Althaea officinalis

Marshmallow in an ancient medicinal herb that is a real favourite with both bees and hummingbirds.    While it will not stand up to foot traffic, it will hold up well in heavy rain and wind.

Growing Information:

Zone 3 – 9

Common Marshmallow is a tall upright perennial herb plant with a profusion of lovely little white and purple flowers.    It is easily started from seed and will sometimes flower in the first year if it is started indoors eight weeks before the last frost date.

It is very hardy during its dormant stage and will even survive being tilled under.    Marshmallow will hold up well in heavy wet weather but if it is trampled, the plant will not recover for that season, although it will come back the next year.

During the first year Marshmallow should grow to at least three feet.   In following years it can easily reach six feet in well nourished soil.    Marshmallow likes full sun but will tolerate a partially shaded spot as long as it gets mid day sun.


There are several different useful species in the Althaea family but care must be taken not to plant any perennial varieties too close to this variety.     Otherwise it would be possible to create a hybrid of the two that would not accurately reproduce either of its parents in following years.



Scrophularia nodosa

Common figwort is an important medicinal herb dating back at least to medieval times.   It is native to Northern Europe and does very well here in Nova Scotia.


Common Figwort is in upright perennial that can reach three to four feet in height in moist semi shaded areas.    Its tiny flowers form in pannicles and would be easy to miss until their brief blooming period in early summer.    Figwort spreads by rhizomes, making it a very good candidate for naturalizing in moist semi shaded spots.

Growing Information:

Zones 6- 8

Common Figwort is easily started from seed and will bloom the first year if started indoors eight weeks before the last frost date.    It prefers rich moist soil but once it is established will pop up in neighbouring fields and ditches.

Like many perennials, figwort will benefit from being divided every couple of years to prevent overcrowding.     Divisions are best done early in the spring when the plants are under a foot tall.


Although Figwort is not native to Nova Scotia, it does very well in southwestern areas with more temperate winters.    It should be noted that Figwort can be grown in colder climates as an annual, provided it is started at least eight weeks before the last frost date.    When grown as an annual, the flowers should be harvested when they are in bloom in early summer and the rhizomes dug up and dried in the early fall before the hard frosts come.     Please note that if you live in an area where you can grow Figwort as a perennial, it is helpful not to harvest any of the plant in the first year so that it can become well established.

It should be noted that some of the traditional times for preserving Figwort in amulets simply are not sensible here in Nova Scotia because we have a different climate than Europe.