Checker Mallow

One of the loveliest of our native wildflowers has got to be Sidalcea, or checker mallow.

It is truly a cheery sight in late spring through early summer, the tall stems of delicate hollyhock-like blossoms of white to rosy pink standing tall in the sunny border of the garden, actively visited by both bees and butterflies. Of the two dozen or so species of Sidalcea native to western North America, about ten are native to Oregon.

There are species that make their home along the coast and on each side of the Cascades, so there are checker-mallows suitable for a range of garden conditions. For the most part, they are best in a full sun to partial shade location. Most are also happiest with moist to wet, well-drained soil (some will tolerate hotter/drier conditions too, if they're given a bit more shade, or extra attention with supplemental watering).

Bees and butterflies will enjoy your Sidalcea; some species are beneficial as host plants for the caterpillars of a few of our native butterflies, an added plus. To have enough for you and for the caterpillars to enjoy, they are fairly easy to propagate from seed (see side bar).

Here's a selection of Sidalceas:

sidalcea campestris

Sidalcea campestris: Meadow Checker Mallow

Possibly the most versatile checker mallow for the garden. Blooms late spring to early summer. Flowers white with light pink to pink. Prefers full sun to light shade, and well-drained moist to rather dry soil (give more water in hotter/drier areas).

Grows 2-6 feet. Easily propagated by seed.


Sidalcea cusickii: Cusick's Checker Mallow

Found only in open, riparian sites (river banks) in western Oregon. Rose-pink petals deepen in color as they age. Grows to 5 feet. Thrives in full sun to partial shade and consistent watering.

A particular favorite of butterflies.

sidalcea hendersonii

Sidalcea hendersonii: Henderson's Checker Mallow

Inhabits tidal marshes and wet coastal meadows. However, can be successfully grown in gardens on both sides of the Cascades. Beautiful addition to a moist/wet wildflower garden.

Red purple flowers top out at about 5 feet. Photo Credit to Dana Visalli.

sidalcea malviflora

Sidalcea malviflora: Dwarf Checker Mallow

Growing no more than 2 feet, with flowers ranging from pale to deep pink. This is a varied species, containing 13 subspecies, half of which can be found throughout western Oregon.

In the garden, give it full sun to part shade and regular water.

sidalcea oregana

Sidalcea oregana: Oregon Checker Mallow

One of the Sidalceas from east of the Cascades. Found in moist meadows but also in and around dry forest areas. Light to dark pink flowers, grows 2-4 feet in height. This is the one that can reliably grow in drier conditions.