a little different, candy flowers are delicious, nutritious, and beautiful. They’re easy to grow and fill partially shady areas. More people should be growing candy flower!
Also known as Siberian spring beauty, pink purslane, miner’s lettuce, and anipaswa’Kul (Cowlitz), it’s a fascinating flowering plant with an interesting history.
The lifespan of this plant is short but beautiful as it forms small, rosette leaves that are vibrant in color. They’re edible, medicinal, and decorative, adding color to your yard.
What Is Candy Flower?
Claytonia sibirica is native to the commander islands of Siberia, as well as western North America, particularly in the Pacific Northwest.
When researching for information about candy flowers, you’ll most likely bump into several articles on winter purslane as they are both grown in similar conditions. These short-lived perennial plants grow up to a foot tall and form lovely, if tiny, flowers throughout the spring and summer.
C. sibirica belongs to the same family as C. perfoliata (winter purslane), which are both in the Monitaceae family.
When you first come across the name, you might assume that the petals taste like candy. Even though that would be amazing, it’s not the case. The striped flower petals are extremely sweet, but I wouldn’t call them candy.
The leaves, however, taste like spring. They have a lettuce-cucumber flavor with a juicy, plump texture.
The petals typically bloom in white to pink shades. In nature, candy flowers grow alongside river banks, forests, and meadows.
In the 1850s, winter purslane was said to be used to treat cases of scurvy during the California Gold Rush, which is where the name miner’s lettuce came from. Nowadays, the plant can be eaten raw or cooked in salads like any other form of lettuce in your garden.
Pink Purslane vs Common Purslane
Due to the name, pink purslane is often confused with common purslane (Portulaca oleracea). However, you can quickly tell the two plants apart by their appearance. For instance, common purslane doesn’t form the same flowers and rosette leaves.
Winter purslane has disc-shaped leaves compared to pink purslane and common purslane, so you won’t have trouble spotting the difference.
You can eat all “purslane” plants fresh or raw in a salad. For this article, we’ll focus on the growing requirements for candy flowers.
Best Growing Conditions
This plant needs a spot that is partially shaded or in dappled sun. You can grow candy flower plants as perennials USDA Hardiness Zones 5-10, and as annuals elsewhere.
This plant has a shallow root system and can grow in pots or directly into the ground. Before planting, you must ensure you have the correct soil type.
In its natural environment, pink purslane enjoys soil that has little salt and is high in nutrients. Therefore, you should use humus-rich loose soil with good drainage. The soil should also be slightly acidic, with a pH of 5.5-7.0.
Amend your soil thoroughly if you don’t have the perfect conditions. Add plenty of well-rotted compost or manure to your soil to loosen it and add nutrients.
Sowing Candy Flower Seeds
Candy flower seeds need cold to germinate, so you can sow them in the garden after October or place the seeds in moist sand in the refrigerator for a few months.
Once the outdoor daytime temperatures are above 65°F, place the seeds in the ground. You can also start them indoors in pots and put them outside once the temperatures are warm enough.
Space the seeds 2-4 inches apart in the soil, or one seed per 3-inch pot. Seeds should be about a third of an inch deep. Alternatively, you can sprinkle the seeds over the soil to harvest as microgreens.
Water every morning for the first few weeks until the seeds germinate. The soil must remain moist for germination.
You’ll know that the plants are ready to be transplanted into the ground when they have 3-5 leaves.
Remember to harden off plants started indoors and keep an eye on new transplants to make sure they receive enough water.
Caring for Candy Flower Plants
Candy flower needs consistently moist soil. It shouldn’t be allowed to dry out at any point. While it can tolerate a brief period of dryness, it will wilt and take some time to recover.
Keep an eye on the soil moisture. It should always feel like a well-wrung-out sponge. If it starts to feel drier, add water. Decrease water in the winter.
Fertilizer is unnecessary, but if you have depleted soil, you can use a slow-release product on your candy flower crop if you think it needs extra support. Apply once in the spring.
Throughout the growing phase and flowering season, you need to prune the leaves actively if you want them to look neat.
You can simply cut off the dead leaves with gardening scissors and consider repotting the entire plant if necessary if the soil is rotten, weak, or has overgrown roots.
The plants self-seed, so you’ll need to pull any volunteers if you want to contain its spread.
Common Pests and Diseases for Candy Flower
So long as you provide the right conditions, candy flowers are pretty darn tough. Most problems are related to under or over-watering or too much shade.
Candy flower crops can be affected by anthracnose, a fungal disease. You can instantly notice this disease when the leaves turn brown, or grey spots start to appear on the stem.
If this infection spreads, it can cause all the leaves to fall off and destroy your entire plant. If you catch this fungal disease quickly, cut off the infected leaves. When the infection is more advanced, you’ll need to apply a copper fungicide to your plants.
To avoid developing this disease, keep the area well-ventilated and water carefully. You should give your plant 6-8 hours of sunlight daily.
Aphids can cause issues on your candy flower plants. In spring, these little insects enjoy eating away on the leaves of this plant and sucking the sap from the inside.
You might have a case of aphids if you see distorted leaves, a short blooming time, or wilting. Head to our guide to learn how to identify and control aphids.
Harvesting Your Candy Flower Plant
After just eight weeks, the plant will be ready for harvesting if the climate and growing conditions are perfect. When the leaves are fully mature, you can cut them off with a knife or scissors, but leave at least two-thirds of the plant behind if you want future harvests.
Eating them quickly, as the leaves don’t store for very long.
Once you’ve collected the leaves, place them in a bowl or other container and cover them with a damp cloth. Keep them in the refrigerator for around 6-8 days.
Microgreens are ready to harvest after just a few weeks.
You can cook and eat the entire plant, which is ideal for vitamin C intake, magnesium, potassium, and iron. It’s a fantastic choice for both healthy salads and in cooking. In ancient times, the plant was also used for medicinal purposes such as eye pain.