Lavatera

Lavatera flowers

A group of vigorous woody annuals, biennials, perennials and shrubs, suitable for the shrubbery or mixed border. A cottage garden favourite with a long flowering season.

Family: Malvaceae (Mallow family)
Botanical Name: Lavatera
Common Names: Mallow

Foliage: Evergreen or deciduous, lightly or deeply lobed green leaves.

Flowers: Large showy, trumpet-shaped flowers. In shades of white, pink, red, purple etc. (depending on variety). Flowers are mostly single but a few semi-double forms are available.

Flowering Period: Summer

Soil: Moist but well-drained soil (chalk, sand or loam). Acid, alkaline or neutral pH.

Conditions: Best in full sun, will tollerate some shade. Plant in an east or south facing aspect. Protect from cold winds.

Habit: Erect, bushy.

Type: Perennial, annual, biennial or shrub.

Origin: Europe, Mediterranean.

Hardiness: Most varieties are reasonably hardy in UK.

Planting and Growing Lavatera

Plant container grown shrubby species in spring or sow seeds of annuals in spring, where they are to flower.

Grow in a well-drained, light soil, in a sunny spot. Mallow flower best in poor soils. If the soil is too rich it can cause excessive leaf growth at the expense of flowers. Tolerant of chalky soils.

Ideal for adding a splash of colour to flower and shrub borders. Smaller forms make good container plants.

Mallows attract bees and butterflies, making them ideal for cottage and wildlife gardens. Also a good choice for coastal gardens.

Taking Care of Lavatera

Support annuals with twiggy branches as they grow.

Pruning

Deadhead regularly to extend the flowering period.

Pull up and discard annuals to the compost heap at the end of the season.

Stems on shrubby varieties can be cut back to within 12in (30cm) of ground level, once new shoots appear in spring.

Pests and Diseases

Can be affected by leaf spot and rust.

Propagating Lavatera

Sow annuals outdoors in a prepared seed bed, in April or September, where they are to flower. Just covering the seeds with soil. Thin seedlings to around 18in (45cm) apart in mid spring.

Sow biennials outdoors in May-June.

Note: Annuals and biennials often self seed freely - producing plants the following season.

Take shoot tip cuttings of perennials and short side-shoots of shrubs in spring or late summer. Root in a propagator, using a light open compost.

Popular Varieties of Lavatera

Tree Mallows

Lavatera arborea (tree mallow) a biennial plant with grey-green, downy, deeply lobed leaves. Bears large pink, purple-veined flowers on tall spires from July to August. Hardy only in mild areas of UK. Height 6ft (1.8m) or more, spread to 3ft (90cm) or more.

Lavatera x clementii a vigorous semi-evergreen shrub with hairy, grey/green stems and leaves. Attractive, 2-3.5in (5-8cm) saucer-shaped flowers in summer, mainly in shades of pink and white. Cultivars include:

  • 'Barnsley' white flowers on long arching stems, which turn to soft pink over the summer. Height and spread: 6ft (2m). For sale at Van Meuwen.
  • 'Barnsley Baby' large open pale pink flowers throughout summer. Height: 2.5 ft (75cm). Spread: 2ft (60cm). For sale at Van Meuwen.
  • 'Bredon Springs' mauve and pink flowers. For sale at Crocus.
  • 'Burgundy Wine' dark pink, hollyhock-like blooms. For sale at Crocus.
  • 'Rosea' pink, hollyhock-like flowers (long flowering). For sale at Crocus.

Shrubs

Lavatera olbia (shrub) produces green, rounded or slightly lobed leaves and masses of purplish pink in July-November. Height to 4ft (1.2m). One of the best varieties is 'Rosea', with bright-pink flowers.

Annuals

Lavatera trimestris (annual) is a bushy erect plant with rounded or slightly lobed leaves. With large rose-pink or white trumpet-shaped flowers (up to 4in across) in July-October. Average height from 2 to 3ft (60 to 90cm). For sale at Van Meuwen. Good garden varieties include:

  • 'Dwarf Pink Blush' quick-growing, miniature busy plants, with pretty pink flowers. For sale at Thompson & Morgan.
  • 'Loveliness' an old variety producing rose-pink flowers. Available from Chiltern Seeds.
  • 'Mont Blanc' bears large white flowers, pink flushed on compact plants, up to 2ft (60cm) high. Spread to 45cm (18). For sale at Thompson & Morgan.
  • 'Ruby Regis' produces a profusion of large, deep cerise-red flowers. Available from Mr Fothergill's Seeds.
  • 'Silver Cup' compact form with large bright pink flowers, shaded silvery pink. Seeds available from Crocus.
  • 'Tanagra' is a tall variety with large cerise-pink blooms.
  • 'Twins Hot Pink' bushy plants, with round, satiny pink blooms from June to September. Height: 16-20in (40-50cm). Improved disease resistance and great garden performance. For sale at Thompson & Morgan.