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What is a Lavatera Plant and How to Care for It?

Absolutely stunning pink lavatera flowers growing in the garden

Genus Lavatera

Welcome to the mallow plant family! This is a quaint little family of flowering plants that grow in lovely little shrubby habits and bear stunning hibiscus like blooms. Why do we like them? Well they’re beautiful, and wonderfully easy to care for.

The mallow family (lavatera) only contains 25 plant species that will grow either as perennials or annuals. They’re considered as being short lived at a maximum of 5 years, but let’s be honest, 5 years is a substantial amount of time to everyone but trees and dinosaurs.

These wonderfully attractive plants are related to both hibiscus and hollyhocks and are sure to contribute to your garden not only with their supreme beauty, but with all of the beneficial pollinators they attract to the area!

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What do Lavatera Plants Look Like?

Gorgeous light pink lavatera flower blossoms growing in an ornamental garden

Growth Habit

Starting under the earth, the lavatera shrub grows from a long and spindly root system. This means that their roots are quite delicate, so once they are planted, it is best to not attempt transplanting them.

From these roots grows a bushy or shrubby plant with a mounding habit. They will usually achieve heights between 6 and 8 feet with a spread of 4 to 6 feet. They have a rather airy appearance to them with large and well separated leaves.

Lavatera shrubs are known for being fast growing and can achieve their near full height after only a couple of years. They will live to be anywhere from 4-8 years as long as their ideal growing conditions are maintained.

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Flowers

Now the piece de resistance: the lavatera flower. Lavatera flowers are very similar to hibiscus flowers in that they have a satiny texture to them.

Each lavatera flower will have 5 satin textured petals. The color will vary from species to species, but they will be anywhere from white, to pink, to purple. They are usually about 3 inches across and will have different colored veins radiating from the centre.

Lavatera flowers tend to blossom very heavily in the summer time (and sometimes last until late autumn), but can also bloom periodically throughout the rest of the year as well. These are perennial plants, meaning that flowers will bloom year after year as long as they are happy.

Leaves

Not only are the flowers of the lavatera plant attractive, but so is the foliage. Lavatera leaves are lush and large. Each leaf is deeply lobed and is kind of similar to that of a maple leaf. They are usually a grey green color, though this will vary depending on the species.

Lavateras are evergreen plants. This means that they bear leaves that will remain green and persist all year long — though there are some species that are semi-evergreen.

Where is Lavatera a Native Plant?

Lovely bunch of pure white lavatera flower blossoms against evergreen leaves

I dare you to find a place where a lavatera plant can’t grow! Okay that’s easy, they don’t like in arctics, but they can live pretty much anywhere else.

Lavateras are native plants mainly to the western Mediterranean, Europe, and certain parts of Asia, but they have become naturalized all over the world, mainly in North America.

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They can be found growing wild in coastal regions, inland plains, forests, and everything in between (as long as they aren’t too wet!). Lavatera plants can exist in USDA growing zones 6 through 10.

What are some Lavatera Species?

Very lovely salmon pink mallow flowers of the lavatera plant

Lavatera Thuringiaca

Lavatera thuringiaca also goes by the common names of shrubby mallow or garden tree mallow. This lavatera species in native to eastern Europe from Germain to Italy, and throughout southwestern Asia as well.

This herbaceous perennial variety can be identified by first its rather tall growth habit of up to 8 feet, and leaves that are palmately loved. They also bear lovely light pink flowers that bloom all throughout the summer.

Lavatera Trimestris

Lavatera trimestris, also known as annual mallow, rose mallow, royal mallow, regal mallow, or common annual tree mallow, is native to mainly Mediterranean regions.

This rose mallow is an annual plant that only grows to be around 45 inches in height. L trimestris can be identified by its funnel shaped flowers of white and pink with deep maroon centres that flower all throughout the early summer and late summer.

Lavatera Assurgentiflora

Lavatera assurgentiflora also as a few common names: island mallow, mission mallow, royal mallow, malva rose, island mallow, and island tree mallow. It is native to Mediterranean regions, though has become naturalized all throughout South America, New Zealand, and Australia as well.

These types of royal mallows are a sprawling, perennial herb that usually grows to be about 3 feet in height. It can be identified by its showy dark pink flowers and deeply lobed leaves. They have a wonderfully long blooming period and are a very popular ornamental variety.

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Lavatera Arborea

Lavatera arborea is better known as a tree mallow, and is native to mainly coastal areas of Europe and the Mediterranean. They are amazingly salt tolerant plants which gives it a competitive advantage to other inland species.

This lavatera variety can firstly be identified by its height as it is one of the tallest shrubs sometimes exceeding 9 feet in height. They have beautiful dark pink or purple flowers.

What are the Growing Conditions of Lavatera Plants?

Shrubby lavatera plant growing in the garden bearing light pink flowers

Now that we’ve learned the beef about lavatera plants, now it’s time to learn about what keeps them happy. Good news: it’s super easy! There isn’t much to it, and any skill level of gardener could do it.

Soil Type

The thing that lavatera plants tend to me most specific about it their soil type. Though they can tolerate nearly anything, they perform far better with soil that has a few specific characteristics.

Firstly, that soil type must be very well drained. This will usually be sandy soil or loamy soil. The soil should also be light in texture and only moderately fertile. The acidity level is flexible, as they can tolerate acid, neutral, or alkaline soil.

Water Level

Some more good news: lavatera plants are super duper drought tolerant! They actually tend to thrive in soil that is dry. The worst thing that you could do to a lavatera plant is over water it.

The best rule of thumb when it comes to watering is to just let the soil dry out completely before watering the plant again. This usually means that it doesn’t require any supplemental watering when there is sufficient natural precipitation.

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Sun Exposure

Like the snowbirds that shoot down to Florida every winter, lavatera plants are sun loving creatures. This means that they prefer to experience a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight every day.

If a lavatera plant is grown in partial shade or full shade it will usually flop over or won’t bloom as profusely, so make sure that baby has the chance to sunbathe in a sunny spot! Seeds also require a decent amount of sunlight for successful germination.

Focus on single white lavatera flower with bright red center

Temperature

Lavatera plants prefer to live in moderate or temperate climates. This means that they don’t like to be too hot, and they also don’t like to be too cold. They simply go dormant in the winter, and don’t usually need to be brought inside unless you live very north. They can exist in USDA growing zones 7 through 10.

Fertilizer

Something to know about a lavatera plant is that it doesn’t need extremely fertile soil to grow well. When growing in the wild they tend to exist in moderate to low fertility soil, so something too fertile and they won’t be happy.

If the soil on your property is extremely dismal, simply incorporate some organic compost into the mix at the beginning of the growing season. Otherwise, just use a general purpose fertilizer in the early spring. Just make sure not to over feed!

Pruning

Overall, the most high maintenance aspect of lavatera care is pruning. There are several ways in which this plant should be pruned, and the first is deadheading.

Doing some light pruning after the plant has flowered will help encourage further blooms. Additionally, you can prude hard to help shape and rejuvenate the plant in the fall to help for a neater growth habit the following spring. Doing some extra light pruning after the first frost in the spring will also encourage a neat growth habit.

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Intolerances

All in all, lavatera plants aren’t too picky! The main thing to remember is that they are not tolerant to clogged soils and they are not tolerant to overly fertile soils either — but those things are very easy to avoid!

What are the Uses of a Lavatera Plant?

Absolutely amazing lavatera plants growing tall next to brick wall on a home

Ornamental Plant

There really isn’t a better flowering plant you could hope for. The lavatera plant is wonderfully drought tolerant. It can basically be planted and left alone and it will grace your property with beautifully colored blossoms and evergreen foliage. They’ve even been awarded the garden merit award by the Royal Horticultural Society!

They are often planted along mixed borders, in garden beds, and as container plants (as long as they are smaller varieties) on patios. They are perfect for every type of flower bed garden: city gardens, coastal gardens, cottage gardens, and anything else you can think of (they even make for an excellent cut flower!)

Wildlife Ecology

Another nifty thing about a lavatera plant is their contribution to the local ecosystem! They’re gorgeous fragrant flowers attract all sorts of beneficial pollinators (like bees and wasps) and other insects to the area.

They are a popular choice for companion planting, and they help turn your regular garden into a butterfly garden thanks to those showy flowers!

Amazing hot pink mallow flowers in full bloom

FAQs

Are lavatera plants deer resistant?

Though a lavatera plant won’t be the very first choice of snack for a dinner, if there are less favorable plant types in the area they will certainly graze upon a lavatera.

What are the damaging agents to lavatera?

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Something really awesome about lavatera plants is that they are considered as being quite resistant to infestations from insects and though don’t usually experience disease either. The majority of their damaging agents will come from over watering, but that is something very easy to avoid.

Are lavatera plants perennials or annuals?

A lavatera plant, depending on the species, can grow as a perennial plant, biennial plant, or annual plant. Perennials continue to blossom year after year as long as the plant is happy and healthy, a biennial plant will experience its entire life cycle in 2 years, and an annual plant will experience its entire life cycle in 1 year.

Is lavatera related to hibiscus?

Not only is lavatera related to hibiscus, they also exhibit a very similar growth habit and similar satin flower petals as well.

How long does it take lavatera seed to germinate?

Germination of a lavatera seed can occur in a mere 7 days if they are grown in a peat pot, receive a sunny spot to sit, and exist in temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Are lavatera plants evergreen?

Lavatera plants bear foliage that is evergreen. This means that they have leaves that will remain green and persist all year long. There are certain lavatera species that bear semi-evergreen leaves as well.

Are lavatera roots invasive?

The lavatera plant can sometimes be considered as being invasive outside of its natural growing range, though they aren’t particularly damaging to other plant life — they’re simply very good at self seeding.

Are lavatera flowers edible?

There are certain lavatera species, like lavatera thuringiaca that bears flowers that are considered as being edible! They are commonly eaten fresh and used like a salad garnish.

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Can I prune lavatera in the winter?

Overall, the most high maintenance aspect of lavatera care is pruning. There are several ways in which this plant should be pruned, and the first is deadheading.

Doing some light pruning after the plant has flowered will help encourage further blooms. Additionally, you can prude hard to help shape and rejuvenate the plant in the fall to help for a neater growth habit the following spring. Doing some extra light pruning after the first frost in the spring will also encourage a neat growth habit.

Can lavatera plants be grown in pots?

Though a lavatera plant can start in a peat pot, it is best that they are then transferred either to a large container or directly into the garden. This is because they have rather sensitive root systems and don’t like to be moved, and they also require a lot more room than a regular sized pot can provide.

Can lavatera plants grow in shade?

Like the snowbirds that shoot down to Florida every winter, lavatera plants are sun loving creatures. This means that they prefer to experience a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight every day.

If a lavatera plant is grown in partial shade or full shade it will usually flop over or won’t bloom as profusely, so make sure that baby has the chance to sunbathe in a sunny spot! Seeds also require a decent amount of sunlight for successful germination.

What do lavatera leaves look like?

Not only are the flowers of the lavatera plant attractive, but so is the foliage. Lavatera leaves are lush and large. Each leaf is deeply lobed and is kind of similar to that of a maple leaf. They are usually a grey green color, though this will vary depending on the species.

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Lavateras are evergreen plants. This means that they bear leaves that will remain green and persist all year long — though there are some species that are semi-evergreen.

How tall do lavatera shrubs get?

They will usually achieve heights between 6 and 8 feet with a spread of 4 to 6 feet. They have a rather airy appearance to them with large and well separated leaves.

Lavatera shrubs are known for being fast growing and can achieve their near full height after only a couple of years. They will live to be anywhere from 4-8 years as long as their ideal growing conditions are maintained.

When do lavatera flowers bloom?

Lavatera flowers tend to blossom very heavily in the summer time (and sometimes last until late autumn), but can also bloom periodically throughout the rest of the year as well. These are perennial plants, meaning that flowers will bloom year after year as long as they are happy.

How often should a lavatera plant be watered?

Lavatera plants are super duper drought tolerant! They actually tend to thrive in soil that is dry. The worst thing that you could do to a lavatera plant is over water it.

The best rule of thumb when it comes to watering is to just let the soil dry out completely before watering the plant again. This usually means that it doesn’t require any supplemental watering when there is sufficient natural precipitation.

What is the ideal soil type for lavatera plants?

The thing that lavatera plants tend to me most specific about it their soil type. Though they can tolerate nearly anything, they perform far better with soil that has a few specific characteristics.

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Firstly, that soil type must be very well drained. This will usually be sandy soil or loamy soil. The soil should also be light in texture and only moderately fertile. The acidity level is flexible, as they can tolerate acid, neutral, or alkaline soil.