Operation NICE! plant of the season
Summer 2006

Perennial: Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus drummondii)

 Turk's Cap
           
Photo: by Lon Turnbull


Description:  Turk’s Cap is a shrubby perennial that 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.  In spring, stems with heart-shaped leaves emerge from the base.  The leaves are soft and velvety on the underside.  Turk’s Cap starts to bloom in late spring and continues until frost.  The name “Turk’s Cap” comes from the bright red flowers that resemble a Turkish fez.  The flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies.  In the fall, Turk’s Cap produces little pumpkin-shaped red seed pods that contain a number of viable seed, eaten by a variety of birds.  In our area, Turk’s Cap dies completely to the ground with the first freeze and remains dormant until the spring.

Bloom/berry period:  Late May/early June to frost.

Planting sites:  Plant in full, dappled, or partial shade.  This plant likes well-drained soil and will grow best in soil that has been amended with organic matter like compost.  Allow 3-5 feet between plants.  After planting, water well and mulch.  The plant will spread slowly –its roots spread horizontally – and can be dug up and divided after several years.

Watering Instructions:
  Turk’s Cap should be watered once every other week until established.  After it is established, Turk’s Cap only needs supplemental watering during a prolonged drought.  Do not over water or it may rot.

Comments:  This is an interesting and beautiful ornamental plant for a shade garden.  It blooms all summer and into the fall.  In very shady spots it can work as a ground cover.  Turk’s Cap is a hummingbird magnet.  Consider using Turk’s Cap in areas where you might plant azaleas or other shrubs.  Remember that Turk’s Cap needs much less soil preparation than azaleas do.

Look for the NICE! Plant of the Season signs and information sheets on your next visit to a participating North Texas nursery.  Thank you for using native plants in your landscapes.


Written by: Dr. Rebecca Dickstein, Professor of Biology, University of North Texas.

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Last noted update by Lon:  March 19, 2009.