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Turk's Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. Drummondii) is a native shrub of both Texas and Mexico. Also known as Drummond wax-mallow, it attracts hummingbirds, butterflies and moths. It has a woody or semi-woody base and many stems, with leaves that are large, notched and slightly fuzzy. It goes especially well in a more casual garden. It is usually 2 to 4 feet tall but may reach 8 to 9 feet in the sun; it will get about as wide as it is tall.

Turk's Cap flowers are generally red but they also come in white and pink. They bloom from May to November with flowers appearing every day in the warm weather. The flowers are tightly furled and the stamens and pistils protrude, enticing hummingbirds to feed. Other birds are attracted to the plant's small red fruits that resemble cherries or tiny apples. When the fruit is ripe it splits into five carpels, each containing one seed. Fresh, untreated seeds can be planted. You have to be alert to capture the fruits before they are devoured by birds or other wildlife. Turk's Cap may also be propagated by soft-wood cuttings or root divisions and it will colonize by self-layering.

Turk's Cap prefers well-drained fertile soil but will adapt to a wide range of soils, locations and moisture levels. It thrives in both alkaline and acid settings, in semi-shade or full sun, and can be quite drought tolerant. In full sun it gets taller and leggier and makes a nice background plant in a border. If kept cut back, Turk's Cap can be used as a tall groundcover.

Turk's Cap is a perennial shrub that is evergreen and ever-blooming in the Valley and Mexico. In East Texas it dies back after the first hard frost. It should then be cut back to the ground and mulched heavily.

Virginia Young, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service


If you like red and are looking for a reliable, easy-to-grow plant, consider Turk's Cap (Malvaviseus arboreus). Its name is derived from the shape of the small blooms it produces continuously from early summer through late fall. A pistil protrudes above the petals that are loosely rolled to somewhat resemble a delicate rosebud. The dark green heart-shaped leaves of this hibiscus family member are large and provide an interesting contrast to the brilliantly colored, hummingbird-enticing flower.

Allow four to five feet for this shrub-like perennial, which can also grow four to five feet tall. It is easily started from transplants in spring or early summer. When established, it will come back freely each spring after dying to the ground in the winter. Sun or part sun will insure the healthiest growth and flower production. A minimum of water, fertilizer, and maintenance is required, and it will tolerate a variety of soils. Few diseases and pests trouble this old-time favorite of Texas gardeners.

Judy Chance, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service

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