Cultivating Mallow

Cultivating Mallow

Question: Mallow

how can i grow a mallow plant?

Answer: mallow

Dear Genone,

mallow is a plant that typically develops in the Italian flora, indeed, it is often a weed, difficult to eradicate; this means, that it develops rapidly even in the less rich and soft garden soil, and that it survives cold, heat, drought. Usually the mallow grows spontaneously in uncultivated land, on the edges of roads, in poorly maintained gardens, spread by birds, who spread the seed. It is a perennial, or annual, plant that is self-sowing easily. There are varieties of particularly decorative mallow on the market, with large or very colorful flowers; these varieties are usually sown, directly at home, in spring; or seedlings are prepared, sowing in a warm bed in autumn or late winter, in order to already have large seedlings when spring arrives. A semi-shaded or even sunny flowerbed is then chosen to plant them. The treatments are few, especially with plants already developed. In the case of young seedlings, remember to water them in case of prolonged drought, or if the soil is dry for a few days.

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Mallow is a plant known especially for its herbal uses; lovers of herbal teas and infusions are therefore certainly interested in its cultivation in the garden; let us remember in any case that its flowers find beautiful locations even in natural gardens; moreover they will be adored by insect lovers because their corollas are an irresistible attraction for bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

Description and mauve spread

The common mallow (i.e. Malva Sylvestris) is a biennial or perennial plant very widespread in the spontaneous state. In our peninsula it grows practically in every region, on the edge of the woods, on uncultivated paths or even in the prairies, from the plain up to 1400 meters above sea level.

The first year presents only the basal rosette composed of lobed leaves. The stems are mostly herbaceous, except in the lower parts. They are very sturdy and covered with a fine fluff. The average length is 60 cm, but in some cases they can exceed a meter and a half or two. The posture can be erect or creeping. On the stems the leaves become deeply divided and alternate. It is from the armpit that flowers sprout all summer long, alone or in even groups. The petals, bilobed, are 5, of a beautiful light purple with darker veins, but mutations in white or pink are also easily found. From these then the fruits develop, black in the shape of a ring.

Mallow cultivation

The cultivation of mallow is rather simple; Sylvestris can be grown in an area of ​​the garden dedicated to officinalis or in areas left to spontaneous. In the absence of space, it also finds a good location in medium-sized pots, that is at least 30 cm deep. If you decide instead to insert it in the flower beds or borders, we recommend opting for Moschata (very elegant and suitable for the cottage garden) or specially selected cultivars.

Family, genus, species: Malvaceae, Malva sylvestris

Type of plant: Perennial or biennial, semi-woody

Dimensions: From 30 cm to 2 meters

Cultivation: Easy

Growth: Fast

Ground: Not demanding, better than medium texture, well drained

Exposure: Sun; even partial shade in the South

Rusticity: Very resistant to cold and heat

Water need: Low

Propagation: Seed, division; self-dissemination

Use: Medicinal plant, vegetable garden, wild areas, mixed borders, pot

Adversity: Aphids, rust

How to get the seedlings

Seeds are not difficult to find at specialist retailers; alternatively, in spring, let's go to officinal nurseries and we will easily buy some plants already stamped.

If we decide to dedicate ourselves to sowing, we will have to start in autumn (to have flowering already the following year) or at the end of winter (we will then have to wait at least twelve months).


We can sow indoors, in partial shade, using cassettes or directly planted in a warm and bright position. Let's cover with about half a centimeter of light soil and always keep it humid.

Seedlings with four leaves can be repotted into larger pots or in the garden, being careful not to break the radicle.


Mallow grows well in warm and sunny locations, in the South or Southeast. A little more shaded locations rarely prevent growth, especially on the coasts and in the central-southern regions of our peninsula. In these conditions, however, it is good to carefully monitor the basal leaves, which are easy prey for rust.

Mauve soil

It is not a demanding plant from this point of view; in general, it prefers fresh, medium-textured soils with good drainage. Soils that are too rich in organic matter should be avoided because they risk stimulating the vegetative growth too much and making the plants unstable and ugly.

In the garden we only make sure that the area is not too clayey; we may intervene by incorporating some river sand and small gravel.

For pots, good mixes are obtained by combining garden soil, soil for flowering plants and sand in equal quantities. At the bottom we create a thick draining layer with small pebbles or expanded clay.


In the absence of precipitation it is good to water young plants twice a week. Once freed, the interventions will be considerably reduced by intervening only in the case of prolonged drought.

In pots, distribute water when the first two centimeters of soil from the surface are dry.

The saucers should never be used and in any case avoid wetting the leaves: humidity is the most frequent cause of the onset of rust.

Topping and cleaning

To obtain well-branched specimens and have abundant blooms it is important to intervene by trimming the stems as soon as they reach 30 cm and then continuing several times in the year.

Fruits are an important nourishment for birds and make our garden alive during the winter: we only cut them close to the ground when spring arrives.


Mallow is a perennial plant and new seedlings can also be obtained by dividing the head. Let's proceed with plants of at least 3 years of age, possibly in autumn. The earthen bread is extracted and the roots are divided with the help of two pitchforks. We reinsert in the garden or place in pots.

This plant self-disseminates easily: we can therefore take small spontaneous plants and move them where we like or give them to friends.

Parasites and diseases

Mallow is frequently attacked by aphids: in severe cases we use pyrethrum-based products.

Another common problem is rust: we can prevent it with a well-sunny position and avoiding wetting the leaves. In case of strong attacks, we eliminate all the vegetation at the base in early summer.

Species and varieties

Malva sylvestris also called wild mallow. The height ranges from 30 cm to more than 2 meters depending on the terrain and exposure. It is very common spontaneously throughout Europe, the Middle East and Russia. Also interesting as an ornamental, but it must be divided every year: the old subjects, in fact, bloom much less.

The Mauritania subspecies is interesting with large purple flowers with more intense veins and very shiny leaves. From this a “Bibor Fehlo” cultivar with even darker flowers was also obtained.

The "Merlin" mixture is also nice which includes a wide range of colors including violet and crimson. Excellent for use in the natural garden and in mixed borders.

Finally, particular is "Primley Blue" small in size (up to 30 cm), light purple flowers and bright blue veins. Excellent as a ground cover.

Mallow Moschata used both as an ornamental and for herbal purposes. It grows up to 90 cm and has a neater appearance than the previous one. The flowers are pink and are produced continuously until autumn. The leaves when rubbed give off a musky aroma. It also grows spontaneously throughout Europe and northern Africa. It is available in the subspecies alba (with white flowers) and rosea (with almost fuchsia petals).

Malva Parkalee woody perennial with ivory flowers. Some classify it as a hybrid between mallow and alcea.

Collection and use

The collection of leaves and flowers, for culinary or medicinal purposes, is carried out from early summer to mid-autumn. The ideal is to choose the younger parts by working early in the morning. The product can be used fresh: in this case we can place leaves and flowers in the refrigerator, wrapped in damp paper for a maximum of three days.

If we want to preserve these parts for the long term we will have to resort to drying instead. It can be carried out in the air, in a shaded and ventilated area; an excellent alternative are domestic dryers which quickly return a perfectly dehydrated product to us.

In the kitchen

Fresh mallow can be used raw or cooked. In the first case we can combine leaves and flowers to salads which will give a particular flavor and a beautiful delicate color. The corollas can also be used to decorate sweets or confetti, after having cooked them several times in a syrup of water and sugar.

The leaves can be cooked and combined with other vegetables in soups, stuffed or in omelettes. They give a particular sweet taste. In spring they can, together with other spontaneous ones, can create a beautiful harmony in soups, risottos and over fresh cheeses.

In herbal medicine

This plant has always been known for its multiple properties: anti-inflammatory, calming, diuretic, emollient, laxative, sedative and refreshing. It is in fact a concentrate of active ingredients such as vitamins A, B, C and E as well as particular acids and minerals.

For affections of the throat and oral cavity, an infusion can be used: put a tablespoon of mallow in 250 ml of boiling water and wait at least 8 hours. We can use it warm to drink or to gargle.

A little diluted, it can also be used as an excellent tonic and emollient for the skin, to be distributed with a cotton pad. The boiled leaves and the infusion are also excellent for applying to tired and irritated eyes.

The decoctions obtained with fresh leaves, flowers and roots are even more effective: they calm sore gums and also have an effect on abscesses. To alleviate the pain we can reduce the product to a pulp and apply it for at least 15 minutes.

They are also very effective for relieving burns in the urinary tract and for starting to fight problems such as vaginal candida. Drinking three or four cups a day will be an excellent adjunct to the other therapies that we will undertake in the meantime.

Cultivating Mallow:


Sowing:September-October / March-April

Planting:October / March-April

Division:October / March




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