If you are looking for a great drought-tolerant plant for your xeriscape design, the wine cup (Callirhoe) is a perfect choice. This Texas native cannot only tolerate drought but heat and lean soil, as well.
It is easy to understand how this summer-blooming plant got its nickname. The flowers are shaped like cups and come in colors of magenta to wine. The more popular variety – C. involucrate – has five deeply-lobed palmate leaflets, which create a filigree of green as the plant sprawls along the landscape.
Wine cups do sprawl. They can grow to be 6-12 inches tall; though, mine seem to grow taller. They then tend to flop over, creating a carpet in, around, and between other plants. When they are not flopping and weaving, wine cups will climb over other plants. (My wine cups once tried to cover a recently-planted nandina.) You will want to re-route them and try to make them behave better. Mine do well planted with my asters, coneflowers, sedums, and yarrows. Wine cups planted in a very rich soil will form a very dense, coarse mat; therefore, you will want to keep your soil a bit on the sandy or loamy side to encourage their wandering habit.
C. involucrate is also called ‘purple poppy mallow.’ (Callirhoe is actually a member of the mallow – Malvaceae – family.) Other varieties include the ‘fringed poppy mallow’ (C. digitata), which presents sparse foliage 4-5-feet tall, working best at the front of a border, where it will creat a veil through which other plants may be viewed. There is also the ‘poppy mallow’ (C. triangulata), which is similar to the ‘purple poppy mallow.’ This ‘poppy mallow,’ however, has undivided, triangular-to-heart-shaped leaves. The flowers grow in open clusters on the top of 1-2-foot high stems. (Note: This particular variety is hardy Zones 4-8.)
The other varieties of wine cups are hardy in Zones 4-9. You need to plant them in full sun or very light shade. When planting more than one, space well enough apart to allow for a 1-3-foot spread. They generally bloom from spring through summer, with the flowers closing for good after pollination. You may be able to encourage a new spate of blooms by pruning.
Wine cups are perfect for a wildflower garden or one with native plantings, as well as for a xeriscape design (as previously mentioned). They are also plants for which you will want to find a spot in your garden.