Monday, June 4, 2012

The Turks are Here!

One of my favorite plants is Turk’s cap and it is one that you should check out. The botanical name is Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii but most know it by the beautiful red “Turk’s cap” bloom. This perennial flowering shrub will reach 2-4 feet by the end of the summer, taller in areas where it receives some sun, shorter when it is in full shade. Yep, it can be grown in full shade.

Red Turk's Cap
Pink Turk's Cap
This plant begins to bloom in late spring and continues until fall, producing unique bright red blooms (there are white and pink flower forms) that never unfurl. The name “Turks Cap” comes from the flowers that resemble a Turkish fez. The pistils protrude beyond the petals in the center of the flowers. 

Blooms are followed by marble sized red fruit. The flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies (Gulf Fritillary, Black Swallowtail and Painted Lady) and the seeds are eaten by a variety of birds.

The plant can be propagated from seed, soft wood cuttings, dug and divided and by layering. Turk’s Cap likes well-drained soil and soil that has been amended with compost or organic matter. After planting, water well and mulch, then after the plant is established supplemental watering is only needed during a prolonged drought. This plant has no pests but might get mildew if planted in full sun. If the plant gets leggy it can be sheared back a little in the early summer to encourage more branching and to form a more dense form. The plant will spread slowly – but is not a problematically invasive plant. 

Turk’s Cap is a native of Texas and Mexico and even though the fruit is prized by birds and other wildlife, this plant is somewhat deer resistant! That is good news for us Holly Lake denizens.

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