Malva sylvestris, is a delightful and showy flowering plant, commonly known as Common Mallow or High Mallow. Some people consider it a highly vibrant flowering garden plant, some think of it as a weed and then there are others who love it because it is an edible plant! It is all these things!
It is actually considered as one of the most promising herbal medicinal species. In this post I’m going to share some interesting facts about the Mallow as well as comprehensive knowledge on how to successfully plant, grow, and care for Mallow in your own garden.
The Beauty of Malva Sylvestris
Mallow (Malva sylvestris) makes a delightful addition to any garden. It is a short-lived perennial which means it typically has a lifespan of 2 to 3 years and is a very easy plant to grow and maintain.
As part of the Hollyhock family, Mallow shares similar well-known characteristics such as its tall stems of colorful flowers.
Its most striking feature is its vibrant flowers, which come in various shades of pink, lavender, and white with the deep pink versions being the most common.
Common Mallow Plant Features
These flowers are arranged in abundant clusters and grow up the tall stems. The flowers are five-petaled and have a distinctive funnel-like shape, with a darker center that creates an attractive contrast.
The leaves are a rich green color with a distinctive softly lobed heart shape and possess a slightly velvety texture. These features all add to this plant's cottage garden charm.
Part of the Common Mallow’s attraction is that it also has a typically long flowering period which can stretch from spring to early autumn, depending on climate and growing conditions.
It will grow to a height of around 2-4 feet (60 – 120 cms) and you’ll find that the combination of this plant’s height and bright flower clusters will create a stunning display when planted as a backdrop in your garden landscape.
Fascinating Malva Sylvestris Varieties
Apart from the classic Malva sylvestris, there are other attractive varieties of Mallow that have gained popularity among gardeners.
Malva sylvestris 'Zebrina'
also known as Zebra Mallow. It has eye-catching flowers, which have deep pink petals with distinctive dark purple stripes. These resemble the patterns of a zebra but pink! The striking color contrast creates an unusual beauty when you look at the flower closely.
Malva sylvestris 'Mystic Merlin'
also known as French Mallow. This plant has large, double flowers in shades of rich purple and pink, creating a stunning display of colors. It is exuberant and showy and unlike its classic counterpart is compact and bushy, making it an excellent choice for containers or smaller garden spaces.
Both these varieties share the same ease of cultivation as the Malva sylvestris but offer gardeners more options to add a touch of elegance and fascination to their outdoor spaces.
Why Grow Common Mallow and What are its Benefits
There are several reasons why Mallow is a great choice to have in your garden. It has a number of benefits and offers some interesting facts other than purely being a stunning flowering plant!
Common Mallow is an Easy Plant to Maintain
One of the significant advantages of growing Malva sylvestris is how easy it is to maintain. It thrives in various soil types and can tolerate both full sun and partial shade.
Once established, it requires minimal attention, making it an ideal choice for any gardener.
It is a Favorite Amongst Butterflies and Other Pollinators
I love a garden that is full of pollinators and these flowers are a nectar magnet for bees and butterflies. These pollinators love the high levels of nectar which are held deep inside the funnel shaped flowers.
As a favorite host plant for the Painted Lady Butterfly, it is also supporting local ecosystems.
Mallow is an Edible Plant:
- Many of the flowers we grow in our gardens are edible and this is another one! All parts of the mallow plant are edible and that includes flowers, leaves, roots and seeds.
- The flowers can be used to garnish salads and dessert dishes. It’s an easy way to elevate your kitchen plates as its pleasant mild flavor won’t compromise other flavors on the plate.
- The young leaves can be used as a substitute for spinach in cooked savory dishes and raw in a salad. The boiled leaves will also create a small amount of thickening agent.
- Both the leaves and flowers can also be used for herbal teas.
- The seeds can be eaten raw as a snack or roasted like other nuts.
- The roots are the main source of mucilage in the plant, and when boiled will create a thick liquid that can be used as a thickening agent in soups and stews but also whipped into mallow meringues.
Besides its appeal as an edible flower, the Mallow flower holds a delightful secret! It has color changing properties which are due to the presence of natural pigments known as anthocyanins.
When the vibrant purple petals are steeped in liquid it releases a blue color. This blue color is then transformed into pink if the pH of the liquid is changed. This trick is now very popular with mixologists who create interesting cocktails using edible flowers.
- This plant has valuable nutritional value, including Vitamins A,B,C,E, inulin, mucilage, phenols, flavonoids, essential fatty acids, fiber, calcium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and potassium.
- Read here a review of the health benefits of Malva sylvestris, which explains its extraordinary antimicrobial, hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.
Common Mallow Medicinal Uses
- Throughout history, Common Mallow has been valued for its medicinal properties. The plant contains mucilage, a gel-like substance that can help soothe and protect the respiratory and digestive systems.
How to Grow Malva Sylvestris
Ideal Conditions for Growing Common Mallows
This versatile plant can thrive in a range of climates. It prefers temperate regions with mild summers and cool winters. While it can tolerate some heat, providing afternoon shade in hot climates can help prevent stress on the plant.
Mallow is also moderately frost-tolerant, making it suitable for regions with mild winter temperatures.
For best growing results plant in full sun with at least 6 hours direct sunlight a day. If you live in a hotter region, then you should plant it where it will get some partial shade during the hottest part of the day to help protect the plant from wilting.
What Soil to Use
Mallow is great to grow if your soil isn’t particularly good as it's not demanding when it comes to soil. It does grow better in well-draining, loamy soil but will adapt to different soil types, including sandy or clay soils.
If you can, adding organic matter will improve drainage and provide essential nutrients for healthy growth.
Propagating Malva Sylvestris
Seeds can be directly sown in the garden after the last frost in early spring and will germinate easily. This plant will very happily self-seed if it's left. The seed pods appear soon after flowering and are round, encasing wedge-shaped seeds. These seed pods resemble a cheese wheel and so its sometimes called the Cheese Mallow.
Malva Sylvestris Care Tips
Mallow (Malva sylvestris) is generally a resilient and hardy plant and needs little attention. But for it to give you the best growth and flowers, here are some top tips:
What Fertilizer to Use
As a low maintenance plant, it doesn’t require much in the way of fertilizing. However, applying a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer once in early spring can encourage healthy growth and blooming.
Avoid over-fertilization, as it can lead to excessive foliage growth at the expense of flower production.
Only moderate watering is needed, ensuring the soil stays consistently moist but not waterlogged. During hot and dry periods, providing regular deep watering can help the plant withstand the heat.
Avoid overhead watering, as wet foliage can make the plant susceptible to fungal diseases. Using a soaker hose or drip irrigation is a better option to water at the soil level.
Common Mallow Pests and Problems
Although relatively resistant to pests and diseases, it can be susceptible to leaf rust. This is a common fungal infection and although it won’t kill your plant it will prevent it from flourishing, and it looks unsightly.
As soon as it is noticed, pull off all infected leaves and burn to destroy the fungal spores. Caterpillars can sometimes be an issue, particularly the larvae of the Painted Lady butterfly.
As Mallow serves as a host plant for these butterflies, finding caterpillars on the plant is a small price to pay for supporting these beautiful pollinators.
Author Bio: Annie Albers
Annie Albers is a self-confessed "floraholic" with an insatiable passion for gardening and flowers. Believing that flowers can be enjoyed not just in vases but also on plates, she aims to educate and inspire others in the wonderful ways of using edible flowers.
As the founder of flowersyoucaneat.com, Annie shares a wealth of inspiration, tips, and useful information, fostering a community where floral beauty and culinary experience intertwine.
Enjoying Your Successful Mallow Flower Plants
So now that you know how to successfully plant and grow Mallow you will be rewarded with not only charming and abundant flowers, but also a highly beneficial plant that pollinators love. It’s also high in nutritional value, and edible!
And what’s more, Mallows are incredibly easy to maintain – how good is that! Enjoy!