As temperatures continue to hover in the 90s, I continue to focus on plants that perform well in heat and humidity. One of the best August performers in the Mary Snoddy garden is Turk’s Turban.
Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii has several common names that describe its appearance. “Lazy Hibiscus” and “Turk’s Turban” describe its bloom, which looks very much like a Hibiscus that has not yet opened or a tightly wrapped Arabian turban.
This southeastern native is one of the most undemanding perennials you can grow. While it prefers partial shade, it will grow and bloom well in full-sun, although its leaves may be smaller with more light. The blooms start appearing in the hottest part of the summer and continue to frost. The ‘arboreus’ part of the Latin name means ‘tree-like.’ The plant average height is 2-4 feet in height, so it is more shrub-like than tree-like. It my Zone 7 garden, it dies to the ground with a couple of hard freezes.
Dead top growth should be removed in winter since new growth will pop up the next season. Sometimes they seem slow to emerge in the spring. Don’t give up – These plants are stalwart. They will thrive in any soil, from sand to clay, acidic or alkaline, wet or dry. Malvaviscus leaves are fuzzy to touch, which helps with their marvelous heat tolerance. Once established, they are drought tolerant also.
Red blooms pop against the medium green foliage, attracting attention from hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. White bloom or variegated foliage varieties are available, too. If left alone, the plants reseed to form handsome colonies. Cuttings root easily when treated with hormone. The plants will root themselves if limbs lay against the soil. You can help with this layered rooting by scratching a stem surface a bit then holding the wounded area against the soil with a brick or rock. Check for roots after twelve weeks. Rooted sections can be cut away from the mother plant and transplanted to another location. Established clumps can be divided with a shovel, but this requires a sharp shovel and a strong foot to push it with.
The Turk’s Turban in my garden is more than 40 years old. It is located in a roadside bed where it gets heat from the street and also from an asphalt driveway. It receives no supplemental irrigation whatsoever and receives shade about two hours during mid-day. It has grown to be a clump 5 feet by 8 feet. The hummingbirds thank us every day. And our deer ignore it completely.
This is truly a “plant it and forget it” star.