Thursday, February 23, 2012

Plant profile: Lavatera

Lavatera maritima
(Tree mallow)
Latin name: Lavatera (pronounced "lav-ah-TER-ah")
Common name: Mallow
Originally from: California, the Mediterranean, central and eastern Asia, and Australia
Blooms: Pink, lavender, white, some varieties streaked.
Light: Sun, part sun
Water: Drought tolerant - rain is plenty.
Where to find in P. Garden: On the Mariposa Center Garden, actually.

About 25 species make up the genus Lavatera, and we have two of those species on the Mariposa Center Garden (aka "the Strip"):

Lavatera maritima
(Tree mallow)
Lavatera maritima (Tree mallow) from the Mediterranean, with its' veined lavender flowers, softly fuzzy celadon green leaves and relentless blooming habits, is a real winner in the Mariposa Center Garden.

Couple that with total imperviousness to drought and I am even willing to overlook it's somewhat blowsy habit. It's a fast grower but short lived. No worries - in 5 years just plant some more.

This one was labeled Lavatera "Barnsley" but that cultivar looks more pink. I suspect an error in the labelling department!

Lavatera assurgentiflora
(Island Mallow)
Lavatera assurgentiflora (Island Mallow) is unique to California, specifically the Channel Islands, a chain of eight islands located in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California along the Santa Barbara Channel.

Our first one grew quickly from a 4" pot to a 5' tall and wide shrub in one season. It suffered from aphids the first year but bounced back. That, coupled with the fact it's always covered in magenta blooms, and grows heartily in the scalding sun down on Mariposa Street with zero summer water, made me a fan. So we got another one.

The common name, mallow, might make you think of marshmallow - the spongy confectionary without which a campfire event is incomplete. That particular treat is in fact made from the root of the plant Althaea officinalis or Marsh Mallow. However, our Lavateras are in the same family as the Marsh Mallow - the Malvaceae - so there is a connection. Just don't try and eat their roots...

The genus Lavatera used to contain plants that looked similar

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