Question: the Mallow
how can I grow a mallow plant?
Answer: the mallow
the mallow is a plant that typically develops in the Italian flora, on the contrary, it is often a weed, difficult to eradicate; this means that it develops rapidly even in less rich and soft garden soil, and that it survives cold, heat and drought. Usually the mallow grows spontaneously in uncultivated land, along roadsides, in untended gardens, spread by the birds, which spread the seed. It is a perennial, or annual, plant that sows easily with self. There are varieties of mallow that are particularly decorative, with large or very colorful flowers; these varieties are usually sown directly in the spring; or they prepare seedlings, sowing in a warm bed in autumn or at the end of winter, so that they already have large plants when spring arrives. Then choose a semi-shaded, or even sunny, flower-bed where to place them. There are few cures, 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.
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's remember in any case that its flowers find beautiful locations even in natural gardens; moreover they will be adored by the lovers of insects because their corollas are an irresistible call for bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
Description and distribution of mallow
The common mallow (ie Malva Sylvestris) is a biennial or perennial plant 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 of altitude.
The first year has only the basal rosette composed of lobed leaves. The stems are mostly herbaceous, except in the lower parts. They are very robust and covered with a thin lint. The average length is 60 cm, but in some cases they can exceed one 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, solitary or in even groups, sprout all summer long. The petals, bilobate, are 5, of a beautiful light purple with darker veins, but mutations in white or pink are easily found. From these then develop the fruits, black in the shape of a ring.
Cultivation of Mallow
Mallow cultivation is quite simple; sylvestris can be grown in an area of the garden dedicated to officinal herbs or in areas left to the wild. In the absence of space, it also finds a good location in medium-sized vessels, that is at least 30 cm deep. If you decide instead to insert it in the flowerbeds or in the borders we recommend opting for the Moschata (very elegant and suitable for the cottage garden) or for specially selected cultivars.
Family, genus, species: Malvaceae, Malva sylvestris
Type of plant: Perennial or biennial, semi-woody
dimensions: From 30 cm to 2 meters
Ground: Not demanding, better than medium mixture, well drained
Exposure: Sun; even partial shade in the South
Rusticitа: Very resistant to cold and heat
Water needs: Low
Propagation: Seed, division; autodisseminazione
Use: Medicinal plant, vegetable garden, spontaneous zones, mixed borders, vase
Avversitа: Aphids, rust
How to get the seedlings
Seeds are not difficult to find at specialist retailers; alternatively, in spring, let us go to the nurseries of officinal plants and we will buy the already stamped seedlings without difficulty.
If we decide to dedicate ourselves to sowing we will have to start in the fall (to have the flowering already the following year) or at the end of the winter (we will then have to wait at least twelve months).
We can sow indoors, in partial shade, using boxes or directly in a warm and luminous position. We cover about half a centimeter of light soil and always keep it moist.
The seedlings with four leaves can be placed in larger pots or in the garden, taking care not to break the root.
The mallow grows well in warm and very sunny locations, in the south or south-east. Slightly more shaded locations rarely prevent growth, especially on the coasts and in the central-southern regions of our peninsula. In these conditions it is however good to carefully monitor the basal leaves, easy prey to rust.
It is not a demanding plant from this point of view; in general it prefers medium-textured, fresh soils, but with good drainage. Soils that are too rich in organic matter should be avoided because they risk stimulating vegetative growth too much and making the plants unstable and ugly.
In the garden we only care that the area is not too clayey; we intervene eventually absorbing a bit of river sand and gravel of small grain size.
Good vases are obtained by joining garden soil, soil for flowering plants and sand in equal quantities. On the bottom we create a thick draining layer with small pebbles or with expanded clay.
In the absence of precipitation it is good to irrigate young plants twice a week. Once freed up, interventions will be greatly reduced by intervening only in the case of prolonged drought.
In water we distribute water when the first two centimeters of soil are dry from the surface.
The saucers should never be used and it is necessary in any case to avoid wetting the leaves: humidity is the most frequent cause of the onset of rust.
Topping and cleaning
To obtain well-preserved specimens and to have abundant blooms it is important to intervene by cutting the stems as soon as they reach 30 cm and then continuing several times in the vintage.
The fruits are an important nourishment for the birds and make our garden alive during the winter: cut them flat just when spring arrives.
Mallow is a perennial plant and new plants can also be obtained by dividing the head. We proceed with plants at least 3 years old, possibly in autumn. The earth loaf is extracted and the roots are divided with the help of two pitchforks. Put it back in the garden or place it in a vase.
This plant easily self-disseminates: we can then take small spontaneous seedlings and move them where they like or give them to friends.
Pests and diseases
Mallow is frequently attacked by aphids: in the most serious cases we use products based on pyrethrum.
Another common problem is rust: we can prevent it with a very sunny position and avoiding to wet 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 goes from 30 cm to more than 2 meters depending on the terrain and exposure. It is very common in the spontaneous state throughout Europe, the Middle East and Russia. Interesting also as an ornamental, but it must be divided every year: old subjects, in fact, bloom much less.
The Mauritanian subspecies is interesting with large purple flowers with more intense veins and very shiny leaves. From this it was also obtained a "Bibor Fehlo" cultivar with even darker flowers.
Bello also the mixture "Merlin" which includes a wide range of colors including violet and crimson. Excellent for use in natural gardens and mixed borders.
Last but not least is "Primley Blue" small in size (up to 30 cm), light purple flowers and bright blue veins. Excellent as a ground cover.
Malva Moschata used both as an ornamental and for herbal purposes. It grows up to 90 cm and has a more ordered appearance than the previous one. The flowers are pink and are produced continuously until the 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).
Mallow Parkalee perennial wood-based with ivory flowers. Some classify it as a hybrid of mallow and alcea.
Collection and use
The collection of leaves and flowers for culinary or medicinal purposes is carried out from the beginning of summer to mid-autumn. The ideal is to choose the youngest 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 in the long term we will instead have to resort to drying. It can be carried out in the air, in a shaded and ventilated area; an excellent alternative are the domestic dryers that in a short time return us a perfectly dehydrated product.
In the kitchen
Fresh mallow can be used raw or cooked. In the first case we can combine leaves and flowers with salads which will give a particular flavor and a nice delicate color. The corollas can also be used to decorate cakes or candies, 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, fillings or omelettes. They give a particular sweet taste. In spring they can, together with other spontaneous ones, go on to create a beautiful harmony in soups, risottos and on top of 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 in addition to particular acids and minerals.
For the affections of the throat and oral cavity an infusion can be used: we put a spoon of mallow in 250 ml of boiling water and wait at least 8 hours. We can use it lukewarm 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 to apply on tired and irritated eyes.
The decoctions obtained with the leaves, flowers and fresh roots are even more effective: they calm irritated gums and also affect abscesses. To reduce the pain we can reduce the product to pulp and apply it for at least 15 minutes.
They are also very effective in alleviating urinary tract burns and in starting to fight problems like vaginal candida. Drinking three or four cups a day will be an excellent adjunct to other therapies that we will undertake in the meantime.
THE MALVA CALENDAR
Sowing:September-October / March-April
Planting:October / March-April
Division:October / March
Flowering:June to October
Collection:May to October
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