While native Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii) is easily found in nurseries and growing wild along the greenbelts of central Texas, and pink cultivar ‘Pam Puryear’, a relatively new introduction, is now common in the nursery trade, white Turk’s cap can be hard to find. That’s a shame because the creamy white flowers are so cooling to the eye in the summer garden and look pretty with the plant’s large, white-veined leaves.
I grew a single white Turk’s cap in my former garden, and it was never as vigorous as the sturdy red Turk’s cap. I didn’t try to move it, and I’ve missed it since then. For a couple of years I’ve been hunting for another one at our local nurseries and even online. My searches always came up empty — until last week. While browsing at The Great Outdoors I spotted two 3-gallon containers of the ‘Alba’ Turk’s cap. Without hesitation I snapped them both up.
And even though I know I should have waited until the cooler months of October and November to plant, I went ahead and stuck them in the ground. I’ve been watering assiduously ever since, hoping to get them through the last blast of summer and into the root-growing months of fall and winter.
If you can find the white Turk’s cap, consider giving it a try. True, it won’t be as vigorous as the red or the pink ones, but its smaller size can be an asset. And although the species can handle sun or shade, I think shade is probably best for the white variety. Hummingbirds will still love it, and I know I do.
Update 1/15: Many people have asked about the white Turk’s cap since I wrote this post, and I’m sorry to say the two I bought have not thrived. One died, and I’m trying to bring the survivor back to health. At this point I wouldn’t suggest the white Turk’s cap for Austin gardeners. It seems to need a lot more shade and water than the red and pink varieties. I have heard from Laurin Lindsey of Ravenscourt Gardens in Houston that the white Turk’s cap grows very well there, which I chalk up to their higher annual rainfall; for more info read through the comments on her post, which I’ve linked to here.
Note: My Plant This posts are written primarily for gardeners in central Texas. The plants I recommend are ones I’ve grown myself and have direct experience with. I wish I could provide more information about how these plants might perform in other parts of the country, but gardening knowledge is local. Consider checking your local online gardening forums to see if a particular plant might work in your region.
All material © 2006-2013 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.