Malva sylvestris

A large family of popular free-flowering border plants. They can be annuals, biennials or perennials but most varieties suitable for the British climate are bushy perennials.

Family: Malvaceae
Botanical Name: Malva
Common Names: Musk mallow, common mallow, cheese cakes, cheese flower, marsh mallow

Foliage: Deciduous to semi evergreen, rounded basal leaves that are usually lobed on the stems.

Flowers: Loose clusters of five-petal, notched, open funnel-shaped flowers. In shades of pink, purple, mauve or white. The flowers usually have a musky scent.

Flowering Period: Mid to late summer.

Soil: Moist but well-drained or well-drained fertile soil (chalk, clay, sand or loam). Acid, alkaline or neutral pH.

Conditions: Full sun. Plant in a west or south facing aspect, in a sheltered position.

Habit: Bushy, upright.

Type: Herbaceous perennial.

Origin: Europe

Hardiness: Hardy in the UK.

Planting and Growing Malva

Easy to grow. Plant in autumn or spring in any good, well-drained, light soil. Dislikes heavy damp soil. An open sunny sight is best but they will tolerate some light shade. 

Ideal for flower beds or herbaceous borders. Excellent for wild or informal gardens.

Native species can often be found growing wild in many areas of Europe.

Taking Care of Malva

Species can become invasive is allowed to self-seed.

Pruning Malva

Cut back dead stems in late autumn or winter.

Pests and Diseases

Susceptible to hollyhock rust, which can then infect nearby cultivated hollyhocks.

Propagating Malva

Sow seeds under protection in early spring. Divide established perennials from mid autumn to mid spring. For named cultivars take cuttings in late spring.

Popular Varieties of Malva

Malva alcea is a hardy perennial with rounded shallowly lobed leaves and pale rose-purple flowers, in July-October. Height to 4ft (120cm), spread 2-3ft (60-90cm). Variety 'Fastigiata' is a neater more erect form.

Malva moschata (musk mallow) is a hardy perennial with rounded aromatic lobed leaves and rose-purple flowers from mid summer into autumn. Height to 30in (75cm), spread to 24in (60cm). Variety 'Rosea' has purple tinted, rose-coloured flowers and 'Alba' has pure white flowers. For sale at Crocus. Variety 'Snow White' is a dwarf, compact plant, bearing masses of glistening snow white flowers over a long period. Ideal for borders or containers. Flowers in first year. Height: 12-15in (30-38cm). For sale at Thompson & Morgan.

Malva sylvestris (common mallow) is a taller form with toothed leaves and clusters of veined pale-pink, saucer-shaped flowers. Height to 4ft (120cm), spread 20in (50cm). Cultivar 'Mauritiana' bears magenta flowers and 'Primley Blue' has delicate blue flowers.