Sphaeralcea ambigua

Desert Mallow

Plant Type: Shrub
Sun: Sun
Drainage: Medium, Well-draining
Water: Occasional
Height X Width: 4' X 3'
Santa Clara County Local: No
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Desert mallow is often first appreciated as a roadside plant in southeastern California and the Southwest. The dramatic flower display in orange, white or magenta stands out like a flame against the subdued tones of the desert landscape. If one takes a closer look, one discovers the flowers covering an open shrub with silvery green leaves and stems, all covered with downy hairs (not irritating). Fortunately, the desert mallow thrives outside its desert home, even in the SF Bay Area. If provided with a sunny site in well-draining soil, it will thrive for many years. It does seem to have a lifespan of about five years or so. Like many mallows, desert mallow will move from its original planting site via underground rhizomes. In my experience here in San Jose, the plant will disappear from its original spot once it pops up nearby. Remove the spent flower stalks during the winter for a cleaner look.


Deer Resistant: No
Attractive to Bees: Yes
Attractive to Butterflies: Yes
Good Under Oaks: Yes
Evergreen or Deciduous: Evergreen