At the basic level, the Winecup Flower needs the following to thrive;
Moderately Moist to Dry soil that is well drained
Might need some protection from rabbits prior to becoming established
Purple Poppy Mallow / Winecup Flower (Callirhoe Involucrata) – Facts and General Description
Ahhhh, it is beautiful – the Winecup flower, Purple Poppy Mallow, Callirhoe Involucrata – by whatever name it is known. This native perennial is a truly lovely ground cover that will give you a brilliant carpet of pink/purple flowers during late spring through early summer. I have four of these plants in my front flower bed in between our walkway and front porch, and several more in the backyard. The activity from bees/butterflies is excellent, and the flower is beautiful and interesting as it closes up at night. And when I get around to making a rock wall, I will probably plant some of these beauties in it so they can drape over the side.
This plant is on the shorter side, not reaching more than 1′ tall, but will spread out in all directions if permitted to about a 3′ (1m) diameter. When in full bloom, this is one of the most showy ground covers I have ever seen. It is like a pink/magenta/purple carpet, that may raise itself up a bit if taller competition is too close.
Also, don’t forget to check out our handy quick reference table at the bottom of this post. It summarizes all the ‘need to know’ info in a nice, concise way.
Bonus – Native Plant = Less Maintenance
Another benefit of this flower being native is that as long as you plant it in the conditions where it likes to grow (sun, not too wet) you shouldn’t have any issues with disease or bugs damaging it. This is because it has evolved overtime to be resistant to those problems, making this flower very low maintenance.
Is Purple Poppy Mallow Edible or Medicinal?
I’ve read that the leaves and roots are edible, as well as the root. Apparently the Native Americans used the root for a variety of medicinal purposes. They would also use it as food during winter, and supposedly tastes like sweet potatoes. They would make a tea to treat stomach/digestion issues, and possibly head colds. However, I make no recommendation to use this plant for medicine and have never consumed it myself. My policy is that if they don’t sell it at a pharmacy, don’t use it for medicine. So – eat/consume at your own risk.
Propagating Purple Poppy Mallow
This plant has a taproot, making any kind of division extremely difficult if not impossible. This also means that you can’t really transplant it easily, since the taproot might extend several feet down in the soil.
Propagation by cuttings
I’ve not tried to propagate this plant by cuttings. But I have read from others who have done it successfully. So, it is worth a shot to do this on an established plant. However, the next method is very easy, growing Winecup flower from seed.
Growing Poppy Mallow from seed
Callirhoe Involucrata may seem intimidating to grow from seed, but is actually pretty easy. You must scarify, and stratify the seed in order to get a high germination rate. Scarification is the process of ‘breaking’ the outer shell of the seed. Most often you can use a bit of sand paper to wear away the outer coating. But for this seed, the most effective way I have found is the hot water treatment.
Scarifying Callirhoe Involucrata Seeds….
This process may sound like a lot of work, but it is really simple. All you do place a small amount of water in a coffee cup, and it really doesn’t need to be more than a cup. It just has to be enough to submerge the seeds. But, don’t add the seeds yet. You then transfer the water to a small pot, and boil it. While the water is heating up, put the seeds into the empty coffee cup. Then, after the water has boiled, remove the pot from the heat. Once it stops boiling, wait for about 10-20 seconds, then pour the water into the coffee cup with seeds. Let this soak for 24 hours, as this process will ‘break’ the outer seed shell, and allow water to permeate it all the way through.
Winter Sowing Purple Poppy Mallow
Callirhoe Involucrata needs to have a cold moist stratification period to ensure a high germination rate. The easiest way to do this is winter sowing, where you basically plant the seeds outside in pots or some container, covered up to maintain moisture. So now you just need to plant the seeds into a small pot, six pack, or whatever you wish to grow them in. Then I plant them approximately 1/8” (3mm) deep, and then set outside in the Winter or early Spring, covered by a small plastic dome. Since winter can be rough weather, I secure the dome both twine and duct tape. This video gives a brief summary, but there are other methods (milk jug cut in half, old Tupperware).
Once the plants are outside, you just need to wait until the temperatures warm up. If you suspect that it will get very warm, say 70F (18C) or more, then you may want to consider removing the dome that day, or moving the plant into the shade. I must admit that I have had seedlings/seeds get ‘cooked’ by being in direct sunlight but protected by a dome.
Nursing the seedlings
Now depending on what container you have your seedlings in will determine when you need to transplant your seedlings to larger pots, or wait until you plant out in the ground.
This plant will thrive in full sun, with dry to medium soil. The more sun it gets, the more blooms you will have! It seems to be a very resilient and hardy plant. I’ve not seen it suffer from any diseases or insects, but mainly from rabbits. I protect mine from rabbits by using Liquid Fence, sprayed once per week until they are growing vigorously (or after a rain), and then once per month after that. The taproot on this plant makes is very drought tolerant. I’ve only grown mine in clay, and it hasn’t had any issues.
I’ve had Purple Poppy Mallow go dormant in later summer (August) only to have it sprout back up. I don’t know why this happens, but I guess it is just restarting its life cycle. But perhaps I will get a nice early spring and long summer and be able to have it bloom twice in one year! Although I am too far North to have it bloom a second time thus far. Other than that it is generally evergreen, even throughout the winter.
Typical Garden Uses / Companion Plants
This plant is perfectly suited to act as a ground cover. It would probably be best to intersperse some small grasses (Blue Grama) for it to grow around, which I may add next year. I have it planted as a ground cover border, leading up to the taller plants in my flower beds. I think it would also look nice on slopes or rock walls. Below is an image of our small front flower bed with a cascade of blooms, from tallest to shortest showing Purple Poppy Mallow blooming at the end of July, just prior to its short dormancy;
I have around six of these plants on the front border of our micro-prairie in our backyard. This plant is great there, as it sprawls in all directions soaking up sun while staying low to the ground. So, mixed with some shorter grasses it is perfect for a wildflower, or backyard micro-prairie. See how to start your own micro prairie here.
This plant would look nice growing next to many other native flowers, as long as the other native flowers weren’t too thick or overcrowd it. Cardinal Flower and a couple of differentAsters would be nice, as they would overlap the blooming period nicely, and keep the area interesting into Autumn. The Asters in particular would be nice, since they can enjoy nearly identical conditions as the Winecup flower.
I’ve seen it survive in ‘stiff’ competition from other plants, and still made a good display as it will climb or raise up against its competition. But for this showy perennial to be fully appreciated it needs a bit of space of make its gorgeous carpet of pink/purple blooms. Below is another shot of some Winecup Flower I have in the ‘meadow’ that we are currently, slowly building up. It is going to be a border between our lawn and these taller Heliopsis False Sunflowers.