Add some old-fashioned charm to your garden with hollyhocks. These tall, striking flowers come in various colors and add height and interest to any cottage garden or flower bed. Growing hollyhocks is not at all difficult, but a few challenges can pop up. Learn how to grow hollyhocks successfully and avoid common issues with our helpful tips and tricks for healthy blooms year after year.
Hollyhocks are wonderful full-sun perennial (or biennial, depending on the variety) blooming all summer long with a bit of deadheading. I find them magical fantasy-like flowers, especially when the hummingbirds come to feed. They also make wonderful cut flowers for big magnificent displays.
Step 1: Plant Hollyhocks in the Right Growing Location
Hollyhocks prefer full sun and well-drained soil, so choose a spot in your garden that gets 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. If you’re planting them in a bed, ensure it’s not in an area that gets waterlogged after heavy rain.
Step 2: Choose The Best Hollyhock Variety to Suit Your Garden Needs
Hollyhock flowers bloom in many different colors and different sizes. All varieties require full sun (but can handle partial shade in a hot zone) and well-draining fertile soil. Here are a few of our favorite types:
Alcea rosea (common hollyhock):
Alcea rosea is the most common type of hollyhock, and it comes in a range of colors, including pink, red, white, and yellow. It has flower stalks that grow up to 6 feet tall.
Alcea rosea ‘Chater’s Double’:
Chater’s double is a double-flowered variety of the common hollyhock, which means the flowers have more petals, making them look fuller and more ruffled. It is also rust-resistant and comes in various colors, including pink, red, white, and yellow. Chatter’s Double can grow up to 6 feet tall.
Alcea rosea ‘Nigra’:
Alcea rosea ‘Nigra’ is a black hollyhock with dark maroon-black flowers; it is a unique and exciting color and can add drama to your garden. Nigra can grow up to 6 feet tall.
Alcea rosea ‘Pleniflora’:
Pleniflora is a double-flowered variety of the common hollyhock, which means the flowers have more petals, making them look fuller and more ruffled. It comes in various colors, including pink, red, white, and yellow, and can grow up to 5 feet tall.
Alcea rosea ‘Fiesta Time’:
Fiesta Time is a rust-resistant variety of hollyhock that features vibrant, two-tone flowers in shades of pink and yellow. It can grow up to 4 feet tall.
Alcea rosea ‘Majorette’:
Majorette is a dwarf variety of hollyhock, growing to only 2-3 feet tall, making it great for small gardens or containers. It features beautiful double-flower blooms in shades of pink, red, and white. (also resistant to Rust)
Alcea rosea ‘Strawberry Fair’:
This variety of hollyhock has large, two-tone flowers in shades of pink and red and can grow up to 6 feet tall. It prefers full sun and well-drained soil. (resistant to Rust)
Step 3: Propagating Hollyhocks: Choose seeds, Seedlings, or Cuttings
Hollyhocks will bloom in early summer until early fall and can be propagated from seeds, seedlings, or root cuttings.
How To Grow Hollyhocks From Seeds:
One of the best ways to add hollyhocks to your garden is by growing them from seeds indoors in early spring. You can also try starting seeds in a cold frame in early spring.
Growing from seed is often the best method to plant unique varieties, as they are usually not found at gardening centers.
These beautiful plants are considered biennial, but they will readily self-seed enough to produce flowers year after year like short-lived perennials.
Here are some tips on how to grow hollyhock from seeds and store them for future use:
Direct Sowing Seeds:
You can start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date in your region, or they can be sown directly in the ground a week before the last frost in your area.
When sowing indoors, it’s essential to use seed trays or pots filled with seed-starting soil.
Sow the seeds on the surface, press them gently into the compost, and cover them with a very light layer of compost or vermiculite.
Keep the seed tray or pots in a propagator or cover them with a clear plastic bag to keep in the moisture, and place them in a bright, warm place. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Once the seedlings have five true leaves, transplant them into 7.5cm (3in) pots.
Hollyhock seed will typically germinate within 14-21 days. Once they have grown, remove the cover and place the seedlings in a bright, warm place. When all risk of frost has passed, transplant the seedlings to their final positions in the garden. Hollyhocks prefer full sun and well-drained soil.
Collecting and Storing Hollyhock Seeds
If you want to collect hollyhock seeds from your plants, wait until the seedpods have turned brown and dry on the plant, then cut them off and place them in a paper bag. Shake the bag gently to release the seeds. Once the seeds are free, you can store them.
To store seeds, ensure they are completely dry, then put them in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Hollyhock seeds can last for several years if stored properly.
- Learn More: See our guide on seed collecting and storage for more detailed information.
Planting Young Hollyhocks
Be sure to harden off young hollyhock seedlings for at least two weeks before planting outdoors.
Transplant the seedlings when they are about 6 inches tall, on a cloudy day, or in the late afternoon to prevent transplant shock.
Space the seedlings properly, around 2-3 feet apart, and water them regularly, making sure to keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged.
Take Root Cuttings:
Another way to propagate hollyhocks is by root cuttings. This method is done by taking cuttings from the roots of a mature plant during the dormant season and planting them in a well-draining soil mix.
Root cuttings have a higher success rate than seed propagation, but it is more time-consuming. New plants from root cuttings will be genetically identical to the parent plant.
Step 4: Give the Hollyhock Plants Room to Grow
Hollyhocks can grow quite tall, so make sure to give them enough space to spread out. Plant hollyhock flowers 2-3 feet apart to help prevent diseases and pests.
Step 5: Provide Support
Hollyhock plants have tall spikes, so they need support to keep them from falling over. Use tall stakes or grow them next to a fence or wall. If you’re using stakes, insert them when you first plant the hollyhocks, so the roots aren’t disturbed later.
- Learn More: See our guide for growing plants vertically for ideas and inspiration.
Step 6: Fertilize and Water Hollyhocks Regularly
Hollyhocks require regular watering, especially when young. Be sure to keep the soil moist but not soaking wet.
In addition, hollyhocks will benefit from regular slow-release fertilizer. You can use a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, every 4-6 weeks throughout the growing season.
Step 7: Deadhead and Remove Spent Flowers
Hollyhocks will continue to bloom throughout the growing season, but it’s essential to regularly deadhead (remove spent flowers) to encourage new blooms. Deadheading is also crucial for preventing self-seeding and maintaining the plant’s health.
Step 8: Manage Pests and Problems Proactively
Hollyhocks are a beautiful and classic addition to any garden, but they can be susceptible to pests like any plant. Fortunately, there are many ways to control hollyhock pests organically so that you can enjoy a beautiful display without harmful chemicals.
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Companion Planting Companion planting is a technique where you plant certain plants that can benefit each other. For example, planting marigolds near hollyhocks can help deter pests such as aphids, thrips, and whiteflies. Other good companion plants for hollyhocks include dill, fennel, and nasturtiums.
- Learn More: See our guide on the benefits of companion planting.
Leverage Natural Predators:
Certain beneficial insects, such as ladybugs and lacewings, are natural predators of common hollyhock pests such as aphids and spider mites. You can encourage these beneficial insects to visit your garden by strategically planting flowers such as dill, cilantro, aromatic herbs, and plants with lacy flowery growth like alyssum or yarrow.
Use Diatomaceous Earth:
Diatomaceous earth is a fine-grade powder made from fossilized algae that is a natural pest control. It dehydrates pests such as aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies. You can sprinkle diatomaceous earth on the leaves of your hollyhocks to help control pests.
Use Neem Oil:
Neem oil is a natural insect pesticide made from the seeds of the neem tree. It works by suffocating pests and disrupting their growth cycle.
You can mix several drops of neem oil with water and use it as a spray for the leaves and stems of your hollyhocks to help control pests.
Use Soap and Water:
A simple soap and water solution can effectively control pests such as aphids and whiteflies.
Mix a few small drops of dish soap with water and spray it on the leaves of your hollyhock. Be sure to test a small area first to ensure the solution does not burn the leaves.
Use Cultural Methods:
Cultural methods such as proper irrigation, good air circulation, and removing infected leaves and plant debris can also help prevent and control pests.
Be sure to water your hollyhocks at the base of the plant, avoid overhead watering, and remove any infected leaves to prevent pests from spreading.
Step 9: Keep A Watchful Eye Out For Common Hollyhock Diseases
Hollyhocks are a beautiful and classic addition to any garden, but like any plant, they can be susceptible to diseases.
Hollyhock Rust Disease:
Hollyhock rust is a common fungal disease that affects hollyhocks. It appears as rust-colored bumps or orange and yellow spots on the leaves, and if left untreated, it can cause the leaves to turn yellow and fall off.
Once established, Rust is tough to control, and the rust spores will spread quickly. Therefore, removing plants with rust diseases from the planting area is a good idea.
Fungicides do not remedy Rust, but if Rust is an issue in your area, there are fungicides you can use to help prevent Rust from taking hold.
Powdery mildew is another common fungal disease that affects hollyhock plants. It appears as a white powder-like coating on the leaves and stems.
To control powdery mildew, be proactive and ensure good air circulation by spacing plants properly. Well-spaced plants make it difficult for fungal spores to travel to adjacent plants.
It is also important to avoid overhead watering, as splashing water can kick up fungal diseases in the foliage.
You can also use a fungicide such as copper or sulfur. Apply fungicides every seven to ten days or more often if it rains to help prevent and control powdery mildew.
Leaf spot is another fungal disease that appears as dark brown or black spots on the leaves. It can cause the leaves to turn yellow and fall off.
To control Leaf Spot, remove and destroy any diseased leaves, and avoid overhead watering. You can also use sulfur or copper fungicides to help prevent and control Leaf Spot disease.
Verticillium wilt is another fungal disease that can cause the leaves to turn yellow and wilt and cause the plant to collapse.
To control Verticillium wilt, remove and destroy any infected plants, and avoid planting hollyhock flowers in soil previously used to grow plants susceptible to Verticillium wilt, such as tomatoes or peppers.
Root rot is a fungal disease that affects the roots of hollyhocks. It can cause the leaves to turn yellow and wilt and cause the plant to collapse.
To control root rot, ensure good drainage, and avoid overwatering.
Step 10: Protect Overwintering Plants
Hollyhocks are biennial, which means they will die back after the first growing season but will return the following year.
To ensure hollyhocks return the following year, cut back the dead foliage during the fall, mulch heavily around the base of the plants, and, if possible, cover them with a protective layer of burlap or some other covering to protect them from harsh winter weather.
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