In nature, mallow, or cheese, is a biennial and occasionally a perennial flower. However, it is usually grown as an annual in gardens. Related to hollyhocks, this native of Europe is now naturalized in parts of the United States. The purple-pink-lavender flowers are often veined with a darker color.
Description of mallow: This mallow grows up to 4 feet tall and has round or kidney-shaped, lobed leaves. The flowers on 2-inch stalks come from the leaf axils of the upper stalk. The flowers are up to 2 inches in diameter.
Growing mallow: Grow this mallow in full sun. It's indifferent to soil, growing equally well in average and rich fertility. Keep well watered to ensure lush growth. Protect from high winds to prevent toppling. Space plants 10 to 15 inches apart.
Propagating mallow: By seed. Sow seeds in place where plants are to grow. Thin to 10 to 15 inches apart. For earlier growth and bloom, start indoors 6 to 8 weeks prior to planting out after frost danger has passed. Seeds germinate in 10 to 15 days at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Barely cover seeds; they need light to germinate.
Uses for mallow: This mallow can be used in beds and borders. Plant mid-border or at the ends. Use it at the edge of woodlands in full sun. It can be cut and used for arrangements, especially if the entire bloom spike is used in bouquets.
Mallow related species: Malva nicaeensis is similar but shorter, growing up to 21/2 feet tall, with slightly smaller blooms. M. verticillata crispa is a tall species with curled and crisped, round leaves. It grows up to 6 feet tall.
Mallow related varieties: M. sylvestris ssp. mauritiana has rich purple-pink flowers with dark purple veins. Some of the flowers are loosely doubled.
Scientific name of mallow: Malva sylvestris