How to grow Lavatera bushes (Mallows)
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Have you come across Lavatera bushes and their lovely blossoms in spring? If you have, it is difficult not to appreciate their understated beauty and abundant flowers and foliage.
You can easily add these plants (which are available as shrubs, perennials and annuals depending on the variety) to your garden display because they don’t need much attention to thrive with the exception of a little pruning in spring and some mulch around the base in autumn.
In this article, I cover the steps on how to grow Lavatera together with care tips to ensure you get the most out of your Lavatera. My personal favourites are the shrub varieties that will last around 7-8 years if looked after correctly, these include Rosea, Barnsley and Barnsley Baby and are perfect if you’re looking for a variety suitable for pots or smaller spaces.
Perfect conditions for growing Lavatera
Lavatera plants are not specific in terms of soil type, they can grow in clay, sandy or loamy soil. As long as the soil drains well and can provide nutrients, Lavatera shrubs will grow well.
Another thing to consider while planting Lavatera is exposure to the sun. These plants love to be in the sunshine so a sunny position is preferred, however, for those living in warmer areas, for example in some parts of the US, offering partial shade can help the plant retain moisture. If you are in the UK though, a warm sunny position will be fine.
How to care for Lavatera
These few tips will ensure your Lavatera thrives
- Feed Lavatera plants during the growing season to ensure continual blooms.
- Deadheading Lavatera is essential in encouraging more blooms so I recommend doing this throughout the summer. The removal of the fading flowers assists the plant in redirecting its resources to support the incoming blooms.
- Water Lavatera shrubs frequently, especially in hot weather to avoid wilting caused by lack of moisture. If growing in pots this is even more important and I recommend planting in a soil based compost such as John Innes potting compost as this retains the moisture much better.
- Mulching in the spring is a great way of helping the plants retain moisture and regulate soil temperature. It also does a good job of preventing weeds from growing and competing for nutrients.
- Always be on the lookout for pest damage especially from Japanese beetles, thrips, spider mites and aphids. Treat any pest infestations with a general pesticide at the first signs of pests.
- Prune regulary, I cover this more in detail but Lavatera get leggy so pruning by around half in the spring will help.
If you have problems with your Lavatera not flowering you can read my guide on this here
You can learn more about growing Lavatera Barnsley Baby pictured above, you can also learn how to grow Lavatera in pots in this guide here
Pruning Lavatera successfully
Pruning Lavatera is essential as they tend to get leggy and produce fewer flowers but pruning will encourage new growth every year and give a much better show of blooms.
Pruning helps the plant get rid of dead branches along with any diseased sections too, the best time to prune Lavatera is around spring, just as the new foliage appears at the base of the plant.
Spring pruning is also the perfect time to take a few cuttings for those who want to propagate more Lavatera using softwood cuttings.
These plants are resilient and can handle a very hard prune if needed, often to the base of the plant. I recommend pruning by around half every year and if you have a very leggy plant then prune just above ground level where you can see the new foliage appearing.
Learn more about pruning Lavatera in my guide here
Give your plants a boost by fertilising them over the spring and summer as well as in the autumn to supply adequate nutrients for the following season. Usually, a good layer of mulch around the base in spring is enough to feed them, protect the roots and help with water retention.
Propagating Lavatera from cuttings
If you don’t want to grow Lavatera from seeds, you can propagate them through cuttings. This is the method that I often recommend as you get much faster results.
These softwood cuttings are taken around the late spring or summer months when the new growth has started to mature. The cuttings are usually around 10cm and you need to make sure you take them from a none flowering stem.
Once you have taken the cuttings, remove the lower leaves, leaving just the top pair of leaves.
Next, dip the base of the cutting into a rooting hormone as this will give the roots a better chance of establishing.
Insert the cutting inside an already prepared pot filled with compost, I like to use smaller pots and put three cuttings per container as they are less likely to rot off.
Place the pots in a heated propagator with heat. If you don’t have a propagator it’s not a problem, simply cover the pot with a plastic bag and store it in a warm place away from direct sunlight.
You will know if your cuttings have been successful once the new foliage sets in. Remember that Lavatera does not like being disturbed so if you plan on transplanting them further down the line, make sure you don’t damage the roots.
You can learn more about how to take cuttings here
How to grow Lavatera from seeds
While you can plant the seeds directly to the ground, I prefer the seeds to germinate first before transplanting. This means sowing the seeds in a biodegradable pot that allows an easy transfer. Allowing the seeds to germinate indoors gives the plants time to develop root systems and avoid frost damage. It is good to sow Lavatera in the early spring so that they bloom in time, around late summer or fall.
Alternatively, sow the seeds directly to the ground as spring emerges ensuring that the location gets plenty of sunlight. It usually takes around 20 days for seedlings to emerge but, be careful at this stage because pests can attack as they love the new fresh foliage of seedlings.
Read next: Fast growing shrubs