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Common Mallow Weeds: Tips For Controlling Mallow Weeds In Landscapes

Common Mallow Weeds: Tips For Controlling Mallow Weeds In Landscapes


By: Susan Patterson, Master Gardener

Mallow weeds in landscapes can be especially troubling for many homeowners, wreaking havoc in lawn areas as they seed themselves throughout. Keep reading to learn more about how to get rid of common mallow in the lawn and garden.

About Common Mallow Weeds

Common mallow (Malva neglecta) came from Europe to North America and is a member of the Malvaceae family, which also includes such desirable plants as hibiscus, okra, and cotton. Another species of common mallow mostly seen in Europe is M. sylvestris, which can be distinguished from the U.S. variety by its purplish-pink color. M. neglecta typically has pale pink to white flowers. Depending on the climate it is in, common mallow weeds are annuals or biennials.

Frequently found in open areas, cultivated lands, gardens, landscapes, and even new lawns, mallow weed control is a popular topic of conversation amongst gardeners. Mallow weeds are particularly troublesome in new lawns where they can produce a tremendous number of seeds long before a homeowner may even know that there is a weed control problem.

Mallow weeds have an extremely deep tap root and spread close to the surface of the ground. One plant can reach as far out as two feet (0.5 m.). Leaves are rounded with two to five lobes and tiny flowers appear in the spring, lasting through the fall – again, the blooms may be pinkish-white to purplish-pink depending on species and where you’re located.

Some people get it confused with ground ivy, whose stems are square, while the mallow is round. Although mallow weeds may be obnoxious to gardeners, the leaves are edible and taste lovely in salads.

How to Get Rid of Common Mallow

No matter how tasty mallow may be, it is not often a welcome visitor in the garden or lawn. Getting rid of this persistent plant is not an easy chore either. Mature mallow seems to be incredibly resistant to most common herbicides.

One of the best ways to control this weed in lawns is to make sure your turf is thick and healthy. A healthy turf will choke out the weed and not allow the seeds to spread.

If you have a small problem section, you can also pull the weeds before they go to seed, though all of this may prove ineffective, partly because seeds can lay dormant for years before sprouting. Controlling mallow can definitely be a frustrating task at best. Pulling, hoeing, or weeding works well when plants are very young and you must keep a constant eye to keep up on them.

If you choose to use a herbicide to reduce the number of mallow weeds in your landscape, be sure to read the directions thoroughly and take the necessary safety precautions. Herbicides work best, like weeding, when the plants are young and in their vegetative state. Do not allow pets or children on a sprayed lawn area immediately after spraying. Never eat a mallow plant that has been sprayed with an herbicide.

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Common MallowMalva neglecta

How to identify and manage Common Mallow Malva neglecta, a common lawn weed. Also called, cheeseweed, buttonweed or roundleaf mallow. Photos are included to help with weed id.

Mallow is often found in new lawns and gardens where it can be troublesome because it produces a lot of seeds. Its presence may indicate fertile soils.

It has a Long, deep taproot and a spreading growth habit. The leaves are rounded with five to seven distinct lobes. Pinkish-white flowers bloom in late spring and continue into the fall.

It can be confused with ground ivy. One way to tell the difference is to compare the stems - ground ivy stems are square, mallow stems are round.

  • Roundleaved Mallow
  • Buttonweed
  • Cheeseplant
  • Cheeseweed

Characteristics:

  • Annual or biennial
  • Reproduces by seed
  • Pinkish-white flowers
  • Round leaves with five to seven lobes and heart-shaped base
  • Indicates fertile soils
  • Spreading growth from deep taproot
  • Edible - leaves can be used in salads


Life cycle: annual or biennial
Growth habit: grows up to 1 ft. high, leaves alternate, rounded, palmately veined with toothed margins, on long petioles
Reproduction: reproduces by seed flowers 5-petaled, pale lavender to white button-like fruit similar to hollyhock
Conditions that favor growth: low maintenance turf areas, landscapes, and nursery crops

  • Cultural practices
    Maintain healthy, dense turf that can compete and prevent weed establishment.

Mechanical Management
Hand pulling or using an appropriate weeding tool are the primary means of mechanical weed control in lawns. This is a viable option at the beginning of an infestation and on young weeds. Hand pulling when the soil is moist makes the task easier. Weeds with tap roots like dandelions or have a basal rosette (leaves clustered close to the ground) like plantain are easier to pull than weeds such as Bermudagrass (wiregrass) or creeping Charlie (ground ivy) that spread with stolons or creeping stems that root along the ground.

Chemical Treatment in Lawns
Herbicides should be used as a last resort because of the potential risks to people, animals, and the environment. Be aware of these precautions first.
If you chose this option, spot treat weeds with a liquid, selective, postemergent, broadleaf weed killer applied when weeds are actively growing. Look for a product with one or more of the following active ingredients:
2, 4-D, MCPP (mecoprop), Dicamba* or Triclopyr.

*Do not spray herbicides containing dicamba over the root zone of trees and shrubs. Roots can absorb the product possibly causing plant damage. Refer to the product label for precautions.


Medicinal Properties

Native Americans have used common mallow to relieve skin inflammation. Both flowers and leaves were mixed with oil or tallow and applied to the skin. This will soothe irritated skin and soften dry skin. The common mallow will induce coughing when applied to the chest to relieve congestion. This plant also acts as a mild laxative.

  • The dried leaves can be used for tea pour hot water over them and steep for a few minutes the same way you make tea from other herbs.
  • The mallow roots release a thick mucus when boiled in water.

Little mallow (cheeseweed) ( Malva parviflora )

Click on images to enlarge

Little mallow (cheeseweed) is a winter annual broadleaf plant and occasionally a biennial or short-lived perennial plant. It is found throughout California, except possibly in the Great Basin, to about 4900 feet (1500 m). Little mallow inhabits agricultural lands and disturbed sites. Under certain conditions, little mallow accumulates nitrates to concentrations toxic to cattle. Poultry that consume mallow leaves or seeds can produce lower quality eggs.

Habitat

Orchards, vineyards, agronomic and vegetable crop fields, gardens, urban sites, roadsides and other disturbed, unmanaged sites.

Seedling

Cotyledons (seed leaves) are distinctly heart shaped, hairless, and have long stalks. They are about 1/8 to 1/2 of an inch (3–12 mm) long and 1/8 to 1/3 of an inch (3–8 mm) wide. Stalks usually have some simple and/or star-shaped hairs. The first leaf is almost round and usually a little larger than the cotyledons. True leaves are usually weakly lobed, more-or-less round with wavy, shallow-toothed edges, and have a red spot at the leaf base. Leaves are alternate to one another along the stem. The seedling rapidly develops a strong taproot, making the plant difficult to remove even at young stages.

Mature plant

Stems are tough and woody and grow mostly erect, and can reach over 2-3/5 feet (80 cm) in length. Leaves are hairy, somewhat palm shaped, with five to seven shallow lobes. These lobes are rounded to angled and their edges are round toothed and vary in hairiness. Leaves are alternate to one another along the stem.

Flowers

Flowers bloom nearly year-round. They are small, white to pale pink, and about 2/5 of an inch (1 cm) in diameter. Flower clusters are found at the bases of leaf stalks.

Fruits

The fruiting head resembles a miniature wheel of cheese with wedge-shaped sections. Each section contains one seed.

Seeds

Seeds have a rounded kidney shape, reddish brown, and are roughly 1/12 of an inch (2.0 mm) long.

Reproduction

Related or similar plants

More information

  • Broadleaf ID illustration
  • Calflora's distribution map
  • For agriculture: UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines
  • For gardens and landscapes: UC IPM Mallows Pest Note

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Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California


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