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Wax Mallow

by Valerie (June 14, 2000)
revised August 28, 2003
wax mallow buds and blossom
This native flower is one of our most successful garden plants. I've heard it called Turk's cap, but that could probably be confused with the lily and the cactus of the same name. There is also a similar species that I've seen in Florida, but its habit and flowers a quite a bit different and it is taller. wax mallow blossom viewed from top

The unique thing about the wax mallow (Malvaviscus arboreus) is how its stamen sticks way out of the tightly bunched petals. The flowers are a brilliant red and it grows very well in shady areas. A herbaceous perennial, it is extremely drought tolerant, blooms all summer long, and is really easy to propagate from seed. The plant gets to be about three feet high and spreads to four feet across. When we have a lot of rain, the flower petals tend to open up more, giving the blooms a fatter appearance.

wax mallow fruit After the flowers are pollinated, a bright red berry forms that looks just like a miniature tomato. While it is smaller than a cherry tomato, it has the shape of one of the bigger varieties. The berries are just as pretty as the flowers, giving it even more red color. I've planted the seeds by squishing the berries into the dirt and they almost always grow, to the point where we have to thin the plants out.

Although the leaves are usually solid green, occasionally a variegated plant will appear. One of our larger wax mallows has a segment with two-toned leaves: tan and green. This variety has been selected for and is available in at least one local nursery, even though it actually looks like it is diseased.

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