Here’s a short tutorial explaining how to grow Sida cordifolia from seed. It’s a species we’ve grown only occasionally, but hopefully our experience will start you off in the right direction if you’ve not cultivated it yourself previously!
Cordifolia has a long history of medicinal use by traditional healers and is a regular subject of pharmaceutical research. It’s an annual or perennial subshrub of the Malvaceae family which is informally known by many names, including ‘Bala’, ‘Country Mallow’, ‘Flannel Weed’, ‘Heart-leaf Sida’ and ‘Malva Blanca’. Cordifolia is originally a native of India, but is now naturalised to continents including Africa, Australasia and North America.
Relatively fast-growing and well adapted to its natural habitat (so much so that it’s sometimes classified as invasive), this green to yellow, finely hairy species forms attractive, heart-shaped leaves and beautiful, orange-yellow-golden flowers. Mature, healthy plants are known for their impressively strong taproots.
This guide describes the cultivation of Sida cordifolia in pots or other growing containers, but you can also plant them directly into the ground. Like many others (Acacia and Mimosa spring to mind), this genus benefits from a germination pre-treatment, such as scarification, soaking or alternating hot and cold temperatures (the latter two techniques ideally applied for a period of roughly twenty-four hours). Sow the seeds in spring, summer or autumn.
How to Grow Sida Cordifolia – Materials:
- Growing container
- Sida cordifolia seeds
- Soil mix (we use regular potting soil mixed with perlite and/or sand)
- Spray mister (or watering can, etc.)
- Electric fan (or a naturally breezy spot)
- Paper (optional)
How to Grow Sida Cordifolia – Method:
- Fill the container almost to the top with the soil mix, which should be well-drained and light/sandy for best results.
- Optionally, scarify or soak the seeds for maximum germination rates. See our Acacia germination pre-treatment guide for an outline of the latter process.
- Sprinkle the Sida cordifolia seeds onto the surface of the soil, spacing them out as evenly as possible. Leave a centimetre or two between each one if you can – a piece of folded paper may help with this.
- Cover the seeds with a thin sprinkling of soil and moisten using the spray mister. From now on, it’s important to maintain moisture so that the seeds are induced to germinate.
- Place the container somewhere which receives full sun to partial shade, indoors or outdoors.
- According to several studies, maintaining an ambient temperature of approximately 40ºC / 104ºF should ensure optimum germination. Remember that the soil will usually be a few degrees warmer than the surrounding environment.
- Given suitable conditions in USDA Hardiness Zones 8-11, germination should occur anywhere between two weeks to three months. Be patient, it’s worth it!
- Once the seedlings are a minimum of approximately five or ten centimetres tall, you can prick them out into larger, separate, containers. If planting in beds or together in larger containers, space the young plants at least sixty centimetres apart. Remember to make sure the soil mix drains freely!
- Optionally (should you plan to grow cordifolia indoors), we recommend placing them somewhere breezy (such as a window that regularly enjoys a good draft) or else using a fan to blow air on them for a few hours every day. Doing this will mimic the wind that would strengthen the plant’s stems and foliage if it was growing in its natural, outdoor environment.
- Keep the soil moist – but never drenched – and you’ll soon have a healthy, mature ‘Bala’ plant growing in your garden!