Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Desert Mallow, Orange Mallow
Sphaeralcea ambigua

Family: Malvaceae (mal-VAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Sphaeralcea (sfeer-AL-see-uh) (Info)
Species: ambigua (am-big-yoo-uh) (Info)

Synonym:Sphaeralcea ambigua var. ambigua

One vendor has this plant for sale.

11 members have or want this plant for trade.


24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

12-15 in. (30-38 cm)
15-18 in. (38-45 cm)
18-24 in. (45-60 cm)
24-36 in. (60-90 cm)
36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade
Light Shade

Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:
Pale Pink
Magenta (Pink-Purple)

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer
Mid Summer


Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Soil pH requirements:
7.9 to 8.5 (alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
Unknown - Tell us

Seed Collecting:
Unknown - Tell us

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By Jeff_Beck
Thumbnail #1 of Sphaeralcea ambigua by Jeff_Beck

By Jeff_Beck
Thumbnail #2 of Sphaeralcea ambigua by Jeff_Beck

By Jeff_Beck
Thumbnail #3 of Sphaeralcea ambigua by Jeff_Beck

By Xenomorf
Thumbnail #4 of Sphaeralcea ambigua by Xenomorf

By Xenomorf
Thumbnail #5 of Sphaeralcea ambigua by Xenomorf

By Xenomorf
Thumbnail #6 of Sphaeralcea ambigua by Xenomorf

By Xenomorf
Thumbnail #7 of Sphaeralcea ambigua by Xenomorf

There are a total of 31 photos.
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6 positives
No neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive goldcow On Apr 27, 2013, goldcow from Irving, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

Bought this at a nursery in Austin TX and brought home to Dallas area. Did not expect it to survive the winter but it was one of the first plants to come back and bloom. It's my husband's favorite plant. I didn't like it at first but love it now. We get multiple colors on the same plant.

Positive kinderegg On Feb 19, 2012, kinderegg from Las Vegas, NV wrote:

I don't know why this plant is not used more often in desert Xeroscapes. Do not rub your eyes after handling this plant, it has a common name "sore-eye poppy". I had interns complain about skin irritation after collecting seeds from this plant, however I have never experienced this myself. I have had limited success with being able to grow out this plant from seed, yet it seems to readily colonize vacant areas in Las Vegas. As an added bonus these "hibiscuses" are able to suppress cheatgrass and red brome here in the Mojave.

Positive p2tso On Jun 14, 2010, p2tso from Los Angeles, CA wrote:

Fast grower - really fast! Bought this as a 6-incher earlier this fall and after an average rainy season here in L.A., it has already exploded to at least 3' high x 4' wide with orange blossoms everywhere. So far, have gotten two "I want that" comments from people passing by. We have clay-ish soil here and after about a month to help it establish, it has received no extra water beyond rainfall. Haven't given it any fertilizer either. Hope it keeps up after this year!

Positive desert_witch On Mar 21, 2006, desert_witch from Lucerne Valley, CA (Zone 8a) wrote:

We have this pretty little wildflower growing all over our area. pretty much everywhere EXCEPT my yard, as I had a tenant several years ago who grated (read: bulldozed/destroyed) most of the 10 acres or so around the house. So if anyone knows how to propigate this, collect seeds, etc. I'd appreciate the info!

Positive Judy81350 On May 12, 2005, Judy81350 from Queen Creek, AZ (Zone 9a) wrote:

They grow wild here, and in several different colors. I have mostly the orange color but I also have white, pink, and lavender. I seem to be the only person on my block that has the odd colors. Lucky me!

Positive Chuck1260 On Mar 26, 2005, Chuck1260 from Arroyo Grande, CA wrote:

This is a great plant. The orange color is quite unusual and looks good against the gray leaves. Cut it back after flowering and it comes back strongly. Although it is a desert native, It grows quite nicely along the central coast of California


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Cave Creek, Arizona
Chandler, Arizona
El Mirage, Arizona
Gilbert, Arizona
Maricopa, Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona
Arroyo Grande, California
Elk Grove, California
Los Angeles, California
Lucerne Valley, California
Twentynine Palms Base, California
Vista, California
Las Vegas, Nevada (2 reports)
Silver Springs, Nevada
Crawford, Texas
Dripping Springs, Texas
Irving, Texas
Salt Lake City, Utah

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