PNW Landscape Plant Guide

brought to you by the plant geeks at Calendula Farm

Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)

This care-free and beautiful plant grows wild in many parts of the world and has a history of use going back to ancient Egypt and Roman times. All parts of the plant are edible and can be made into confections or medicine.

Marshmallow plants bloom from early summer through late autumn with flower clusters popping out continuously along 4-6 foot tall stems along with fuzzy maple-shaped leaves. The tall but sturdy stems wave and rock elegantly in gentle summer breezes. Wild bees, honey bees, and hummingbirds work on the blooms constantly for months. As the name implies, it is happy in a very wet spot, but we have it growing in a garden bed that goes dry-ish between waterings and it is perfectly happy. It requires no maintenance whatsoever.

Marshmallow is part of a huge family of plants that include Hibiscus, Hollyhock, Lavatera, and other wild & weedy Mallows. They all offer healthful qualities but the Mallows are especially good at soothing and calming irritation and inflammation especially in the respiratory and digestive systems. Here is an article from the NIH about it: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19799989/
And yes, Marshmallow root was the original ingredient used in marshmallow confections. The plant has a sticky mucilaginous sap that can be used as egg white substitute and whipped into a sort of meringue.