Plant This: A toast to winecup

I can’t drink my fill of winecup (Callirhoe involucrata) right now. This Texas native, which sprawls along non-rooting stems, carpets the ground with glowing magenta cups.

Growing just 6 to 12 inches tall but several feet wide, winecup is the perfect groundcover for spring through early summer. In the heat of mid-summer, however, particularly if rainfall is scarce, winecup goes dormant until fall, when it reappears as rosettes of lacy leaves.

Why did I practice temperance with regard to winecup for so many years? I admired it on a garden tour last year and planted two four-inch pots of it that winter. The leafy rosettes just sat there and sat there—until April, when they took off and began to blossom.

Winecup’s intoxicating color looks pretty with yellow, pink, orange, and green. And of course with silver artemisia ‘Powis Castle’.

Winecup “looks magnificent cascading over a wall or down a rocky slope,” advise Sally and Andy Wasowski in their indispensable book for Texas gardeners, Native Texas Plants. “Think of it as an especially long-blooming bulb,” they write. “Plant it under Texas lantana, butterfly-weed, gayfeather, black-eyed Susans, or some other flower that does not get dense or bloom until summer for you.”

I’ve planted mine among the yellow Engelmann’s daisies (Engelmannia pinnatifida) that MSS passed along to me, and at the feet of the yellow-green pot that now holds a Mexican feathergrass (Stipa tenuissima).

I plan to drink my fill of winecup’s beauty while it lasts. And then…I’ll just have to see how bare a space it leaves behind.

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 © 2006-2008 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

11 Responses

  1. Nancy Bond says:

    Winecup is appropriately named, for sure. A delightful little bloom. Cheers!

    Salut, Nancy! —Pam

  2. Winecups have always been one of my favorite wildflowers…I’ve just never had any luck growing them. Yours are blooming quite late in the year aren’t they? I usually think of them in flower the same time as the bluebonnets.

    Mine did start blooming in April, but they’ve been really flowery since early May. I think they usually last through early June or so. After that, they may go dormant unless it’s rainy or they get enough irrigation. —Pam

  3. Very pretty. I like the simplicity of the flower. I imagine this one might be a favorite amongst the garden fairies!

    Yes, with a name like winecup, I imagine it would be. —Pam

  4. Michelle says:

    Ooooh! Very pretty! I especially like the close-up that shows the filaments. Nifty ;)

    Thanks, Michelle. —Pam

  5. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    What a lovely carpet of wine cups. They look yummy.

    They are a delightful carpet at this time of year. I just hope they fade with grace (rather than with a mess) this summer. —Pam

  6. linda says:

    I haven’t seen these before. What a pretty bloom! I love the color.

    Winecups are all about color. They really glow in the sunlight. —Pam

  7. Winecups are one of my very favorite wildflowers, and I have a hard time understanding how people could consider them to be noxious weeds. They’re tough, but they’re gorgeous, and even their foliage is interesting and pretty.

    I put some in the border bed along my driveway, where they frolic with cosmos, bulbs, and bulbines, and my only complaint is that they tend to grow out over the concrete, where it’s hard for me to get a pretty picture of them.

    A noxious weed, in my opinion, would root along the length of those stems, like coralberry, for example. Winecup is much better behaved so far. Maybe it’ll end up seeing out everywhere, though—we’ll see. Your border with the winecup sounds really nice. I hope you will get some long shots for your blog. I’d love to see it. —Pam

  8. Cinj says:

    How completely enchanting. I too, was caught up by the detail of the curling filaments in the closeup. What a wonderful flower.

    Winecup’s simplicity is part of its appeal. The other part, of course, is the color. It is truly enchanting. —Pam

  9. Karen says:

    I just recently purchased wine cup. I can’t wait until it grows. Yours look so pretty!

    Thanks, Karen. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by winecup—it’s much prettier than I expected. But it is starting to wane now, which is one drawback. —Pam

  10. Pam, that second photo of winecup took my breath away. Have you tried Missouri primrose too? It sat for a year in my garden and this year, it took off, giving me some real beauty in yellow.~~Dee

    I haven’t, Dee, but I have admired it along roadsides! —Pam

  11. Barbee' says:

    I live in Kentucky, and have never seen Winecups. Thank you for posting those photos so I now see what I have been missing! I wonder if they would grow here. Probably not, because I have a lot of shade.

    Winecups do want sun, Barbee. These you may have to enjoy from afar. Thanks for commenting. —Pam