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Island Bush Mallows our Lavatera- Bob Sussman

Island Bush Mallows our Lavatera- Bob Sussman


Lavatera or tree mallows are native to all the continents of the world with the exception of the poles. In North America, California they are native to our Channel Islands. There are two on the islands. In the southern islands we have the Lavatera glabra and the northern islands Lavatera assurgentiflora. Both are similar in that they are fairly big reaching 9′ tall and slightly wider than tall. The flowers are very similar too in terms of size. The L. glabra flower color is slightly more lavender and the assurgentiflora more to the red. Here are some pictures…take a look….

The above is of the Lavatera assurgentiflora. The flowers are about 2″ across and bloom most heavily from later winter to early summer. From summer on they flower sporadically. Flowers on both are the same size take a look.

The L. glabra flowers more in the lavender range.

The redder L. assurgentiflora.

Both are excellent pollinator / nectar flowers for bees and hummingbirds.

Both native to the Channel Islands and are endangered on the islands but grow fast as big in southern Calif.

Then in door number # 3……Lavatera ‘Purissima’. This is a cross between on of the native Lavatera in Mexico and assurgentiflora. This hybrid has somewhat more flowers and is also smaller. While the other two are in the H 9’x W 10′ the ‘Purissima’ is more like H 6′ x W 7′.  Flowers similar but you an see the shape is somewhat different.

Now for the “how to part.”  You start them off in either 1 or 5 gallon containers. Bigger than that is unnecessary as these are really fast growing and from a 1-gallon planted in late winter will reach 4′ to 5′ by the end of spring.

Here’s what they should look like.

The above are Lavatera ‘Purissima’ in 5-gallon pots.

These above are 1-gallon Lavatera glabra.

Plant them in full sun to part shade. In the really warm inland areas you’d plant them on a north facing wall or where they are partially shaded by trees. Water 1x/week to get them established . After about 6 months +/- reduce the watering frequency to 2x/month.

Stuff to watch out for…..where there are gophers place chicken wire in the hole to protect them. Rodents can be a problem but the chicken wire should be sufficient. Also, in the heat of summer they will drop some leaves, just normal. When the temps drop they new leaves will grow out.

We’ll how to summarize. All I can say that in my “non-native” landscape neighborhood this is one of the plants that I actually get some sincere complements and legitimate questions about. All good!

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Botanical Name

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Common Name

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Climactic Requirements


Full Sun


Drought Tolerant
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