Epic Gardening is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more
Flowers, Ground Cover

Callirhoe Involucrata Care: Grow Purple Poppy Mallow


8 min read

Tough, drought tolerant and evergreen, Callirhoe involucrata or the purple poppy mallow is known for its beautiful extra bright magenta flowers that look like tiny wine cups. This is the reason why this plant is also called “wine cups” colloquially. You’ll find them growing in native plant gardens and rock gardens all over the US.

This mat-forming plant is found abundantly in North America and is native to southwest and central United States especially Missouri where it most frequently grows in dry, rocky soils in fields, prairies, and along roadsides that are dispersed in a number of counties located in the northeast side of the Missouri River.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about growing and caring for Callirhoe involucrata.

Quick Care

Callirhoe involucrata flower
The purple cupped flower gives it its signature name. Source: im me
Common Name(s): Purple poppy mallow, Winecup Flowers, Buffalo Rose
Scientific NameCallirhoe involucrata
Family:Malvaceae
Zone:4-8
Height & Spread:8-12″ tall and 3′ wide
LightFull sun
SoilSandy to loamy, well-draining
Water:Low to medium
Pests & Diseases:Slugs and root rot

The Buffalo Rose plant is popular for the masses of pink or reddish-purple cup-shaped blooms with a white spot in the middle, that gives them the name wine cups. The showy flowers are borne at the tips of the stem. They open in the morning and close in the evening.

The plant sprawls with low growing foliage topped with bright purple cup-shaped flowers that bloom in mid-spring through fall. It works just as beautifully in a formal garden as it does in naturalized areas or spreading over walls – especially thanks to their white center. It’s a wonderful ground cover that grows up to 6-12 inches tall and spreads about 3 inches wide.

The plants form a low foliage mound producing several prominent central column vine like stems that are up to 4″ inches long. The angular stems are colored light green to dull purple and covered with tiny white hairs. The alternate leaves are more or less orbicular in shape, palmate and consist of 5 main lobes.

Bloom time starts in early spring and peaks in early summer. Individual flowers grow from the axils of the leaves. The flowers consist of 5 deep magenta petals and a whitish green calyx. When they’re mature they expand outwardly with their numerous stamens and pink style branches. Each carpel consist of a single seed and the plant spreads by reseeding itself.

Wine cups work really well in wildflower meadows, xeriscape gardens, rock gardens, and as a ground cover plant. They can also thrive as a lovely ground cover, or in containers and hanging baskets.

Callirhoe Involucrata Care

Purple poppy mallow sprawling over the ground
An excellent low-lying, sprawling ground cover plant. Source: philipbouchard

The purple poppy mallow (Callirhoe involucrata) is hardy and easy to care for. They are ideal to grow in hot and dry locations. Here’s what you need to know about their growing conditions and requirements.

Sun & Temperature

The purple poppy mallow is native to hot climates and loves full sun. Therefore, it’s best to grow these plants in a garden with bright sunlight. The plant grows best in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4-8. The ideal temperature range for these plants is 50-80 °F. However, they’ll bloom in hard afternoon sun, and harsh summers. Because these plant readily self-seed, there’s no need to fret when they die back in winter. They’ll return the following spring.

Water & Humidity

Buffalo Rose plants are drought-tolerant and prefer dry soil so they have very low to average water needs. Keep watering regularly but sparingly during the first growing season to promote root establishment. Once roots are properly established, infrequent but deep watering works best. Over watering can cause crown rot on these drought-tolerant plants. Most of the time, you won’t have to provide more beyond the rain that falls in spring and summer.

Soil

Wine cups grow best in moderately moist to dry soil that is well drained. Poorly draining soil can lead to crown rot, as these drought-tolerant plants are not suited to water retention. Therefore, well drained soils such as sandy, rocky, gravely and loamy soils are ideal for this plant. The preferred pH range is mildly acidic from pH 6 to 6.5.

Fertilizing Your Wine Cups?

Callirhoe involucrata is a light feeder. If the soil is especially poor, you can scratch in about an inch of blended compost prior to planting. After that, you can top dress with light fertilizer during spring time. Do not fertilize these plants. Because they’re native meadow plants, they won’t perform as well if you do.

Propagating Mallow Plants

The plant can be propagated through seeds or by division. With seeds, direct sow outdoors in fall, allowing the cold of winter to provide stratification for the seeds. If you’re looking to grow it in your garden, cold stratify your seeds in sand in a plastic bag. Place them in a refrigerator for 2 to 3 months before sowing in flats. Germination usually takes place within 1 to 6 months at 59°F (15°C). Once the plants have produced about 8″ inches of growth, you can put the pots outside in spring.

Division of bedding plant is best done in early summer with small and young plants as Callirhoe involucrata resents root disturbance. The root system makes division of established plants difficult. Ensure you’ve dug an adequate amount away from the plant’s root mass to avoid transplant shock. Then carefully transfer your divided plants into their new location.

Pruning and Training Callirhoe Involucrata

There is no need to prune Callirhoe involucrata plants, as they are relatively prolific and short-lived. However, as with most plants, it’s best to remove any diseased or dead foliage as it crops up.

Troubleshooting

Callirhoe involucrata is more or less a problem-free plant, but here’s what you should know about potential growing issues.

Growing Problems

Make sure that the soil in which they’re growing is well drained. Poorly drained soils and overwatering can lead to diseases like root and crown rot. If your plants don’t bloom in the first year, check to ensure conditions are appropriate for growing them. If they are, you may see blooms next year instead.

Pests

There are no known issues of pests with this plant. Sometimes, it can suffer from a slug attack. To get rid of them you should keep the soil and surroundings dry. Beer traps or slug bait can kill them if they become a serious issue. Hand pick them at dusk when they come out if necessary. However, slug damage rarely gets worse than a few munched leaves so you may not need to treat them at all.

Diseases

High humidity or wet soil can lead to fungal infections of root rot and crown rot in some cases. Like most of the issues that crop up with wine cups, these hardy plants can handle small infections. Those that completely rot roots and crowns require removal and disposal of plants. Avoid planting in an area where the fungal pathogen that causes root rot has previously thrived. Solarize infected soils if necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are Purple Poppy Mallow safe for dogs?

A: Although these plants do not appear on the toxic plants list, precaution must be taken if you have a free roaming dog in your garden.

Q: Are Purple Poppy Mallow plants rabbit resistant?

A: Rabbits are quite fond of the leaves of these plants so they can do some damage. It’s best to protect the purple poppy mallow from rabbits at least until they are well established plants. They are also deer resistant. In wild gardens they might get munched on slightly.

Q: Is callirhoe invasive?

A: While it does spread widely over a few years time, it’s not invasive. It’s native, in fact.

Q: Where is callirhoe Involucrata native to?

A: It grows naturally as a native ground cover in the Central US, and parts of the eastern US.

Q: Is the purple poppy mallow annual or a perennial?

A: It’s a perennial plant that returns in spring from its roots. It also self-seeds readily.

Q: Is callirhoe Involucrata edible?

A: Its leaves and roots are edible and are sometimes incorporated into soups.

Q: When should I plant my Winecup?

A: Give them a spot with full sun, well-draining soil, and minimal irrigation and you’re set.

Q: What can I plant with purple poppy mallow?

A: Plant it with other native plants or wildflower seeds, like phlox, tickseed, and catmint. Choose other spreading plants or mounding native grasses to be neighboring plants as they are hardy enough to handle the spreading power of wine cups.

Related Categories
Products in this article