The name derives from the Greek althala, used by Theophrastus in his “History of plants” for the wild mallow, deriving from the verb which means “to heal”, due to the pharmaceutical qualities of the plant. It is a genus comprising annual, biennial and perennial plants, herbaceous rather rough or tomentose, with axillary flowers, stem height ranging from m 1,50 to m 3, depending on the species. They are all rustic.
A. cannabina, from Eastern Europe, with typed leaves and pink or red flowers in some varieties; Althaea officinalis, altea, typical of moist or semi-wild Eurasia, with pink flowers, used in pharmacies especially for the roots; the leaves and flowers that contain mucilage are often used as a folk remedy in the form of an infusion, emollient and expectorant. Biennial cultivated species: Althaea rosea, malvone, is, strictly speaking, a perennial plant, but it is used as a biennial because the young plants are more vigorous and floriferous. It is a plant erect with lobed leaves, which shrink towards the top of the stem, making the axillary flowers appear, large and showy like a flowering spike; in the most favored climates, it can reach m 2-3. There are varieties and cultivars with pink, red, yellow or white flowers, simple and double; we find nomenclaced cultivars, but mostly the seeds are sold in the mixture, or for separate colors or for double flowers only.
Cultivation of Althaea:
they need rich and heavy soil, as long as permeable, sunny position, frequent waterings during the driest periods. Reproduction is for summer sowing, the planting should take place in autumn, preferably with clods, except where strong frosts are feared; in this case, it is better to report and keep indoors until ready to place, as soon as time permits. The plants will flower in the summer after sowing; the older ones will produce spring shoots that can be cut and used to make cuttings, especially if you want to multiply exactly a given variety.
Also read: Alternanthera (Amaranthaceae)