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How to Grow False Mallow — Sidalcea

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 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.  

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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