Sun/shade: Full sun to part shade
Soil moisture: Medium to wet
Flowering period: August
Host plant for 23 caterpillar species
A hypnotic beauty, rose mallow’s voluptuous flower draws one’s gaze into its crimson-centered depths. The funnel-shaped blossoms attract bumble bees as well as the rose-mallow bee, a specialist whose larvae can only consume the pollen of this plant and its close relatives. In mid-summer, the male rose-mallow bee will wait within a flower for a foraging female to come by with whom he may mate. If a rival male enters the flower, the two will aggressively confront one another, stirring up a large amount of pollen in the process. Research has shown that tussling among the male bees significantly increases the pollination rate and thus seed production for the flowers. Amazingly, for those rose mallow flowers that the bees don’t pollinate, the female part of the flower will actually reach down to the male part and pollinate itself! Talk about taking matters into your own hands!
Native to Ohio wetlands and river margins, rose mallow grows under full to partial sunlight and in wet or moderately wet soils. In the garden it will readily adapt to soils of average moisture if it is watered during especially dry periods. Growing 4-6 feet in height, rose mallow is a tall but sturdy plant that tends not to flop over. It also maintains its presence well in the face of competing vegetation, but is not an aggressive spreader. Producing its gorgeous blooms for approximately 1 month in mid-summer, rose-mallow is fairly resistant to deer-browse but is often a target of the Japanese beetle.
Photo by Fritz Flohr Reynolds.