Malacothamnus clementinus

San Clemente Bush Mallow

Ribes viburnifolium

Malacothamnus is an underexplored branch of the Bush Mallow family. We've become collectors of the species, having fallen in love with these large shrubs sporting furry leaves and delicate white, pink, or lilac flowers. They are happy in poor soil, full sun, and little to no water. A fire-follower, they can take heavy pruning – which the larger of the species, growing to 15' in size, require. They often spread by underground runners, which can in turn be carefully potted up and moved to a new location if desired*.

Our small (to 3') clementinus blooms in early spring (before our other bush mallows), and surprises us with its two different flower colors on the same branch. This relatively uncommon find from San Clemente Island is worth seeking out.

As mentioned, we have several other species of Malacothamnus. Our M. abbottii has grayish leaves and lilac flowers with orange stamen, growing over 6' every year after a hard pruning. Everyone notes how pretty our smallish M. densiflorus (originally from San Diego county) is in bloom - unfortunately, it is short-lived (perhaps from the increased water ours receives); fortunately, a large number of children pop up around the parent every year so it doesn't die as much as move around. Our vigorous M. fasciculatus var. nesioticus always seems to have small holes in its leaves – and is always covered with a variety of birds eating whatever is making those holes. M. 'Edgewood' is a stately selection, having perhaps the neatest form (easily reaching 6') as well as the darkest leaves covered by the most hair; it doesn't tend to roam much either.

* Propagation tip: We found it best to water the area well before digging up small pups to transplant; that way, the soil will be moist and stick to the roots. If the soil is dry and crumbly, it will fall away from the roots, and the transplants will be less successful. Also, wide but shallow pots work best (as opposed to regular 1 gal containers) as the main root you might want to keep may be a foot long but only a few inches deep; we found plastic hanging baskets work well, as they allow the transplants some room to colonize.

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