A biennial or short lived perennial, flower gardeners enjoy growing hollyhocks in borders or against walls where the striking flowers stand above all else. The classic variety (Alcea rosea) has graced outbuildings and farmsteads for more than a century. Single blooms of white, light-pink, pinkish-red, magenta and burgundy on 6-9 foot stalks. Blooms the second year and re-seeds.
Hollyhock prefers full sun to partial shade and rich, moist soil to thrive. Prior to planting, work in plenty of compost or well-aged animal manure.
How to Plant:
Sow outdoors just beneath the surface of the soil one week before last frost. Seeds will germinate in 10-14 days. Space plants 18-36 inches apart. Water regularly during dry conditions to keep them blooming. Fertilize a couple times during the season with an all-purpose fertilizer. When flower stalks fade, cut to the ground.
Insects and Disease:
Hollyhock is susceptible to fungal diseases, such as rust and powdery mildew, which can disfigure the leaves under severe infestations. Avoid overhead watering whenever possible and apply copper or sulfur sprays to prevent further infection.
Seed Saving Instructions:
Hollyhocks will cross-pollinate. Gardeners should only grow one variety at a time to save pure seed, or isolate varieties by 1/4 mile. Seeds are ready to harvest when the seed capsules are completely dry and brown. The capsules can then be picked and the seeds easily separated from the paper-like husk.