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How to Grow Hollyhock: A Gardener’s Complete Guide

Seed and care for these charming, heirloom favorites and they'll fill with pastel blooms growing up to nine feet.

Hollyhock

An endless supply of blossoms! Home flower gardeners enjoy growing hollyhocks in borders or against walls and fences where their spectacular flowers stand tall above all else.

The classic variety (Alcea rosea) has graced cottage gardens, outbuildings, and farmsteads for more than a century. Butterflies and hummingbirds find them very appealing!

Large, showy blooms of white, light pink, magenta, light yellow, and burgundy completely cover sturdy 4- to 9-foot tall stalks.

Hollyhock plants are considered biennial, that is, they grow foliage the first year;  flower, produce seeds, and die the second year.

These old-time garden favorites reseed themselves freely and flourish in sunny locations that are protected from wind and not too dry. Plants usually do not require staking.

Fun fact: Hollyhocks are closely related to okra, cotton, and hibiscus.

 

Botanical Name: Alcea spp.

Common Name: Hollyhocks

Family: Malvaceae

Plant Type: Herbaceous, Perennial, Biennial

Hardiness Zones: 2-10, USA

Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Soil Type: Moist, Well-drained

Soil pH: Acid, Neutral, Alkaline

Maturity: 365 days or more from seed to flower

Height: 4 to 9 feet

Spacing: 18 to 36 inches apart in all directions

Bloom Time: Summer

Flower Color: Various including yellow, pink, purple, white, and salmon

 

Quick Guide: Planting, Growing & Caring for Hollyhocks

  1. Enjoy a colorful show of flowers deep to vibrant colors
  2. Plant seeds outdoors in full sun to part shade
  3. Keep well watered; fertilize regularly for prolific blooms
  4. Plan for stalks up to 9 ft. tall
  5. Will self-seed; blooms early to late summer

 

Hollyhock Care

Hollyhock (Alcea rosea) is a classic garden plant that blooms with numerous flowers on tall spikes in midsummer.

Many of the most common varieties are biennials, which means they live for two years and come in a wide variety of colors.

The first year is spent on foliage growth, while in the second year, stems grow, flowers bloom, and seeds develop.

But there are also many varieties that act like short-lived perennials and will flower in their first year if they are planted early enough in the spring or started indoors in the winter.

Hollyhocks do not require much maintenance other than staking and cutting the stalks back after flowering, but they must be protected from insects and fungal diseases such as rust.

They serve as a host plant for painted lady butterfly caterpillars and attract other pollinators such as bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.

Light

Most hollyhocks can tolerate shade, but they prefer full sun. In locations with excessive shade, these tall plants may flop.

If you live in a hot and dry area, the lower leaves on your hollyhock won’t dry out if you put it in a spot with partial shade.

Soil

Hollyhocks can thrive in a wide range of soil conditions. While rich, well-drained soil is ideal, adding organic matter can often boost your plants’ growth in less-than-ideal growing conditions.

This will also improve air circulation and drainage.

Water

Water regularly and keep the soil moist when starting hollyhocks. However, once established, they are relatively drought resistant.

Avoid wetting the foliage when you are watering; doing so can cause diseased leaves.

Temperature and Humidity

Temperate climates are ideal for growing these plants.

Although some species can withstand temperatures as low as 0 degrees Fahrenheit, they are not particularly cold-hardy, and early fall frosts can harm late blooms.

Due to their susceptibility to rust, these plants do not prefer high humidity.

Fertilizer

Hollyhocks prefer fertile conditions and thrive in soils with high levels of nutrients. Without it, you may observe yellowing foliage and fewer blooms.

If your soil isn’t rich, a light application of fertilizer or compost in the spring can help.

Pruning

Individual hollyhock flowers can be removed as they fade, and entire stalks can be cut back to the ground once flowering has finished. This will prevent the formation of seed heads and reseeding.

But if you want seeds for next spring, leave the flowers and a few stalks on the plant until the seeds have dropped.

They will die back in the winter, and all stems and leaves should be cut back to the ground to prevent the spread of rust disease.

Overwintering

Depending on where you live, you may need to give your Hollyhocks special winter care. It is best to prune stems and leaves before the fall in any area.

In frost-prone environments, you must protect the roots of your Hollyhocks by layering organic material over the root zone.

Hollyhocks can be grown as annuals in hard freeze zones by starting seeds in containers and overwintering them indoors.

Water them sparingly during the winter and gradually reintroduce them to the outdoors as the weather warms up.

In areas where they can be left outside, prune them in the fall to about 6 inches above the ground. Cover the roots and base of the plant with 4 to 6 inches of straw or mulch.

In the spring, remove the mulch slowly, layer by layer, to give the roots time to adjust. Once you see new growth, remove all the straw or mulch.

Cover again in case it freezes in the spring.

 

How to Plant and Grow Hollyhock

Site Preparation

Hollyhocks will thrive in full sun to partial shade and rich, moist soil.

Prior to planting work plenty of organic matter, such as compost or aged animal manure, into the garden. This helps condition the soil, which improves drainage and increases its ability to hold water and nutrient.

Watch our video 6 Tips for Growing Great Flowers to learn more.

How to Plant Hollyhock Seeds

Sow hollyhock seeds outdoors just beneath the surface of the soil 1-2 weeks before the last frost. Seeds will germinate in 10-14 days. Thin to 18-36 inches apart after seedlings have sprouted.

Since hollyhocks have long taproots, it is best to start indoor hollyhock seeds in tall, individual pots and transplant them as soon as possible to prevent damage.

Water as needed during dry conditions to keep flowers blooming. Adding an organic flower fertilizer every few weeks will result in bigger, bolder blooms. When flowers fade, cut stalks to the ground.

Seed Saving Instructions

Hollyhocks will cross-pollinate. Gardeners should only raise 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.

 

Common Pests and Plant Disease

Hollyhocks are vulnerable to a number of garden pests including thripsJapanese beetlessawflies , and spider mites. Watch closely, and if problems exist treat with organic pesticides for immediate control.

They are vulnerable to hollyhock rust, an infection caused by a fungus that starts out as yellow spots on leaves before turning into brown or rust-colored bumps on the underside of the leaves.

Keeping rust at bay is much easier than dealing with a full-blown outbreak. Stopping rust will be a lot easier if you water from below, make sure there is good air circulation, and clean up well at the end of the fall.

Leaves that show signs of rust should be taken off the plant and disposed off to prevent the disease from spreading.

Foliage is susceptible to other fungal diseases as well, such as anthracnose and powdery mildew, which can disfigure the leaves under severe infestations.

To reduce plant diseases common to hollyhock:

  • Avoid overhead watering whenever possible (use soaker hoses or drip irrigation)
  • Properly space plants to improve air circulation
  • Apply copper or sulfur sprays to prevent further infection

 

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Eric Vinje founded Planet Natural with his father Wayne in 1991, originally running it as a grasshopper bait mail-order business out of a garage.

Eric is now retired, but is still a renowned gardener known for his expertise in composting, organic gardening and pest control, utilizing pesticide-free options, such as beneficial insects.

Eric believes when you do something good for the environment, the effects will benefit generations to come.

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30 Responses to “How to Grow Hollyhock: A Gardener’s Complete Guide”

  1. hanna on February 22nd, 2014 at 8:45 am #

    Hollyhocks are stunning gorgeous whether we can plant it in kerala.

  2. Renaldo Recinos on May 4th, 2014 at 8:12 am #

    I have seven foot tall Hollyhocks in my backyard they are beautiful and I live out in the high desert in souther california where it snows sometimes…

  3. Marilyn on March 12th, 2015 at 3:36 pm #

    How do you plant hollyhocks just from seeds, My husband is trying to grow them but they look so spindly any suggestions?

    • Lisa Stevens on May 12th, 2015 at 10:30 am #

      Sounds like they need more sun to me. But the first year you probably will only get green growth and then second year get big plants with flowers on them. Check out Gardenweb.com for more help.
      Lisa

    • Carrie on March 22nd, 2017 at 9:52 am #

      If leggy or stringing, needs more light or sun.

  4. Mikemaloney134@gmail.com on July 7th, 2015 at 3:21 pm #

    Do they grow back year after year?

    • Anonymous on July 9th, 2015 at 6:11 am #

      Yes

      • Anonymous on August 2nd, 2015 at 5:06 pm #

        They’re Perrinneal in most places I believe.

        • Irene Wilson on July 2nd, 2017 at 1:59 pm #

          They are bi-ennial plants. Last only two years but will reseed itself from the prolific seeds each flower produces.
          I live north of North Dakota and they thrive here in the summer so are hardy enough to survive our harsh winters.

  5. Mimi on August 8th, 2015 at 10:27 am #

    Are hollyhocks susceptible to deer and/or rabbits?

    • Barbara Harvey on June 30th, 2016 at 5:14 am #

      They will not go out of their way to eat them, but if the hollyhocks are on a path deer follow, they will.

  6. trevor hunt on October 12th, 2015 at 3:20 pm #

    can you grow hollyhocks indoors

    • Dancer on October 13th, 2015 at 1:07 am #

      They are 7′-9′ tall…. guess you have a big conservatory. Only way to find out is to try it. My personal opinion is that they are magnificent plants and deserve to be displayed to their ultimate, wherever that may be.

  7. Jerry D. Horner on October 26th, 2015 at 3:58 pm #

    I live in Mid-Central Florida. Will HOLLYHOCK THRIVE here? I’ve always had those beautiful creations in my life.

  8. lydia on February 13th, 2016 at 7:26 pm #

    I live in the desert. I’m going to get to plant holly hocks. I hope the ground is good for them. If not… what is good to use for compost?

  9. Jimmie on April 7th, 2016 at 8:21 pm #

    This year’s hollyhocks are 9 and 10 feet tall. My seeds were passed down from my departed mother 2 years ago. I started my seeds in potting soil in old clay pots. When they were 1 foot tall I planted them pots and all breaking the pot so the roots can spread. They are great healthy and loaded with blooms from 4 ft up to 10 ft. Phoenix Az

  10. Gail on May 12th, 2016 at 5:29 pm #

    Can you divide a hollyhock plant like you can a hosta?

    • Melisa on June 25th, 2016 at 8:15 pm #

      We’ve dug them up and transplanted successfully.

  11. Jayne on June 18th, 2016 at 9:26 am #

    My hollyhocks were blooming tremendously. All of a sudden, the buds dried up. What happened? I watered them some; maybe not enough. Thanks.

    • Sheila on July 12th, 2016 at 8:11 am #

      Same has happened to mine all of a sudden the buds dried up. I am also looking for a solution.
      Tnx.

  12. Anita on June 22nd, 2016 at 1:06 pm #

    I planted hollyhocks from seed last year and they produced massive leaves like expected. They were expected to flower this year and I haven’t seen anything produced yet. Any suggestions?

  13. Dean on June 23rd, 2016 at 5:21 pm #

    Am confused about the seeds. I am gathering a mass amount of blooms that are falling off, here in mid-summer. Will they turn to seeds or is it just the ones after the first heavy frost in the fall. None of them seem to be making seed. So, I was just wondering if its just the ones that dry on the stalk in the fall or fall off in the fall, or the blooms that fall off all during the blooming season. Thank you for you reply. I have some huge whiter ones and purple ones that some friends want seeds from. Also, do you just mix the sulfur with water and spray on the leaves?

  14. Jboz on June 16th, 2017 at 1:35 pm #

    Is it to late to plant these? Location is in central Texas.

  15. Lee on July 30th, 2017 at 1:08 am #

    Love the hollyhock, they come up very year from last years seeds. They grow anything from four to nine feet in my garden. I have them all round the place now, with several different types single and double, and red to pink and white. They begin by looking like a pumpkin plant, with huge leaves then they send a big spire of flowers up. I love them and rely on them as the basis of my summer garden. They follow the Shirley poppies and larkspurs so the garden is a tall garden against a two story house so it’s in great proportion. Latter zinnias and calendula provide the colour. Theses plants are watered with recycled grey water and whatever rain my fall. I live in north west New South Wales in Australia so it’s hot and dry generally with cold frosts over winter.

  16. Penny field on November 19th, 2017 at 3:58 pm #

    I collected hollyhock seeds from vacant lot and hope to plant them next spring. Your directions say plant 1-2 weeks before last frost. How will I know when the last frost will be arriving? What if I plant them and then it’s not the last frost?

  17. Joel on February 2nd, 2018 at 7:34 am #

    I come from the South east part of France “Mountain” from June to August hollyhock pop up in every crevice of the old street, no one seeds them, no one fertilizes them. It snows in the winter up to a foot, it freeze for around 5 months nice and balmy in the summer medium humidity, rain showers here and then. I am surprised by all the requirement I see as well fertilizing, sometimes plants need to be left alone and thrive.

  18. Neethu on April 1st, 2018 at 6:20 am #

    I planted seeds by purchasing from amazon online. I ordered dark coloured but all plants flowers bloomed in white and powder puff colour only. Anyway I introduced to my village those flowers first. So many seeds produced from my plants and taken away by my near and dear.

  19. Sharron on May 17th, 2018 at 11:33 pm #

    I’ve planted some hollyhock plants because of my childhood memories. We used to make hollyhock dolls.
    1. You need one open flower and one bud
    2. Stick a toothpick into the open flower halfway in.
    3. Poke eyes, nose and mouth on the flower bud with the stem side down.
    4. Attach the head to the skirt. You’ve made your first hollyhock doll!!

  20. Ronni on October 10th, 2019 at 1:27 pm #

    There is so much misinformation about hollyhocks that I need to put in my two cents. First of all they do flower the first year as mine have. Second, they flower for very long periods, well into fall. We are in 60s daytime temperature (lower at night) here in NJ, mid October and my hollyhocks are flowering as much as ever. Third, they definitely require staking. Fourth, in a sunny spot you should not have any fungus or rust disease. If you do, there’s a watering problem and you should be careful to drip irrigate. Fifth, groundhogs love them so don’t plant in back yards. Sixth, and lastly, they do get bad scale. Remove any bumpy leaves immediately and treat with an oil spray before it gets out of hand. I hope this helps someone. They are beautiful and well worth planting.