Where Do Marshmallow Plants Grow?
The frequent marshmallow plant (Althaea officinalis) is a green perennial which grows big, bee-pollinated, white flowers from July to September, followed by seedpods that ripen from August to October. The plant is hardy in U.S. Agriculture Department hardiness zones 3 through 9, where it grows wild in sunny but cool spots on the edges of marshland and on grassy banks along lakes and watercourses.
Common marshmallow plants grow best in sandy, moist ground and aren’t fussy about the soil’s pH level. They need partial shade to full sunlight. Educate their seeds for sowing by putting them in moist peat moss inside a plastic bag, and keep the bagged seeds in a refrigerator for four to six weeks. Early spring, as soon as ground can be worked, is the time to sow the seeds. Sow them in groups of five or six just below the ground surface, and then space the groups of seeds 18 to 24 inches apart. Keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate, which might take several weeks. After the plants are established, they will return every year by themselves.
At the Wild
At least 15 U.S. states and some Canadian provinces have common marshmallow plants growing wild. Those U.S. states are New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arkansas, North Dakota and Nebraska. It also grows wild in Europe and western Asia.
The plants grow in clumps about 4 feet tall and about 2 1/2 feet broad. They’ve spearhead-shaped or three-to-five-lobed green leaves around 3 inches long and broad that develop from vertical stems. The leaves are covered with a velvety, nice fuzz. Trumpet-shaped flowers about 3 inches wide and 3 inches deep rise on the top one-third of the plants. Each pollinated flower matures into a brown seedpod that pops open when ripe, releasing small black seeds.
The frequent marshmallow’s leaves, flowers, roots and seeds are edible. The roots have a mucilagelike substance which may be cooked into a sweet sweet food — the first marshmallow candy. Leaving it starts with peeling and thinly slicing several roots. Place the slices in a pot, and barely cover them with hot water. Boil the slices for 20 minutes, then remove them. Add enough sugar to suit your taste, and boil the slices again until the fluid from the pot turns quite thick. Then the hot fluid ought to be whipped with a mixer until the fluid looks stiffly beaten egg whites. Drop spoonfuls of it onto waxed paper, allow them to cool and dust them with powdered sugar.