Orange Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)

Globe Mallow: You Can Grow That!

The arrival of spring is heralded by the blooms of globe mallow throughout the arid regions of the Southwest.

Orange Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)
Orange globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) blooms in the Arizona desert

Native to the Southwest, globe mallow easily handles both cold and hot temperatures. Hardy to -10 degrees, it grows in drought-tolerant gardens in zones 6 through 9, where it flowers in spring in low-desert locations. In colder regions, it blooms a few months later. Often, they will also flower intermittently in summer and fall.

Pink and white globe mallow
Pink and white varieties of globe mallow

The cupped flowers add a ‘cottage garden’ feel to arid gardens where they should be planted in full sun where they will reach a size of 3 feet tall and wide. While globe mallow comes in different colors, such as red, pink, purple, and white – orange is the most common color. If one or more colors are present in the landscape, new volunteers may appear in a different color due to cross-pollination.

This intermediate desert native grows from seed or by transplants. It is also a great pollinator plant as they attract bees when in flower.

Red globe mallow growing in the author’s garden with green desert spoon in the background

Globe mallow fits nicely alongside spiky succulents such as century plant (Agave americana) or green desert spoon (Dasylirion texanum). For a mixture flowering perennials, add blackfoot daisy (Melampodium leucanthum), desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata), and Goodding’s verbena (Glandularia goddingii).

Globe mallow in spring

Plants that can handle full, reflected heat, are valuable in the landscape. One way that globe mallow does this is due to tiny hairs that cover its leaves and stems and reflect the sun’s rays. The foliage can be irritating to the skin and eyes, so wear gloves and long sleeves when doing any pruning. To keep globe mallow attractive and promote additional flowering the next year, shear it back to 1-foot tall and wide once the blooms fade in late spring or early summer.

you can grow that logo




(Visited 4,681 times, 2 visits today)


  • June Veloce

    The orange variety grows all over my yard among the sagebrush. No water necessary!
    I’d love to have the pink ones but maybe they need more care? I’ve never seen the pink other than in a nearby public garden.
    The orange came with the house – and, as far as i can tell – the dozens of rabbits and hares seem to leave it alone.

  • Virginia Allison

    I search for plants I can use in my desert landscaping beyond my garden walls where rabbits and javelina frequent. Recently I planted a Mexican Petunia out there and now nothing is left of it but the two stalks. To save it I will have to dig it up and plant it inside the garden wall. But rabbits visit this area also. So the mystery is, do I have to put it in a pot above the rabbits reach? Some of the things these critters don’t seem to bother are iris and a type of sage.
    Anyone have any more ideas for critter proof plants? After reading the recent entry I will consider incorporating Globe Mallow.

      • Virginia Allison

        Thank you so much for these lists re rabbit plant preferences , Noelle. Now, if I just knew what the javelina won’t eat, I’d have it made!
        They regularly stop by during the night and munch on my opuntia varieties of cactus. For a few years they gnawed around the bases of two large ceres cacti I had and finally it did them in. Not the javelinas, the cacti! What tough little mouths they must have! Not the cacti, the javelinas!

  • Virginia Allison

    A few years ago I had a memorable experience with a globe mallow that had volunteered in my front patio. As time went on the woody trunk became wider and gnarly, twisting a little near it’s base. One day I aimed the hose water at the center of the plant, to give it water. Before my eyes I notice this gnarly thing moved and realized I had just hosed a rattle snake that was curled up on the base of this plant. I wonder if the snake thought it had found a friend to curl up with. Instead it
    received a shower.

    As a child growing up in Phoenix I remember that I was warned not to touch this plant, as it would give me pink eye.