En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
7 ratings

Monday - September 10, 2007

From: Denton, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Propagation, Transplants
Title: Transplanting Turks Cap, when and how
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Mr. Smarty Pants - We have an enormous healthy Turk's Cap - not the lily, but the one with red flowers(Malvaviscus arboreus v. drummondii) It has also produced a new plant nearby. Please tell us how and when to transplant. Thanks!


Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii (wax mallow) is a sturdy, self-proliferating native plant, good in shade and beloved by hummingbirds. As days shorten and nights cool, it will begin to drop leaves and become semi-dormant. The preference is to transplant woody plants like this when the weather is cool, both for the benefit of the plant and the planter. We like to trim the bare stems back to several inches tall, mostly leaving those stems to indicate where the plant is, so another gardener doesn't come along and cultivate the root right out of the ground. By the time you get ready to do this transplant, between November and January, there will probably be more "pups" of the original plant popping up around the parent. Get a shovel or preferably a pitchfork in the ground and under the roots, and pop the plant up out of the ground. Sometimes you can get hold of it by a strong stem and pull it out. Move it at once to a prepared bed; that is, one that has the weeds cleared out, maybe some soil improvements like compost in it, etc. A shovel full of dirt taken out should leave an appropriate-size hole for the roots you have just disinterred. A sprinkle of timed-release fertilizer is good, but not absolutely necessary. Drop the roots in the hole and firm up the dirt around it. These plants get big, often 3 to 5 feet tall and more, but tend to grow pretty vertically, so they should probably be planted about 18 inches apart. When you have your bed all planted, stick a hose in the soil at the base of each plant, and let a very slow trickle of water run. Keep an eye on it, don't let it flood or stand in water, move the hose from plant to plant and firm up any plants that want to keel over in the mud.

Being a native, the Turk's cap will not need a lot of care or additional water, and will bloom for months. And the hummingbird battle for territorial rights will entertain anyone who can watch out of the line of fire.

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii



More Transplants Questions

Transplanting False Gaura in Austin
October 27, 2010 - I am transplanting my false gaura. Do they transplant well, and should I cut them back?
view the full question and answer

Keeping a Texas Madrone alive from Belton TX
October 01, 2012 - I have found a supplier of a Texas Madrone and have been wanting to grow one ever since our family vacation to Big Bend NP. My question is how do you have success with this tree? Many people say it is...
view the full question and answer

Mexicana Redbud failing to bloom in Austin
April 12, 2010 - I have a Mexican Redbud that I bought last fall. It is now April (I'm in Austin), and the leaves have emerged, but the tree did not flower. So . . . what should I do to get it to flower? (The tree i...
view the full question and answer

Division of non-native Lamb's Ear plant in Austin
May 17, 2010 - I have a lambs' ear plant that has gone wild, and I would like to divide and transplant part of the plant. Advice? Live in Austin, TX. 78757
view the full question and answer

Problems with propagation of Indian Paintbrush (Castileja indivisa)
February 07, 2006 - We are growing Indian Paintbrush. I have 2-300 seedlings. They were sown with fescue and have grown beautifully. Now they are approximately 4-6 inches high, a few have bloomed and many seem to be dy...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center