En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
2 ratings

Tuesday - September 08, 2009

From: Midland, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Propagation, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Failure to bloom of Turk's cap in Midland TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


My turk's cap won't make flowers. It has daily watering via irrigation system, and soft amended soil. The plant is beautiful and thriving, but no flowers. What should I do?


We think perhaps you are being too kind to your Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii (wax mallow), also known as Turkscap. Once established, it is very drought tolerant, and you may be giving it too much water. Here are the Growing Conditions for this plant:

"Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Dry
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Sandy, loamy, clay, and limestone soils. Moist, well-drained, woodland soils best.
Conditions Comments: Drought tolerant. Prefers sandy and partially shady sites. Under cultivation, Turk’s cap will adapt to and thrive in many different sites, including full sun and heavier soil, though unremitting sun will cause its leaves to become rougher, smaller, and darker."

Even though this excerpt from our Native Plant Database says it is a good shade plant, we found other references saying that it needs full sun or partial shade, and you may sacrifice some blooms because of reduced light. This USDA Plant Profile map does not show it growing naturally around the Midland County area. 

Again according to our Native Plant Database, Turkscap blooms red May to November. Is this the first year you have grown it? If not, has it previously bloomed in the same spot?  You mentioned amended soil; if that includes compost or other organic materials, that would  bring the soil closer to matching the moist, well-drained woodland soils this plant prefers. But if that amendment includes extra fertilizer, especially high nitrogen fertilizer, such as lawn fertilizers, these will give you lush green foliage and retard blooming. 

Turkscap is a perennial shrub. If this is the  first year you have grown it in the spot where it is, then it may just need a little longer to get ready to bloom. If it has bloomed in the same spot before, have surrounding plants gotten bigger and started shading the Turkscap more than it is accustomed to? 

We will have to say we don't know exactly what is causing the failure to bloom, but you need to investigate the environmental conditions under which the plant is growing to find the possible answer. If it continues to appear healthy, we would suggest waiting until it starts dying back for winter, and then trim it back pretty hard. When it comes up from the roots next Spring, hopefully it will be ready to bloom. However, if your soil, over-watering, over-fertilizing or sun exposure are wrong for the plant, it may continue to try to come up, but not have the energy to bloom. 

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii




More Propagation Questions

What kind of alcohol to use with Passiflora seeds?
March 12, 2010 - Hi, I read a question and answer related to gernmination of passiflora incarnata. You recommended a 5% alcohol/water solution to soak the seeds prior to sowing. I just want to make sure that you are...
view the full question and answer

Breaking dormancy of native seeds
November 22, 2006 - The science of seed preservation seems to be well advanced. However, Jill Nokes' book appears to be the only well-known information about breaking dormancy of native seeds. I'm grateful that she w...
view the full question and answer

Propagation of Eastern Redbud
March 25, 2005 - I have collected seeds from an Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis L.) and I want to learn how to germinate them. How can I find out this information?
view the full question and answer

Division of impatiens grown in a pot
December 08, 2007 - I have an impatient and it is growing out of the pot. I was wondering if it were possible to divide it somehow and have two medium size plants.
view the full question and answer

Moving milkweed to another location in Maine, NY
April 15, 2010 - I live in up-state New York. I have a 'patch' of milkweed growing where I don't really want it to grow - but have left it because the butterflies and bees love it. I would like it to grow in my ba...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center