Plant of the Month for February, 2014

Kitaibelia vitifolia header
Kitaibelia vitifolia

 (kit-ay-BEE-luh  vy-tee-FO-lee-uh)

General Information:

Kitaibelia vitifolia is a large perennial from the former Yugoslavia. This plant won’t steal the garden show but it fills a void in the garden. It is difficult to find 5 foot tall flowering plants that grow in shade. K. vitfolia fits the bill.

Kitaibelia vitifolia main

Kitaibelia vitifolia; photo by Robert Pavlis

K. vitifolia is is also known as Russian hibiscus, cedar cup and Chalice flower. It starts to flower in late summer and continues until frost, producing a few white malva-type flowers in a continuous fashion. It is unaffected by any pests in my garden.

You probably will not find this rare plant in a nursery, but it is readily available as seed. ORG&HPS has it in their seed exchange most years. Seed germinates quickly, and a well grown seedling can flower the first year. Unlike other Malva plants, this one does not seed around.  

Kitaibelia vitifolia closeup

Kitaibelia vitifolia; photo by Robert Pavlis

I grow it at the back of a part-shade boarder and it makes a nice backdrop to other shade loving plants. It looks more like a shrub than a perennial. Some references say it can grow to 10 feet tall, but mine is about 5 feet tall growing under sugar maples. It can take full sun and damp conditions which might allow it to get bigger.

Life Cycle: perennial

Height: 2M (5ft)

Bloom Time: late August to late October

Natural Range: Yugoslavia

Habitat: damp thickets and grasslands

Synonyms:  Malope vitifolia


Light: full sun to full shade

Soil: very adaptable

Water: damp to dry

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5 – 8

Propagation: division, seeds

Seedex availability (ORG&HPS annual Seed Exchange): frequently

Sow @ 20°C. Seed germinates within 3 months.
Requires darkness.

Requires scarification. Nick or rub between sheets of sandpaper.  See  Seed coat of Baptisia and Oxytropis and other Fabaceae can be scarified by soaking in boiling water. See


Robert Pavlis