If you've ever driven across the desert and looked out on a wide expanse of bright, orange flowers blanketing a valley, you might have been gazing on a spread of globemallow. There are about 20 different species of globemallow that grow in the western half of the country. For your desert garden, globemallow is one of the easiest plants to grow. And the lovely blossoms are always a welcome sight.
Globemallow is one of easiest of all desert perennials to grow. It prefers full sun, even in the deserts, but will grow well in light or filtered shade. Globemallow is a rugged, native perennial that enjoys a treasured place in any garden, native or not. Typical plants grow to 3 feet tall and as wide, but often become larger when given abundant water. Native to a wide swath of the desert Southwest from southern Nevada and Utah to Sonora and Baja California, Mexico, you'll often see this species along roadsides and in abandoned fields.
The flowers of globemallow are cup-shade, similar to hibiscus, and grow on a stalk that rises up to 12 inches above the foliage. The flowers don't open all at once, which greatly prolongs the bloom. The most common color is a light apricot but some varieties produce pink, white, lavender, and purple flowers. Nurseries in the region have taken advantage of this diversity of color for years, and most keep a stock of any color they can find allowing them to bloom and cross freely. The result is an array of color forms, only a couple of which have names, but all of which are stunning.
Globemallow grows well on natural rainfall, although intermittent watering in the summer while it is dormant reduces stem loss. Water in the cooler seasons only during protracted dry spells. Plants with too much water become huge, floppy and short-lived. The less you do for it the better it looks. It is hardy to at least 10F. The first spring bloom is the most abundant, but removing spent flowering stalks encourages another round of flowering. Remove dead stems annually in the fall and cut plants back severely in the fall or early winter every three or four years to reinvigorate.