Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Blooming but not berrying American bittersweet from Pendleton IN
May 29, 2013 - I have had a bittersweet plant for years, it blooms but not berries. How do I tell if it is male or female so I can buy the opposite? It is currently blooming.
view the full question and answer

Growing grapes from seed in California
April 22, 2008 - Can I grow grapes from seed? If so, what is procedure?
view the full question and answer

Viability of Lupinus havardii seeds from Elmendorf TX
April 25, 2014 - I have been able to grow several Lupinus havardii (Big Bend Bluebonnet) and they are now making seed. Is there anyway to determine if a seed is good or bad for this plant?
view the full question and answer

Propagation of Lime Prickly Ash in Austin
March 22, 2010 - We found only one small what we think is Zanthoxylum fagara or Lime Prickly Ash, Colima on our 8 acres, and the deer had apparently recently broken the main stem. I quickly made 6 or 7 cuttings, dippe...
view the full question and answer

Seed pods on Acer grandidentatum
June 23, 2007 - Hi, we have three young Big Tooth Maples that are doing very well in our pasture. We bought them already established and small. However, we would like to start some. Do they produce a seed?? What wo...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.