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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Wednesday
Jan262011

Do You Grow Callirhoe? A Unique and Little Known Perennial

http://www.georgesfenoll.com/famille.php?IDdefamille=56I added a new short flower to my garden last spring, Callirhoe involucrata, and without testing it first, immediately included it in two garden compositions that I did for others. The flower color was so intense that I just could not wait an entire season to see how this plant performed. My initial gut reaction turned out to be accurate because when my clients saw it growing in their garden, they were joyful. It was the fuchsia-magenta color of the blooms that got to them, just as I had been enchanted when the plant was first delivered.

The irony is that I have been avoiding this perennial for some time. Its photo in the supplier’s catalogue has always been downright boring. Nevertheless, on a rainy day, with nothing else to do, I began to go through that catalogue with the proverbial fine tooth comb, except that this time the comb teeth were even finer and I gathered more information than I expected.

http://www.sbs.utexas.edu/bio406d/images/pics/mlv/callirhoe_involucrata.htmThe spec list for this perennial indicated that it would bloom from June until August. I had not read that information, in the past, because the catalogue photograph had been so unflattering that I ignored it. However, that was information I needed to know. There may be very severe guidelines for what I plant, but a perennial that will promise three months of blooming deserves a chance, no matter how insipid it appears in a catalogue and no matter how short it will grow. Immediately, I added it to my rainy day plant order. Unfortunately, we had unusually hot weather this past summer and, like many newly planted perennials, this one stopped blooming in July. Online research indicates that this is a cold climate plant and, had the summer been cooler, it might not have stopped blooming. Growers in warmer zones don’t consider Callirohe to be an extended bloomer at all; they only promise two months of flowering. This plant will need another summer for me to determine which grower's catalogue contained the correct information. My supplier has confided in me that, very often, the attributes of plants are overstated by growers to encourage sales and within a year or two most catalogues need to be revises to reflect the truth.

Another fact that I learned, while researching this plant online, is that it spreads. No one is labeling it as aggressive but the word vigorous has been used and it is considerd easy to control. Vigorous is an unwelcome attribute because, by next season, I expect that the fastidious clients will be calling, asking me to remove the plant because it is messy. I hope that they don’t. The coloration of the plant is too powerful; it deserves a chance.

The gardening tip for using a low mounding spreader, such as this one, is to plant it where it can be appreciated up close, perhaps on the border of a nearby flower bed or beside a path. In the two gardens where it was placed, I made sure that it would be the first thing that the homeowners would see when they opened their front doors.

http://www.easywildflowers.com/quality/cal.invol.htmGardeners that will experiment with this plant need to know that it is hardy in Zones 4 to 8, grows mat like, forming a low foliage mound from 6-9" tall on procumbent stems which spread along the ground to 2’ or 3' wide. Let’s hope it stops at three feet. Solitary, upward facing, cup-shaped, five-petaled, poppy-like, magenta flowers (to 2.5" wide) continuously appear on thin stems above the foliage from mid-spring to fall. This sun loving plant, which might self seed under ideal conditions, is indifferent to soil, which is a plus, and once established it is drought tolerant; a tap root allows it to grow with minimal irrigation. However, tap roots make perennials difficult to transplant. Therefore, gardeners should carefully consider Callirohe’s placement in the garden. Damaging a tap root during transplanting, and that is very easy to do, significantly stunts the growth of the perennial – it can take up to two years to regain its size. In addition, it will self propagate in its previous location because abandoned, buried root material eventually produces another plant.

Growers consider Callirhoe to be a good native ground cover suitable for border fronts, rock gardens, native plant gardens, wild gardens, naturalized areas or meadows or sprawling over a stone wall. Suppliers would like us to see this plant as fitting in well into both formal garden areas as well as wild or naturalized areas. I am skeptical about its place in a formal garden because it might require a lot of trimming to keep it neat. Of course, that won’t be know for certain until it has matured in my test garden. I don’t regret the cavalier attitude I took by planting this perennial without prior experience. The ecstatic expression on my clients’ faces was worth the risk.

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Reader Comments (13)

It's certainly not the showiest of perennials, but has it's spot. I worked with it when I was at the botanical gardens--one thing I loved is no deadheading, pruning, dividing. It takes care of itself.

January 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

Callirhoe is a gorgeous plant with a lot of color. Really good article, thank you. :)

January 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria

Oh! I remember this plant knocking my socks off in the Plant Delights Nursery display gardens (Raleigh, NC). I had completely forgotten it existed until your post, though. Now I can't wait to add one to my garden this spring. :)

January 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEliza @ Appalachian Feet

Nice plant, especially if I could get the 3 months of blooming out of it... Thanks for the info!

I saw one of these in Pam Harper's garden in Virginia and loved it. Upon moving to SC I added one to my garden. I plan on adding more, I love this plant.

February 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJanet, Queen of Seaford

I'm tickled to find Winecup featured on a Canadian blog! It's native to our south-central Texas region (zone 8B) and I had no idea it would grow so far north. In years when we've had a modicum of rain, winecups brighten our spring.

Unfortunately, they're palatable to deer...which I learned the hard way.

February 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathleen Scott

Wow...you know, I had seen this before in so many catalogs and just kind of discounted it...the color seems so...brash! Seeing your pics though, I may have been too quick to judge...thanks for opening my eyes!

February 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterScott Weber

Does anyone know what the other two plants are in that picture? I'm really impressed by it and would like to copy - sorry, be inspired by - it.

February 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSheena McGrath

Sheena,
The daisy-like plant is Echinacea purpurea and the miniature fuchsia-pink plant in the background is a variety of dianthus.

February 23, 2011 | Registered CommenterAllan

Thanks.

February 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSheena McGrath

I've grown these for a few years (in MN, zone 4) and love them. I do get a full 3months of blooms from them, which is a wonderful bonus. They spread out more than 3 feet for me, but in their location that is great. They are in pretty poor soil and do well; I've been able to dig up volunteers to give away.

May 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer A

I saw this plant for the first time today in a lovely new garden shop in Greensboro NC. It was trailing over a wall and it made me stop in my tracks. I bought a few plants and since the owner didn't have any for sale she offered me a few cuttings. They were her personal plants. Do you have any experience propagating it from cuttings? I have them in water at this time. I will try rooting hormone and also just leave a piece in water to see if it roots. Do you have any experience with cuttings of it?

June 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaula C. In NC

Nice plant, it's also edible (root and leaves) link: http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Callirhoe+involucrata

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaroly

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