6 Reasons to Grow Marshmallow
Althaea officinalis, or marshmallow, is native to Europe, Western Asia and North Africa. As its name implies, it fares well in moist soil areas, like marsh.
It’s an herbaceous perennial with long, dense stems between three and four feet tall.
The stems are covered in velvety, soft heart-shaped leaves and white flowers with a deep pink center. In the fall, the plant dies back and will return in the spring.
Even if you don’t plan on making the most delicious marshmallows you’ll ever dunk in your cocoa, there are some good reasons to grow marshmallow in your backyard or garden.
1. As a Beautiful Ornamental Perennial
If you’re looking to fill a space with plenty of greenery that will come back year after year, choose marshmallow. With its attractive pink or white flowers that bloom in the summer, this old-fashioned herb has lots of cottage garden charm. Its height and dense growth makes a great natural privacy buffer.
2. Marshmallow Belongs in Every Herbalist’s Garden
The roots and leaves of marshmallow have been used for centuries in traditional medicine to soothe sore throats, coughs, and other respiratory issues. The marshmallow plant can make teas, tinctures, syrups, and even homemade cough drops.
3. You Can Eat Most of the Plant
Nearly every part of the plant is edible. A few suggestions.
The roots can be boiled and mashed with butter and onions, like a potato.
The flowers and leaves make a tasty and pretty addition to salads.
You can pickle the flower buds aka capers—
Sugar the flowers for cakes and cupcakes.
Of course, you can also make everyone’s favorite sticky treat – marshmallows.
If you’ve never had real marshmallows, you’re in for a real treat.
While today’s modern confection might share the same name, it doesn’t contain any Althaea officinalis whatsoever. I think you’ll find once you’ve tasted the real deal, you won’t settle for the manufactured imposter.
4. Use Marshmallow to Improve the Soil
Heavy, compacted soil can make growing anything difficult, but rather than trying to fix it by digging it up, let nature do what nature does best. Marshmallow is a good plant for improving soil structure, as it has a deep taproot that will “drill” down and break up compacted soil while adding back organic matter. Plant marshmallow and let the roots do all the work while you enjoy a beautiful display of green with white and pink flowers. After a year or two, chop-and-drop the plant before it flowers, letting it break down into the soil further. You’ll find the resulting soil much improved.
To mitigate pooling rainwater in your yard, then marshmallow is a perfect addition. The plant prefers moist areas and can help to absorb excess water in your yard.
5. Provide a Sanctuary for Pollinators & Other Wildlife
Marshmallow is a fantastic plant for pollinators, not only because it provides them with nectar, but at the end of the season, it also makes an excellent habitat for native pollinators to lay their eggs and winter over.
Birds, mice, rabbits and other small creatures will appreciate the shelter provided among the tall green stalks of marshmallow as well. If you want to ecosystem restore parts or the whole of your backyard, using Althaea officinalis is a good place to start.
6. Marshmallow Practically Grows Itself
Marshmallow is incredibly easy to grow. You can direct sow it right where you want it planted, and once it’s established, it virtually takes care of itself. There’s no complicated pruning or fertilizing, or staking. Just let it go. It’s a hardy, disease-resistant plant and rarely has issues with pests.