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WHATS BLOOMIN’ IN PARADISE? A gardeners journey

Plant Subject: Turks Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus)

September 27, 2013
By ANITA FORCE MARSHALL ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

First impression: Vibrant, lipstick red, folded umbrella like flowers. I am amazed at all the blossoms gorgeous, even though they never open. The grass green matte leaves are the perfect companion to accent the unique scarlet blossoms. Its plant's appearance reminds me of our adored Hibiscus. Gosh, we have oodles planted and they reward us every day with hundreds of never ending color. You can see these multitudes of shy, scarlet, sleepy flowers blooming but never revealing their inner most secret self at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: Our star's flowers will remind you of Hibiscus. Malvaviscus is a genus of flowering plants in the mallow family. They differ from their closely related Hibiscus by having ear shaped petals and fleshy fruits. Turks Cap is very unusual to our northern visitors, but quite common in our gardens. It is one of those frequently asked "Why doesn't that Hibiscus open up?" question. The long pedals form tubular flowers that remain unopened and pendulous. These Hibiscus like flowers never open, hence the nickname Sleeping Hibiscus. Guess what? I have some bushes that can flower all year round! They are a sprawling, multi-branched evergreen shrub or, many times you will see these as standards, bushes that have been grafted on tree stocks. I have enjoyed our many pseudo Turks Cap trees. Shrub or standard can be planted alone or grouped together with a mature height of 12 feet. This sun to partial-shade lover is drought tolerant and needs minimal care. Tender too cold, when it gets chilly aka in the thirties, its leaves drop. No worry, once our temperatures begin to warm up, usually the next day new growth will appear. Here in paradise when our plant looses their leaves from cold, we should refrain from trimming. Pruning adds another stress on the already stressed cold plant. Since we don't get cold much, we have lots of opportunity to admire those unusual blossoms. Routinely, they need natural pruning to control their leggy, sprawling shape. Hedging and edging pruning practices takes away from the flowering potential of our star. Did you know we get hummingbirds here in paradise? Besides migrating thru in the spring and fall, some will stop here and take up residence for the fall and winter seasons. This plant is a must for them to pick your yard as their winter home. When their food source is available and nearby, they will reward you with never ending escapades of weightlessness and acrobatics.

Pros: Almost always blooming - Available as a Standard - Blooming brings in the pollinators Hummers must have! - Salt tolerant East to grow Drought resistant - Great choice for dramatic color.

Article Photos

Turks Cap. Photos by Anita Force Marshall.

Cons: Hedging and edging has less blooms May tire of neighbors asking what's wrong with your Hibiscus? - Blooming brings in the pollinators Who don't love Hummers? Not cold tolerant - Non native.

Conclusion: We have oodles of eye catching Turks Cap's bursting with blossoms. Even a handsome prince can't wake up these blossoms, but we invite any visiting royalty to try in our tropical eye catching garden.

Don't wanna miss this bloomer!



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