Anisodontea is a genus of flowering plants native to Africa and known by common names like Cape mallow or African mallow. This genus is comprised of an estimated 20 species known to interbreed and hybridize readily. Many cultivars are grown commercially for the nursery trade and gardeners interested in growing these members of the hibiscus family can often obtain them at nurseries and through catalogs. Trades of cuttings and seeds with other gardeners provide another method for propagation.
These evergreen plants have light green toothed foliage and an upright growth habit. Some grow quite large, while others remain more compact. The plants produce colorful pink foliage resembling miniature hibiscus flowers and the blooming period can be extended in warm climates. Some Anisodontea species are suitable for container gardening and can be cultivated as houseplants.
Members of the Anisodontea genus are sensitive to frost and grow best in tropical to subtropical climates. People in temperate regions sometimes have success growing the plants in a sheltered area of the garden while covering them on especially cold nights to prevent frost damage. It is also possible to grow in a greenhouse, or to bring containers inside during the winter months and put them back outside in the warmth of spring and summer.
These plants prefer dry conditions and are well suited to a low-water garden. The soil should be well drained and of medium quality and other drought-loving plants are most suited as companions to an Anisodontea species. The plants can be grown in massed plantings and borders, as well as being trained to grow on trellises or cultivated in hanging containers. The tumbling foliage can be shaped by pinching back to force the plant to develop a bushy appearance and periodic fertilizer will help the plant grow big and strong, as well as making the plants bloom longer.
One advantage to this genus is the fast growth. People looking for plants to establish quickly and mature rapidly can use these plants to give their landscaping a head start. The ready hybridization of Anisodontea species can also be an advantage, as it is possible to find a wide variety of interesting and exotic cultivars suitable for gardening. Other gardeners may have unique hybrid plants and be willing to provide seeds and cuttings, although people should be aware that seeds do not always breed true. If a particular plant is of interest, requesting a cutting is recommended.