African mallows are endemic to South Africa and form a small group of 21 species of pink, mauve, magenta or white-flowered sprawling shrublets and erect shrubs belonging to the hibiscus and hollyhock family Malvaceae, which also includes important agricultural fibre crops like cotton and jute.
They have symmetrical blooms and their somewhat leathery, hairy leaves have toothed margins, hence the generic name Anisodontea, derived from the Greek aniso (unequal) and odon (a tooth), and are typically divided into three or five unequal lobes. Showy, free-flowering Anisodonteas are suited to both small and large gardens and like full sun and well drained acid or alkaline soils containing well decomposed organic matter. The plants are fast-growing and remarkably waterwise once established, requiring only occasional drenching. Pruning the branches after flowering prevents a leggy appearance, encourages bushy new growth and prolongs the life of the plants. Anisodonteas are easily propagated by seeds sown in autumn or spring, or by tip cuttings taken in early summer, once new growth has hardened sufficiently. The plants are not very susceptible to pest and disease attack. The flowers attract beneficial insects to the garden including African monarch butterflies, honey bees and carpenter bees.