Plant This: Gray globemallow lights up the garden

Its frosty, felted, gray-green leaves hint at its exceptional heat and drought tolerance, and they’re very pettable too. But when gray globemallow (Sphaeralcea incana) opens clusters of cupped, orange blossoms atop its silvery branches, it becomes a beacon of blooming beauty.

Fire and ice! Gray globemallow is native to the southwestern U.S., including West Texas, so it needs good drainage, lean conditions, and plenty of sun to thrive. This a plant for your hot, dry, caliche-soil garden. And because the leaves are hairy, deer tend to ignore it.

Flowering is best in spring and fall, while summer is pretty quiet and can be a good time to cut it back hard if you want to keep it more compact. It grows 3-4 feet tall and wide, maybe bigger if you never prune. Gray globemallow is cousin to the airier, less-woody, green-leaf globemallows that also grow well in sunny, dry locations.

So don’t be afraid to go gray. If you have a tough spot that’s blasted by the Death Star, gray globemallow may be the right plant to light up your garden too.

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 © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

16 Responses

  1. Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous. I’ll remember this one, it’s right up my alley.

  2. What an amazing color combination. I am attracted to gray, silver and blue gray leaves. The orange blooms remind me of California poppies. Isn’t spring grand!!!

  3. Joanne says:

    From: former Hill Country resident now in sunny DRY San Diego – I’m going to give this one a try here if I can find one in local nursery. It should work well against a sunny wall. Watering restrictions getting more serious.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      The California drought is in the news every day here in Austin, Joanne. I hope the nurseries there have already started carrying very drought resistant plants like globe mallow. —Pam

  4. TexasDeb says:

    I’m a patsy for a mallow in almost any form, but what a show stopper! I’m trying to imagine what this would look like under planted with winecups. I don’t currently have a full sun spot but am seriously considering “creating” one to make room for Globemallow (yup overgrown opuntia – I’m looking at YOU!).

  5. Pam, Really beautiful.

    Did you plant yours from seed? The seed packets always say plant in the Fall – how early is that, exactly? Is September “Fall” for Houston/Austin? Okay, so it’s a more general question – are native seeds sown in the fall supposed to actually germinate in the fall, or lay dormant until the spring? Would love some advice.

  6. gina Harlow says:

    Mine is so happy right now. It’s on my “A” list as it gets no supplemental water, made it through the famous drought and all the freezes of the last six years. I just put a picture up on P&P. I got mine at the Wildflower Sale.

  7. Amy Campion says:

    Very cool. I also wonder how it would hold up in Portland. Tamara will have to report!

  8. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I would love this even as an annual.

  9. tim says:

    thanks for this post, ive been trying to find info and decide about this plant and this post really helped.