Plant of the Month – February 2014

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For nearly year-round flower color, consider planting Desert Mallow in borders, massed for brilliant color, or as a specimen plant.

For nearly year-round flower color, consider planting Desert Mallow in borders, massed for brilliant color, or as a specimen plant.

Desert Mallow

Sphaeralcea ambigua

 

  • Plant Form: Evergreen Perennial/Subshrub
  • Water Use: Very Low
  • Mature Size: 3’ tall x 3-4’ wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring, Summer, Fall (February – November)
  • Native to: Deserts of southwest U.S. from California to Arizona, Utah, and Nevada, and into Mexico (below 7,500 feet)
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to -10°F

 

Desert Mallow is an easy-to-grow perennial with a relaxed form, even sprawling under the weight of stalks and flowers when in late bloom. This miniature version of a hollyhock comes in many flower colors, but orange is most common, and all make great cut flowers in bouquets. Desert Mallow typically blooms from spring into fall (February to November), but it may bloom year-round in warm areas if given summer water. This evergreen sub-shrub is native to our southwest deserts from California to Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and south into Mexico at elevations below 7500 feet. Its mature size is 3 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide. Desert Mallow loves full sun, requires very little water, and is cold hardy to -10°F. Small, gray-green leaves have star-shaped hairs that may irritate skin. The abundant flowers produced most of the year provide a steady source of pollen and nectar to honey bees and other insects. Protect from rabbits with a wire cage during establishment. Cut back severely after spring flowering for denser form and repeated bloom. This drought-tolerant and long-blooming native takes reflected heat, and is useful in dry borders, as a specimen plant, lining a wall or fence-line, or massed for brilliant color.

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