Content Detail

Common rose-mallow is a midsummer to early fall perennial with large dramatic pink or white blooms with a red center that abound on towering flower stalks. It is a versatile plant that performs well in wet areas near ponds or streams or planted in native, pollinator, or rain gardens with full to partial sunlight.

  • Family (English) Mallow
  • Family (botanic) Malvaceae
  • Tree or plant type Perennial
  • Native locale Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large plant (more than 24 inches)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances clay soil, Occasional flooding, Road salt, Wet sites
  • Season of interest midsummer, late summer, early fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Pink, Red, White
  • Shape or form Upright
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Wildlife Butterflies, Hummingbirds, Insect pollinators

Size and method of spreading:

Common rose-mallow is often 3 to 7 feet tall and spreads to 2 to 4 feet wide at maturity. It often spreads by self-seeding. 

Native geographic location and habitat: (include C-value if appropriate)

Common rose-mallow is native to the Eastern and Southern United States.

Attracts birds or pollinators: 

Common rose-mallow attracts bees, including the specialist pollinator rose mallow bee, as well as hummingbirds and butterflies. Caterpillars of at least 28 species of butterflies and moths use common rose-mallow as a host plant. Whiteflies, aphids, Japanese beetles, and scale insects sometimes feed on the foliage of common rose-mallow. 

Leaf description:

The leaves of common rose-mallow occur singularly along the stems (alternate arrangement), and are attached by a stalk (petiole) that has two leaflike stipules at the base. The leaves may have three to five lobes or be lobeless. The edges of the leaves have teeth that may be slightly rounded (crenate to dentate margins). The upper leaf surfaces are nearly hairless to hairless (glabrous) and medium green to yellowish green in color, whereas the lower surfaces are grayish or whitish from the short hairs that cover them (canescent). Common rose-mallow leaves are widest at the base and narrow to pointed tips (ovate, acute apices).

Flower description:

Similar to other hibiscus flowers, common rose-mallow has five petals, five leaflike sepals subtending the petals, approximately 12 thinner leaflike structures (bracts) subtending the sepals. The male stamens are fused together at their bases forming a column (monadelphous stamen) through which the female (pistil) rises.  Only the top of the female (the stigma) is usually visible. This is the typical arrangement of gender structures in the mallow family. The flowers are typically between 4 to 6 inches in diameter. The petals of common rose-mallow can be pink, white, or creamy white, and the bases are often crimson-colored. The petals are also large and somewhat egg-shaped with the narrowest end at the base (obovate). Like the leaves, the sepals are ovate with acute apices; however, they are united at the base. 

Fruit description:

The fruit of common rose-mallow is dry and opens into five segments to release rings of seeds (capsule). Each capsule is almost spherical (globoid to ovoid), but with a pointed top (short-beaked). It is dark brown, almost mahogany, in color. The sepals and bracts from the flowers will persist when the fruit is present, even after it opens to release the seeds. 

Plant Care:

Common rose-mallow is best grown in moist, full sun conditions with good air circulation. It benefits from regular fertilization during the growing season. Remove spent flowers for improved appearance. If a bushy appearance is desired, pinch back growth when the plant reaches 8 inches, then again when it reaches 1 foot. 

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Japanese beetles can cause severe damage to the foliage of common rose-mallow. Common rose-mallow can also have some minor disease issues with blight, canker, leaf spots, and rust. It has some tolerance for salt, clay soils, and occasional flooding.


Your support is vital to the Arboretum, where the power of trees makes a positive impact on people’s lives.

Make a gift