During summer months, pink, lavender, or white flowers cover the bush mallow (Lavatera maritime) with color. Its gray, downy foliage resembles maple leaves and makes a soft backdrop for this hibiscus-like flower. Because of its rangy and irregular shape, bush mallow works best on banks and slopes, in cottage gardens, or in the back of a perennial bed, where neat and tidy plants aren’t required. However, you can train it into a hedge by pruning it regularly in early spring before and after it flowers. Once established, bush mallow tolerates dry sites and does well in xeric gardens.
Common name: Bush mallow, tree mallow
Botanical name: Lavatera maritima (Sometimes listed as L. bicolor or L. maritima var. bicolor)
Plant type: Shrubby, evergreen perennial
Height: 4 to 6 feet tall
Zones: 6 to 8
- Sun: Full sun
- Soil: Light, somewhat fertile, well-drained soil
- Moisture: Moderate moisture. Once established, it needs only occasional watering.
- Mulch: Apply a thin layer of mulch around new plants to keep soil moist and deter weeds.
- Fertilizer: Apply a general-purpose fertilizer before new growth occurs in spring.
- Pruning: Shear after flowering to encourage dense growth. To renovate, prune in early spring by cutting back all flowered stems close to the base.
- L. mauritanica is an annual with purple flowers. It grows 32 inches tall.
- L. thuringiaca (tree lavatera) is a perennial with funnel-shaped, purplish pink flowers. It grows 6 feet tall and is hardy in Zones 7 to 9.
- L. trimestris cultivars are annuals with funnel-shaped pink, dark pink, or white flowers.
- Clip to use as a hedge or screen.
- Good for a drought-resistant garden.
- Occasionally root rot, scale, and leaf spots occur.
- Take cuttings in spring.
All in the family
- The Malvaceae family includes hollyhock (Alcea rosea), a favorite biennial for cottage gardens; rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), a flowering shrub hardy in Zones 5 to 9; tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), a popular container plant; musk mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos), the showy perennial with saucer-sized flowers hardy in Zones 5 to 10; and common mallow (Malva sylvestris), a short-lived perennial with 2½-inch, pinkish purple flowers, hardy in Zones 4 to 9.
Text by Mary Pestel, photo courtesy of Monrovia Growers, www.monrovia.com.