How to Grow Sidalcea — False Mallow

Sidalcea malviflora
Sidalcea malviflora

 Sidalcea — commonly called false mallows, miniature hollyhocks, or checkerbloom–are North American wildflowers closely related to hollyhocks (Alcea). Sidalcea bears erect racemes of five-petaled hollyhock-like flowers. Flowers come in shades of pink, purple-pink, and white.

Sidalcea flowers appear above clumps to rounded to kidney-shaped leaves. Sidalcea is suitable for growing in a mixed or herbaceous border. Sidalcea are good cut flowers.

The Sidalcea genus includes about 20 species of annual and perennials. Some are rhizomatous.

Prairie mallow flowers in a garden, variety Sidalcea 'Sussex Beauty'
Prairie mallow flowers in a garden, variety Sidalcea ‘Sussex Beauty’

Get to know Sidalcea 

  • Plant type: Perennial. 
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 5 to 8. 
  • Hardiness:  Hardy to Zone 5
  • Height and width: 2 to 3 feet (1m), tall and nearly as wide depending on the variety.  
  • Foliage: Leaves are rounded and usually lobed or divided in a palmate fashion.  
  • Flowers: Erect racemes of silky five-petaled, hollyhock-like flowers; spikelike blooms come in shades of pink, purple-pink, or white. 
  • Bloom time: Summer; they will bloom long into the fall if kept cut.  
  • Uses: Borders or natural gardens.  
  • Garden companions: ‘Veitch’s Blue’ small globe thistle (Echinops ritro ‘Veitch’s Blue’) 
  • Common name: False mallow, wild hollyhock, cherckerbloom. 
  • Botanical name: Sidalcea
  • Family name: Malvaceae. 
  • Origin: Woodlands, grasslands, and streamsides in West and Central North America

Where to plant Sidalcea 

  • Plant Sidalcea in sun or light shade.  
  • A spot with shade during the hottest part of the day is the best in the South, and Sidalcea does not tolerate heat and humidity well.  
  • Plant Sidalcea in moderately fertile, well-drained soil.  
  • Sidalcea does not do well in areas with very hot, humid summers.  

When to plant Sidalcea 

  • Sow seed in containers in a cold frame in autumn or spring
  • Set container-grown plants in the garden in spring. 

Planting and spacing Sidalcea 

  • Space Sidalcea 2 to 3 feet (1m) apart depending on the variety.
  • Sow seed 1/8 inch deep in evenly prepared soil.
Pink prairie mallow, Sidalcea
Pink prairie mallow, Sidalcea

How to water and feed Sidalcea 

  • Give Sidalcea regular water. 
  • Fertilize Sidalcea with an all-purpose organic fertilizer in spring. 

How to care for Sidalcea 

  • Cut Sidalcea flowering stems back hard after the flowers fade to encourage compact growth and a second flush of blooms, as well as to curtail self-seeding.  
  • Dig and divide Sidalcea clumps in spring or fall if they die out in the center or outgrow their space, or for propagation.  

Sidalcea pests and diseases 

  • Sidalcea can develop leaf spot or rust. 
  • Sidalcea is susceptible to attack by aphids or mites. 

Sidalcea propagation 

  • Propagate named Sidalcea cultivars by division.  
  • Divide Sidalcea clumps every few years.  

Sidalcea varieties to grow 

  • Sidalcea candida, Wild hollyhock, is one of the hardiest, with racemes of small, white, 1 inch (2.5cm) wide flowers. To 3 feet (.9m) tall.  
  • S. malviflora, Checkerbloom, has 2 inches (5.1cm) wide flowers in shades of pink or lavender-pink that bloom from early to midsummer; grows to 4 feet (1.2m) tall; most available cultivars are hybrids between this species and S. candida. Zones 5 to 8.  Cultivars include ‘Brilliant’ bears red flowers; ‘Elsie Heugh’, a hybrid, has large, purple-pink, fringed petals. 3 feet (.9m); ‘Loveliness’, bears shell pink flowers; ‘Party Girl’, another hybrid, produces 1.5 inch (3.8cm) wide pink flowers over a long season. 2-4 feet (.6-1.2m) tall.  

Sidalcea malviflora – Checkerbloom, prairie mallow

Sidalcea malviflora is native to fields and meadow of California and Mexico. Sidalcea resembles a miniature hollyhock with loose spikes of silky 1- to 2-inch-wide flowers that bloom from mid- to late summer. The five-petaled, dish-shaped flowers are lilac-pink in the species; improved cultivars come in many cool shades of pink and red. Sidalcea is clump-forming; the basal leaves are 3 inches wide and unlobed or shallowly lobed; stem leaves are deeply divided into five to seven fingerlike lobes.

  • Size: 2 to 5 feet tall; 2 feet wide.
  • Light: Ful sun to light shade.
  • Soil and moisture: Humus-rich, fertile, well-drained soil; plentiful moisture.
  • Planting and propagation: Plant container-grown plants in spring, spacing 2 feet apart. Divide in fall when centers die out.
  • Special care: cut back faded stalks for repeat bloom. Keep moist; leaves brown quickly under dry conditions.
  • Pest and diseases: Japanese beetles troublesome. Rust resistant.
  • Climate: Zones 5-7; best in cool climate. Poor performance where hot and humid.
  • Cultivars: 5 feet tall; ‘Stark’s Hybrids,’ mix of pink to lavender-purple. All 2 to 3 feet tall; ‘Brilliant,’ deep rose; ‘Elsie Heugh,’ fringed pastel pink; ‘Partygirl,’ rose-carmine; ‘William Smith,’ salmon-red; ‘Bianca,’ white; ‘Rosy Gem,’ dark rose; ‘Sussex Beauty,’ satiny pink.
  • Garden use: Delicate, vertical effect for borders and naturalistic garden.

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