Trying Something New

I’m trying something new this year: Bush’s Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe bushii). This is a close relative of Wine Cups (C. involucrata), in fact it used to be considered a variety of that species. My understanding is that Wine Cups will spread out more expansively.

Bush’s Poppy Mallow settling into the Driveway Border. 

This is a sprawling plant that spreads out 2-3′. It’s filling in for the Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’ at the far end of the raised Driveway Border, which expired after many years of faithful service.

Poppy Mallow (photo from Prairie Moon Nursery.)

I did order more plants that strictly necessary, due to Prairie Moon’s diabolical practice of selling trays of 38 plants (mix and match!) for just $139. That’s less than $3.66 per plant (plus shipping)! Clearly, no responsible gardener could afford not to take advantage of this offer. At least it seemed clear at the time.

And so I ended up ordering a number of plants without a strictly definite idea of where I would put them. If you ask me where all these plants are now I will cough discretely and say something about the weather.

But the half dozen Poppy Mallows all ended up near the front in sunny spots where they could sprawl out onto a path or sidewalk.

Poppy Mallows have purple/magenta cup-shaped flowers that peak in early summer but are supposed to keep coming for the rest of the season. It’s beneficial for native bees, and a host plant for Gray Hairstreak butterflies.


Wine Cups at the Denver Botanic Garden.

Poppy Mallow is not a plant native to the Chicago area, but I think of it as an honorary native. Callirhoe bushii comes from neighboring Missouri, plus Arkansas and Oklahoma. It’s close cousin C. involucrata is native to several Midwestern states, including Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan.

This is a plant that likes sun but tolerates a bit of shade. What it really wants is well-drained soil, which was a concern given the buckets of rain we’ve been getting this year. However, our Poppy Mallows seem to be slowly settling without signs of distress, in despite the cold and wet May.

Bush’s Poppy Mallow is a bit of an experiment for our garden. We’ll see how it does. But I do like to have some sprawling plants with bright flowers as part of the mix. What’s your favorite sprawling perennial?

31 Comments on “Trying Something New”

  1. We have a sprawling Grevillea which looks as if it might take over the garden. The flowers will be lovely for the birds in spring, but it looks as if it will dominate the garden. I love the deep magenta colour of the Poppy Mallow.

  2. We have several native winecup species, but two predominate: the C. involucrata you mentioned, as well as the so-called standing winecup: C. pedata. The standing winecup really does; I have photos of some with blooms at the ends of three and four foot stems. No sprawling for that one!

  3. I don’t know if I have a favorite sprawling perennial. I don’t really like plants that sprawl too much. I did just plant quite a few Geranium ‘Rozanne’ which I hear tend to scramble quite a bit, and I do have a Callirhoe involucrata that’s been in the ground for a couple of years. But it hasn’t flowered much yet. Maybe this year it will start to show its stuff.

  4. It is always fun to try new plants. I hope you like this one. I love the color of its blooms. The sprawler in my garden that I like best is Comfrey. It blooms from spring until fall, the bees love it. It doesn’t mind being cut back if it get too comfy with it’s neighbors. It does well with just afternoon sun.

  5. How could you NOT do this ! LOL …. It is going to work out so well you will be amazed you hadn’t tried it before 😉
    I can’t seem to stop buying what is left over on sale in our little garden centers that are closing up soon here .. even a set of new shears .. sale prices just do that to you right ?
    This is a very nice filler plant that will look great .. good choice !!

  6. Honorary native? I have not heard that term before. Even though the native range seems to be far away by my standard, it might not really be by your standards, since it is not a mountainous region. Plants likely migrate more freely over much larger areas that they do here.
    Monterey pine is endemic to only three isolated colonies on the coasts of Monterey, San Mateo and San Luis Obispo Counies, but was planted very extensively in every coastal region in California. Those in Montara are only a short distance from the colony in San Mateo County, but some so-called ‘environmentalists’ want them to be exterminated as invasive exotics! I get it. They were not there naturally. However, there are many more exotics from other continents, such as the blue gum eucalyptus, that are much more invasive. Besides. Monterey pine has naturally migrated even during recorded history, and might have been in San Francisco at late as 1950.

    • I agree with you. People go overboard on the native thing, though I am in sympathy with the basic idea. But if something is regionally native and well adapted to a site it’s ridiculous to squawk about it. The objection to all “nativars”, even ones that are very similar to the basic species, is also misguided in my opinion.

      • Oops, I meant to say that the Monterey pine might have been native to San Francisco as late as 1850, not 1950.
        I think that in regions such as yours, species that are slightly outside of their native range could still be considered native. However, it is very different in our region. Redwood tree from the coast are not happy in warm and dry inland valleys. I would not complain about it, since there is no risk of it naturalizing and changing the ecosystem. However, I would not recommend growing something that is not well adapted to a site, and I would not say that redwood is native to that region, even though it is just a few miles away. There are those who are more concerned that a species is native to California, rather than if it is native to a particular region. As you know, we have more regions than most of America (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) combined.

  7. What a beautiful plant! Something I was not familiar with… Geraniums are my favourites (for example Geranium endressii), but obviously I need to move some of them because they don’t look too happy. I love Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Spessart’, but I definitely need to move them because they are on an area where lots of snow falls (from the roof) and so start to grow very late.
    Thank you for your comment! “Ghost on the Throne” sounds very interesting.

  8. I planted twelve plants of C. involucrata (a new plant for me) last year. Despite the fact that the resident that the resident woodchuck snacked on them repeatedly as soon as I put them in the ground, they still bloomed last year and most of them have come back this year. I love the strong color of their flowers, and they begin to bloom just as the nearby Geranium sanguineum plants with similar color flowers are finishing up.

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