Hollyhocks are familiar old-fashioned flowers that have graced dooryards and gardens in Europe and America for hundreds of years. One glance at a hollyhock (Alcea rosea) in bloom, towering majestically over all the other flowers in the garden, tells why. Although they are perennials, they decline after about 2 years and should be replaced. There is an annual or biennial form of hollyhock also. Hollyhocks reseed themselves easily.
Size: Hollyhocks grow anywhere from 5 to 9 feet tall. At maturity they will become 2 or 3 feet wide.
Foliage: Hollyhock leaves are large, hairy or felt-like to the touch. They are medium green and deeply lobed, like maple leaves, with 3, 5 or 7 rounded lobes. They cluster at the base of the plant, but also grow on the flower stalk.
Flowers: The 5-petalled rose-like hollyhock blooms emerge along the top half of their tall flower stalks which develop the second year. Relatively long-blooming, hollyhocks bloom from June to August or September. The lowest flowers on the stalks open first, expanding to 3 to 4 inches across. Flower colors may be white to yellow to pink, rose, red, and almost black. Some types have double and ruffled flowers. The flowers, while unscented, attract bees.
The Right Place For Hollyhocks
Hollyocks are hardy north to New England and into Canada. They are comfortable as far south as the central Gulf States but can not handle the really hot regions of Florida and southern Texas (Zones 2 to 8). Choose a sunny site with well drained, rich soil, such as a border area in front of a wall. They prefer soil that is moderately acidic (pH 6.0 to 6.5).
How To Use Hollyhocks In The Landscape
Use Hollyhocks for screening along fences, and as background plants in borders and beds. Cluster them at corners of buildings to soften harsh architectural lines.
Month to Month Care for Annual Hollyhock
Month of March Start seeds or plant Hollyhock seedlings in the spring; putting plants outside after all danger of frost has past.
Month of April Sprinkle about a tablespoon of slow-acting general-purpose granular fertilizer on the soil around each plant in the spring. That is enough fertilizer for the season.
Month of May Taller Hollyhock varieties may need staking for support in windy areas. Stake each stalk separately, tying them with strips of cloth or other material to sturdy stakes that are set firmly in the ground.
Month of June Optional - Hollyhocks appreciate growing in 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch of some kind. This is optional but desirable.
Optional – Your Hollyhocks will appreciate a light feeding of fertilizer using a liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength according to the label. This can be poured into the soil or sprayed right on to the plant.