Lavatera - Rose Mallow, Tree Mallow
DESCRIPTION: These are shrubs, perennials and annuals that are natives of southern Europe, California, the Himalayas and other places. The most popular kind is the Rose Mallow, Lavatera trimestris, from southern Europe. It grows 2-3 feet high and produces large, rose-colored flowers. There are improved varieties of the annual Lavatera trimestris that are wonderful plants for growing in cool greenhouses for decoration and for providing cut flowers. They bloom in late winter and spring. L. Olbia is the best Tree Mallow. It grows 5-6 feet high, has woody stems and bears carmine-rose colored flowers in the summer. L. arborea is a very vigorous plant that grows 6-10 feet tall. It has handsome foliage and purplish flowers in the summer. A variety that has variegated green and pale-yellow foliage is sometimes used for summer flowerbeds; it is then treated as an annual and raised from seeds sown in a greenhouse in February and March. L. assurgentiflora is hardy in mild climates only. This shrub grows 6 to 10 feet high and bears rose-purple flowers veined with darker purple. It blooms the first year from seeds and is very resistant to drought and in California is often planted as a windbreak.
POTTING: Any good, well-cultivated garden soil will be fine for the annual Rose Mallow to grow in. A sunny spot should also be chosen. Those that are grown in the greenhouse should have coarse, rich, porous soil in well-drained pots. When they have filled 6-8-inch pots with roots, they would benefit from weekly applications of dilute liquid fertilizer. The plants should be staked and neatly tied. Tree Mallows can grow in regular, well-drained garden soil in a sunny area. The shoots of the past summer's growth can be pruned to within 9 or 10 inches of the base in March. This produces new, strong shoots annually and keeps it looking shapely. Pruning isn't necessary, though, unless the branches are damaged by frost, which sometimes happens; they should then be cut back to the undamaged growth in March.
PROPAGATION: The Rose Mallow can be increased by sowing seeds outside in the spring where they are to bloom. Sow the seeds thinly, because they're going to have to be thinned out to 10 or 12 inches apart, anyway, to allow them to fully develop. The flowers will bloom for many weeks if the faded blooms are removed and where the summers aren't too hot. Those that are cultivated in a greenhouse can be increased by seeds sown from September to January in porous soil in well-drained pots or flats. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, they should be lifted and set 2 inches apart in flats or separately in 2½-inch pots. Keep them in a sunny spot where the night temperature is about 50 degrees and the temperature on sunny days is 5-10 degrees higher. Make sure the soil isn't constantly soaked; allow it to become nearly dry before watering thoroughly. When they begin to crowd each other in the flats or are well rooted in the pots, transplant them to 4 or 5 inch pots that are filled with coarse, rich, porous soil or plant them in benches of similar soil and space them 8-9 inches apart. If they were set in pots, they are later potted in 6-8 inches pots in which they will eventually flower. Tree Mallows can be propagated in April, by sowing seeds singly in 3-inch pots filled with sandy, loamy, soil and placing them in a frame. Plant them outside when they've filled their pots with roots. It would be smart to choose fairly sheltered, but sunny positions, for the Tree Mallows because they can be damaged in harsh weather.
VARIETIES: The Annual Rose Mallow - L. trimestris and its varieties Sunset, Loveliness, splendens and alba.
The Tree Mallows - L. Olbia and L. arborea (these two aren't hardy where winters are colder than those of Washington D.C.). L. assurgentiflora; L. insularis.
Beauty Mix Lavatera
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