Turk's Cap


Story and Photos by Yvonne Lelong Bordelon

Giant Turk’s cap is the larger tropical cousin of the popular hummingbird and butterfly plant, Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus arboreus). The bright red, 2-inch flowers of giant Turk’s cap droop downward and never fully open.

Turk's Cap
In South Louisiana, giant Turk’s cap can be planted in the ground in a sheltered location. During mild winters it will bloom from early fall to spring. Winter protection may be needed in North Louisiana.

This multi-stemmed, low-maintenance tropical evergreen shrub is deer resistant and drought tolerant. Use it as a specimen plant in hummingbird and pollinator gardens. In most of Louisiana, it blooms in fall until it is killed back by the first winter freeze.

The tough fibers of its bark are used in weaving and making cord. Good companions include winter shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeeana), firespike (Odontonema strictum), flowering maple (Abutilon pictum), and tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica).

Turk's Cap
Hummingbirds and long-tongued pollinators usually drink the nectar, but sometimes short-tongued honeybees will chew holes in the flower to get to the sweet sustenance.

Quick Facts and Keys to Success
Common Name: Giant Turk’s cap, sleeping hibiscus
Botanical Name: Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii
Varieties/Cultivars: ‘Alba’ (white blooms), ‘Pam Puryear’ (soft pink blooms), ‘Big Momma’
Zone(s): 7b-10b
Color: Shades of red, pink, and white, depending on cultivar.
Blooming Period: Fall into winter (until freeze)
Type: Tropical woody evergreen shrub
Mature Size: 3-6 feet tall and wide
Exposure: Full sun to part-shade in a protected southern exposure.
When to Plant: Spring
How to Plant: Space 6 feet apart in moderately fertile, well-drained, moist, acidic soil. Propagate by root division or semi-hardwood cuttings. 
Watering: Average; can be drought tolerant.
Pruning: Deadhead for more blooms; prune to shape, maintain desired size, and to remove dead branches.
In Your Landscape: Giant Turk’s cap can be grown in the ground or in containers. It is a welcome addition to the pollinator garden.

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