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6 Reasons to Grow Marshmallow In Your Yard

Let’s get your burning question out of the way.

No, I’m sorry, but marshmallow plants do not grow marshmallows.

Stalks of marshmallow covered in blossoms and soft, green leaves.

However, should you plant marshmallow in your yard, you can harvest the roots, and those can be used to make homemade marshmallows that will blow away those pasty store-bought things we’re all used to. (Use my girl Colleen’s recipe over at GrowForageCookFerment. It’s pretty amazing.)

Althaea officinalis, or marshmallow, sometimes spelled marsh mallow, is native to Europe, Western Asia and North Africa. As its name implies, it does well in moist soil areas, such as marshes.

Marsh with lots of marshmallow growing in the wild. There is a small stream and bridge in the background.

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 before returning 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

Lush, full marshmallow plant covered in blooms.

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 can help hide things in your yard you would prefer to keep out of sight, like well covers.

It’s also a great choice if you want to help buffer sound in your backyard, as the dense vegetation helps to absorb street noise. Plant it around the edge of your yard for extra privacy.

2. Marshmallow Belongs in Every Herbalist’s Garden

Shredded and dried marshmallow root on a small bamboo spoon sitting on a wooden table top.

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

 Marshmallow root, flowers and leaves on black slate background.

Nearly every part of the plant is edible, making it perfect to have on hand if you’re a fan of “eating the weeds.” The roots can be boiled and mashed with butter and onions. The flowers and leaves make a tasty and pretty addition to salads. You can pickle the flower buds ala capers—sugar the flowers for cakes and cupcakes. The possibilities are endless.

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 imitations.

4. Use Marshmallow to Improve the Soil

Marshmallow stalk with white flowers growing in the sunshine.

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.

If you’re planning a rain garden 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

Close up of a tiny native bee pollinating a marshmallow flower.

More and more gardeners are learning the benefits of letting all the critters and creepy crawlies hang out in their backyard; after all, it’s where they belong. 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 rewild your backyard, you can’t go wrong with Althaea officinalis.

6. Marshmallow Practically Grows Itself

Beautiful stalks of marshmallow growing in an herb garden.

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. What’s not to love?

Need more set it and forget plants? Check out these 18 Seld Seeding Flowers, Herbs and Veggies.

How to Grow Marshmallow

Tiny marshmallow plant seedlings poking up out of the dirt.

Choose a spot that receives full sun, mallow will grow in partial shade, but it does best in a sunny location. The best soil is loamy and moist, but if you’re using it to remediate harder soils, be sure to water it frequently.

Marshmallow seeds on white background.

Marshmallow can be direct seeded or started indoors. Sow seeds in the spring or fall directly into the ground or pots. Cover the seed with a thin layer of soil, and keep it consistently moist. Be patient, as marshmallow takes around three or four weeks to germinate.

Once the plant is established, you can divide the roots in spring or fall. It’s a fun perennial to share with friends and family.

If you’ve chosen a location where the soil is usually moist, you won’t need to water your marshmallow. But in other locations, you may need to water it during dry spells. Fertilize the plants in late spring or early summer with a balanced fertilizer.

Harvesting Marshmallow

Bright green foliage of the marshmallow plant.

If you plan on using the plant for medicinal or edible uses, harvest the leaves and flowers throughout the growing season. The roots should be harvested in the fall after collecting and storing nutrients for the year.

Marshmallow Will Spread

While it’s not labeled as an invasive species, marshmallow can spread quickly, so keep an eye on the plant and remove any unwanted shoots to keep it in check.

I hope you have recovered from the disappointment of learning that marshmallows don’t grow on trees. But luckily, you now have the means to grow the plant that will allow you to make the real thing. And who wouldn’t want s’more of that?  

If you like marshmallow, don’t forget to check out beautyberry for a real backyard stunner.

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Tracey Besemer

Hey there, my name is Tracey. I’m the editor-in-chief here at Rural Sprout.

Many of our readers already know me from our popular Sunday newsletters. (You are signed up for our newsletters, right?) Each Sunday, I send a friendly missive from my neck of the woods in Pennsylvania. It’s a bit like sitting on the front porch with a friend, discussing our gardens over a cup of tea.

Originally from upstate NY, I’m now an honorary Pennsylvanian, having lived here for the past 18 years.

I grew up spending weekends on my dad’s off-the-grid homestead, where I spent much of my childhood roaming the woods and getting my hands dirty.

I learned how to do things most little kids haven’t done in over a century.

Whether it was pressing apples in the fall for homemade cider, trudging through the early spring snows of upstate NY to tap trees for maple syrup, or canning everything that grew in the garden in the summer - there were always new adventures with each season.

As an adult, I continue to draw on the skills I learned as a kid. I love my Wi-Fi and knowing pizza is only a phone call away. And I’m okay with never revisiting the adventure that is using an outhouse in the middle of January.

These days, I tend to be almost a homesteader.

I take an eclectic approach to homesteading, utilizing modern convenience where I want and choosing the rustic ways of my childhood as they suit me.

I’m a firm believer in self-sufficiency, no matter where you live, and the power and pride that comes from doing something for yourself.

I’ve always had a garden, even when the only space available was the roof of my apartment building. I’ve been knitting since age seven, and I spin and dye my own wool as well. If you can ferment it, it’s probably in my pantry or on my kitchen counter. And I can’t go more than a few days without a trip into the woods looking for mushrooms, edible plants, or the sound of the wind in the trees.

You can follow my personal (crazy) homesteading adventures on Almost a Homesteader and Instagram as @aahomesteader.

Peace, love, and dirt under your nails,