Growing the Lovely Lavatera – Mallow Bush

  • Posted by Boris Legarni
  • Updated: 21st December 2016
  • Published: 15th August 2016
  • In: Boris Legarni, Front Page, Get Gardening, Hints and Tips, Seasonal Suggestions

I enjoyed some time on the south coast this week. As I walked down the avenues of the quaint coastal villages the beautiful bushes clothed in flower caught my eye. I identified them as hibiscus bushes, and promptly decided that I would come back home and pick some stems from my hibiscus flower this weekend and write up about them in my weekly column. However, as I came back to my rainy northern county I found my hibiscus far from flowering, they are still struggling to show the buds of the flowers! As I like to write about a flower which is in season all over the country, I changed my plan to write about a very similar flower that I call the poor man’s hibiscus –it is one of its close relatives with similar flowers – The lavatera. This bush grows with ease all over the country in all weathers and being now in flower all over the country it deserves its place as the flower of the week!

Botanical Name: Lavatera Common Name: Mallow

lavatera arborea tortoise Annual Tree Mallow

The older text books mainly concentrate on the annual species known as Annual Mallow, they grow to around a metre high and are planted as hardy annuals from seed in the spring or autumn. The bush lavatera has only become a common plant over the last few decades, but it has proved itself as a very rewarding shrub. This shrubby plant can make a very impressive display with loads of trumpet shaped flowers along its stems right through the summer, but only if pruned and dead headed correctly. Many a shrub will look tired by now with hardly any flowers- this is because the owner has neglected it and has not bothered to prune it, consequently, after the first flowers at the beginning of summer the plant will concentrate on changing every flower into an unattractive seed head, and very few more flower stalks will emerge. To avoid this and keep your lavatera blooming beautiful throughout the summer, when the last flower stalk begins to fade the flower stalk must be removed and another will follow in quick succession. When pruning, aim at pruning the stems at different heights which will ensure a more rounded bush. Most varieties can reach 2m but it is not necessary to leave it to grow to this height. An advisable height for a tidy bush is to prune to around a metre high. Recently I found a dwarf variety for sale by the name of ‘Tree Mallow lavatera arborea tortoise’, which is definitely worth considering if you are short of space. An added advantage of lavatera is that the leaves are semi evergreen and the semi wooded stems will usually last through an average winter.

Lavatera – Buying and planting guide.

The plant can be bought as a potted plant at any time of the year, and as long as it is planted in a place that receives a few hours sunshine each day it should do well in any common garden soil. The colours vary from white or pink to deep red, with many varieties beginning as one colour and changing colour over time. As always, check the label for size and colour before buying. They can also be easily be propagated from a friend’s bush – plant a semi ripe twig in a cold frame in late summer or early autumn. Another option is to remove a rooted sucker and pot it up.

Cutting Guide : Most people would not class the mallow as a cut flower, but I would advise you to try it. Cut a few stems, remove the lower leaves and any flowers which have already died and place them in a tall vase. The higher flowers should open in the house as you remove the lower faded ones.

Next Week: Soft fruit picking

Have an enjoyable gardening week!

Boris Legarni.

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Made in the shade

We have just moved to a typical Edwardian terraced house in Southfields, south-west London. It has a north-facing garden with an ugly shed and one border with four very small living plants – a rose, lavender, thyme and something with variegated leaves. We do not seem to get much sun in the garden.

My aims are to grow herbs for cooking; to grow apple and pear trees; to hide or cover the ugly shed, possibly with a vine; to get privacy from neighbours on three sides; to have somewhere to sit with a drink at the end of the day; to cover up a double manhole cover on the terrace; to change the paving to something more in keeping with the house; to reduce the amount of grass.

I do not like bright colours and would like the garden to be predominantly white or pale colours. I am keen to have more lavender. I would be grateful for ideas on what likes the shade, and what will grow fairly quickly.

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Tina and Mark Podmore, who are both in their mid-thirties, lived for 10 years in a Fulham flat before acquiring their first house. They were, said Tina, “desperate for a garden”. Although her letter concentrated on the problems, the garden is not the nightmare scenario I had expected. The boundary fences are upright. The levels have not been messed up. The proportions are good, 20ft by 35ft, and the wish list that Tina made was realistic. There was even sun pouring into the garden from the west.

The shed, 9ft by 6ft, is ugly, but not dilapidated. It looked as though it could stand being moved. At the moment it is set against the back boundary. You look, over too short a space, straight into its long side and plain, blank window. If the shed were swung round the other way, so that its long side lay along the right-hand boundary, it would not look so dominant. And it would then present an uncluttered, clear face which Mark Podmore could cover with a vine. He’s a wine agent and is dead set on the idea of a Chateau Southfield vintage. `Triomphe d’Alsace’ might be the vine to use.

It would be prudent to treat the wooden fence with a preservative before the shed is put in its new position. The shed itself could do with some treatment, too. At the moment it is just brown. But there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be jazzed up, customised. Cuprinol has a range of coloured wood stains that would be ideal. There’s a good holly green and some excellent smudgy sage colours. In addition, half a day’s worth of a decent carpenter can transform a bog-standard shed into something with the charm of a miniature Edwardian cricket pavilion, in keeping with the style of the house.

Another wooden fence, sturdy and well made, about 5ft high, makes the left-hand boundary of the garden, with a border running in front of it, the whole length of the garden. It is much too narrow, with room for only a single line of plants.

The fence has nothing growing on it, so I suggested it should be used for the fruit trees. If parallel wires are strung along against the supports, about 1ft apart, the Podmores could grow espalier, fan or cordon apples and pears. Both fruit grow in their neighbours’ gardens, so pollination should not be a problem.

Mark Podmore likes espaliers best. They should start with well-grown trees with two parallel sets of branches already trained out, ready to tie to their wires. Since there isn’t much space to store fruit, instant eaters may be best. `George Cave’ is a delicious, crisp early apple, ready from the beginning of August. `Ellison’s Orange’, ripening in September, is one of my favourite apples, strongly scented and wonderfully juicy. As for pears, `Beth’ can be picked in September or October and after storing for only one or two weeks it is ready to eat. Three trees will easily fill the space; they can be planted in November or December this year.

I went into the usual spiel about first enriching the soil, breaking up the clay subsoil, etc etc. At this point, people’s eyes usually glaze over; Mark Podmore’s eyes positively lit up at the thought of hard physical labour. They’d been given seven sacks of Moo-Poo as a house-warming present and he had been looking forward to putting it to the test.

When the backdrop of trees is in place, tied to the supports along the fence, the Podmores will be able to think about the border. It could be at least 6ft wide. Tina Podmore had already started at the end nearest the house, with lavender, blue violas, catmint, variegated iris, variegated euonymus. Those are the colours to build on: grey, blue, mauve, purple, white. I would add splashes of lemon yellow to stop the border looking too sleepy.

Some of the herbs in the wish list could be planted among the flowers in the border: variegated sage, rosemary, the dark purple basil `Ruffles’, bright curled parsley mixed with lobelia in the foreground. The sage and rosemary, being evergreen, would give winter structure, and the border could be finished off along the front with a low-growing lavender, such as `Munstead’. A double row of bricks laid on edge between border and lawn will give the lavenders flopping space and make it easier to keep a neat edge.

There would be room for Regale lilies, the pretty little delphinium `Blue Butterfly’, agapanthus, some clumps of spotty-leaved pulmonaria, peonies, scillas, `White Triumphator’ tulips, `Thalia’ narcissus, mats of dark- leaved ajuga for winter colour, biennial evening primrose, snowdrops, the stinking hellebore for its wonderful, dark, winter leaves, more violas such as creamy `Moonshine’, blue `Alata’, and `Ardross Gem’. Then perhaps they could add aquilegias of blue, pink and purple, white tobacco flowers for their summer scent and double-flowered Geranium pratense.

From inside the kitchen, the Podmores will be able to look directly down the length of the border. It needs something at the end to complete the vista. Being south-facing, the end of the garden gets evening sun. It seems the right place for a seat for the “drink at the end of the day”. With the shed swung round, there will be plenty of space to fit one in.

Agriframes make a simple arbour 5ft wide which might fit the bill. Tina Podmore, who works for a PR company, fancied something less utilitarian. Mark had seen arbours at the National Trust’s garden at Castle Drogo in Devon, covered in something he liked but didn’t know the name of. It’s Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica), an unusual choice, but with lovely bark and autumn colour. They could add clematis for summer colour.

The terrace is serviceable, but covered in concrete slabs, 18in square, which the Podmores don’t like. But the proportion of terrace to the rest of the garden feels exactly right and the levels seem sensible, so all they have to do is replace the paving. Since the back of the house is built of buff-yellow London stock brick, I would choose the same brick for the terrace. They should look for new manhole covers, the kind you can infill with bricks to match the surround.

I’ve already received an invitation to go back and see the garden next year. I’m looking forward to it.

Cuprinol Garden Shades water-resistant wood stain, in 10 colours, costs pounds 7.99 a litre (01373 465151 for stockists).


The last of the University of Oxford Botanic Garden’s series of summer garden tours take place this week. On Tuesday, the theme is “The gardener’s palette”, on how to use colour. On Thursday there is a more general tour of the garden, explaining the work that goes on there. The tours start at 7pm, and cost pounds 5 each. Meet underneath the Danby Arch. For tickets, call Louise Allen on 01865 276920.

English Heritage has arranged two tours tomorrow at Audley End, the great Robert Adam house which it owns in Essex. In 1763, the owner, Sir John Griffin, commissioned “Capability” Brown to lay out the landscape round the house. “Brown and the development of the 18th-century garden” is the subject of the tours, which start at 11.30am and 2.30pm. For more details, call 01799 522399.

N Ahmad writes from Reading with a query about lavatera `Barnsley’, which he bought in April this year. “It has grown more than 3ft but hasn’t produced any flower yet. The same variety in my neighbour’s garden is in full bloom. What is wrong with my plant?” Mr Ahmad doesn’t say whether his neighbour’s plant was put in at the same time as his, or whether it is older. It may simply be that his own plant hasn’t got into its stride yet, having been planted only a few months ago. Or it may be growing in a less good situation. Mallows of all kinds like full sun best. They are not generally fussy about soils, but ground that is too rich promotes leaf growth at the expense of flowers. Perhaps Mr Ahmad has been too kind to his `Barnsley’. Starvation rations from now on.

Weekend work

Tomatoes in containers and growing bags need a regular fortnightly dose of feed rich in potassium which encourages fruit to form successfully. The bush variety `Tumbler’ (Suttons pounds 1.70) does well in grow-bags and pots. If you can set out plants at the beginning of May, you will have fruit by the middle of July.

`Super Marmande’ (Marshalls 77p) sown on 18 March has started to set fruit. These are large, meaty tomatoes, strangely-shaped, but superbly- flavoured. Nip out the tops of staked types such as this now. This will encourage the fruit that have already set to swell and ripen.

Over the next month, take cuttings of tender fuchsias and geraniums. Choose strong, healthy shoots for geraniums and crop off the top four inches. Trim the cutting at a point immediately below a leaf joint, remove all mature leaves and any flower buds and pot the cuttings up in a sandy mixture of compost. Do not cover themStem cuttings can be taken of hibiscus, hydrangea, kolkwitzia and perovskia or Russian sage (a tall, shrubby catmint which flowers between August and September).

Glyphosate can control fast-growing weeds, but use total weedkillers such as this on the calmest of days when there is no danger of the spray drifting. As an extra precaution, I use an old tin tray as a shield.

Where bindweed is growing amongst other plants, you can untwine it and bundle it into a stiff plastic sack, then spray it inside the sack. The more leaf area Glyphosate covers, the better it works, so, paradoxically, you need to let bindweed grow before you tackle it.

Trample horsetail lightly underfoot before spraying. This bruising is said to increase the rate at which the plant absorbs the herbicide.



Lavatera adds a romantic note to the garden with its flowers that resemble hibiscus or mini hollyhock blossoms. Lavatera sports an abundance of flowers in jewel-tone shades. This easy-growing plant is great for large containers or the back of a border.

genus name
  • Lavatera
  • Sun
plant type
  • Annual,
  • Perennial
  • 3 to 8 feet,
  • 8 to 20 feet
  • 2 to 6 feet
flower color
  • Purple,
  • White,
  • Pink
foliage color
  • Blue/Green
season features
  • Fall Bloom,
  • Summer Bloom
special features
  • Low Maintenance,
  • Attracts Birds,
  • Good for Containers,
  • Cut Flowers
  • 7,
  • 8,
  • 9,
  • 10
  • Seed

Garden Plans For Lavatera

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Colorful Combinations

Although it does not have the diverse mix of colors you find in hollyhocks, lavatera offers flowers in pinks, purples, and whites. Many of these colors also have beautiful striations of deeper tones, and some boast dark eyes in the center of the flowers. Lavatera begins its season in mid-summer and continues to bloom until frost. No matter where you plant it in the garden, lavatera takes center-stage when its stems are laden with blossoms. This plant is also a great option for a quick space filler, as it can often reach full height in one growing season.

Discover bold color combinations to create a “wow” factor in your garden.

Lavatera Care Must-Knows

Much like its close cousin the hollyhock, lavatera is easy to grow but it does not like hot summer weather. It likes well-drained soil with even moisture. If it is kept too wet, it is likely to rot; too dry and the plant will also suffer.

If you are planning on growing lavatera from seed, it is important to know that this plant has an extensive root system that does not like to be disturbed. It is best to sow lavatera seed directly in the ground. If you want to get an early start on flowers, you can sow seeds in advance indoors. Make sure to use a biodegradable pot, like a peat pot, so you won’t disturb the sensitive roots.

Lavatera should be planted in full sun for the most prolific flowers and strongest plants. Because it is such a fast grower, lavatera is prone to flopping if grown in too much shade. You can also remedy this by pruning it on occasion to help encourage good branching and to keep it on the shorter side. While full sun is ideal for flower production, part sun may be beneficial in warmer climates to help keep the plant cool during warm summers.

Add these pruning tools to your gardening bench.

More Varieties of Lavatera

‘Mont Rose’ lavatera

Lavatera ‘Mont Rose’ bears soft-pink flowers on a compact 3-foot-tall plant.

‘Mont Blanc’ lavatera

This variety of Lavatera bears pure-white flowers on a compact 2-foot-tall plant.

Malva rose

Lavatera assurgentiflora, an evergreen shrub in coastal climates, has red-and-white-striped flowers that are 2-3 inches across. The plant tolerates salt spray and coastal challenges with ease. It grows 6-10 feet tall

Tree mallow

Lavatera maritima is a fast-growing shrub that reaches 8 feet tall and 12 feet wide in short order. Its pink to white flowers are up to 3 inches across. Zones 6-8

‘Silver Cup’ lavatera

This Lavatera selection has big pink flowers with darker veins on a compact 3-foot-tall plant.

‘Pink Blush’ lavatera

Lavatera trimestris ‘Pink Blush’ has spectacular large blooms of bright blush pink that cover the 3-foot-tall plants from summer until fall. Annual

Plant Lavatera With:

It’s amazing that the tall, dramatic spider flower is only an annual. Once temperatures warm up, it zooms to 4 feet or more plants very quickly and produces large balls of flowers with fascinating long seedpods that whirl out from it. Cut it for vases, but be aware that the flowers shatter easily after a few days. It typically self-seeds prolifically, so you only have to plant it once. Because it develops surprisingly large thorns, it’s best to keep spider flower away from walkways.Plant established seedlings in spring after all danger of frost has passed. Cleome does best in moderately rich, well-drained soil. Be careful about fertilizing or you’ll have extremely tall floppy plants. Group in clusters of 6 or more for best effect.

Nothing beats a dahlia for summer color. Growing these varied, spiky flowers is like having a box of garden crayons at your disposal. The flowers form on branching, fleshy stems or open in solitary splendor on the bedding-plant types in mid- to late summer. Several different flower categories, from the petite mignonettes to the gigantic dinner-plate dahlias, offer possibilities for any space.Expert dahlia growers recommend pinching off the first crop of side flower buds to encourage vigorous plant branching and larger flowers in peak season. All dahlias are fodder for brilliant seasonal cut bouquets and are always one of the most popular cut flowers at local farmer’s markets. Their blooming season extends into fall and is only halted by the first frost.Gardeners in climates colder than Zone 8 should cut back the withered foliage after the first frost and dig up tubers to store over winter. For a fast start with dahlia plants before it’s safe to plant outdoors, pot the tubers up, water sparingly and grow in a sunny location until sprouts appear, and then transplant outdoors after the last frost.

Moonflower is one of the most romantic plants you can grow in the garden. It’s a statuesque, ideal evening-garden plant bearing large trumpet-shape flowers that unfurl in the evening (or on overcast days) and stay open until the sun rises. Some are sweetly fragrant when open. This beautiful plant is also very heat- and drought-resistant. Beware: It’s quite poisonous, especially the seeds.Moonflower can be found as an established plant in garden centers. Plant outdoors after all danger of frost has passed. Give it moderate moisture and fertilizer. You can also train it into a treelike plant along a stake, especially in a large container. Datura reseeds freely to the point of being invasive in some conditions.

How to grow lavatera

Lavatera, commonly known as mallows, are available as annual, biennial, perennial or shrubby varieties.


The flowers are large, open blooms, in white or pink and are great for attracting bees and other pollinating insects. With their long flowering season, lavateras are good for filling gaps or including in a summer container display.

Browse our handy lavatera Grow Guide, below.

With its long flowering season, lavatera is good for filling gaps or including in a summer container display.

Where to grow lavatera

Grow lavatera in fertile, well-drained soil in full sun. Make sure it’s a sheltered spot out of any cold, drying winds.

Planting lavatera

Lavatera ‘Beauty Mix’

Sow annual lavatera seeds in trays under cover in early spring. When seedlings are large enough to handle, pot on and harden off before planting out into borders.

When planting shrubby lavateras, dig a generous hole, adding compost for drainage and a handful of mychorrhizal fungi to encourage good root development.

Propagating lavatera

If you want to grow from your existing plant, let some flowerheads develop into seedpods and save the seeds to sow the following spring. Or, you can take softwood cuttings.

Lavatera: problem solving

Shrubby lavatera growing with buddleia

Lavatera is generally pest-free but can be prone to rust and fungal diseases. Remove affected foliage as and when you spot signs of disease.

Caring for lavateras

Deadhead plants through the summer to encourage more flowers. Cut perennial varieties back in autumn and mulch annually with well-rotted manure or compost. The shrubby varieties can cope with a mild frost, but will struggle if the thermometer dips below -5°C. Prune in early spring to encourage flowers on new season’s growth.

Follow our guide to spring pruning.

Lavatera varieties to grow

Lavatera ‘Mont Blanc’ Advertisement

  • ‘Beauty Mix’ – is an annual variety, that produces pink and white flowers on tall, bushy plants, through the summer. The Royal Horticultural Society has awarded it its prestigious Award of Garden Merit
  • Lavatera maritima – also known as the tree mallow, is a fast-growing medium-sized, semi-evergreen shrub. White flowers with a flush of purple appear from spring through to autumn. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it the Award of Garden Merit (AGM)
  • ‘Mont Blanc’ – a large bushy annual plant with masses of huge white, trumpet-shaped flowers, which are extremely attractive to bees
  • ‘Barnsley’ – a bushy shrub variety with soft pink flowers with a darker centre. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it the Award of Garden Merit (AGM)

How to Grow Lavatera Plants

Guide to Growing Tree Mallow, Royal Mallow, & Rose Mallow

Members of the Lavatera genus can be hardy annuals, biennials or perennials, but are normally treated as hardy annuals in the garden.

They are shrubbery and can reach a height of 60 cm to 1.8 m. They carry pink, purple or white trumpet shaped flowers.

The perennial members of Lavatera flower in the summer, whereas annuals bloom from summer to the first frost of winter.

Some of the common names for Lavatera include Mallow, Annual Mallow, and Tree Mallow.

Lavatera assurgentiflora – Southern island mallow by Brewbooks.

Lavatera tanagra by Photofarmer; creative commons.

Lavatera Growing and Care Guide

Common Names: Tree Mallow, Royal Mallow, Rose Mallow, Annual Mallow, Mission Mallow.
Life Cycle: Hardy annual. Hardy biennial. Hardy perennial commonly grown as a half hardy annual by gardeners.
Height: 24 to 36 inches (30 to 90 cm).
Native: Mediterranean, Central and Eastern Asia, Australasia.
Growing Region: Zones 2 to 10. As a perennial in zones 8 to 10.
Flowers: Annuals: summer to first frost. Perennials: summer.
Flower Details: Red, white, pink. Five petals. Cup shapes. Trumpets.
Foliage: Lobed. Palm-like.
Sow Outside: Cover seed. Every two or three weeks from just before the last frost until mid-spring, and in early autumn in warm climates. Spacing 12 to 30 inches (30 to 75 cm).
Sow Inside: Use peat pots. Germination time: two to three weeks. Temperature 70°F (21°C). Seven or eight weeks before expected last frost. Transplant outdoors following the last frost.
Requirements: Full sunlight. Good drainage. Moist soil. Average soil. Monthly feed. Regular watering. Deadhead. Propagate: cuttings in spring.

How to Grow Mallow (Lavatera)

When growing Mallow and other Lavatera plants outdoors as annuals it is best to sow them continuously from spring to early summer; this will create a continuous bloom of Mallow flowers. Once the sees are sown, simply cover them. Lavatera plants likes to grow in a sunny part of the garden that has good drainage. For the best flowering the soil should not be moist and not too rich.

If planning to first grow indoors, then they should be planted in peat pots, about 7 or 8 weeks before putting out in the garden (transplant Mallow from after the last frost of spring until the start of summer). They take two to three weeks to germinate at 21 degrees Centigrade. They should be spaced at 30 to 45 cm (small Lavatera species) or 60 to 90 cm apart (larger varieties).

Caring for Lavatera in the garden

Once growing, Lavatera should be watered regularly and dead flower heads removed. It is best to fertilize them with a low nitrogen feed. If you require more plants and don’t want to let them self seed then take cuttings at the start of summer.

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