Hollyhocks Gradually Stopped Coming Back And Efforts To Re-establish Have Not Worked

Question From: Champaign, Illinois, United States
Q: About ten years ago, I had abundant hollyhocks, south side of the garage, sunny. They were here when we bought the house over 50 years ago, kept coming back.Tall,thrifty plants My neighbor also had some. She cleared hers all out, then moved away. Gradually, mine completely disappeared. I have tried to start from seed with meager results and have bought plants, but they struggle, don't thrive. I know about the familiar pests, rust etc. That is a problem I can cope with but mainly I wonder what happened? Is this typical? Is it the soil?

A: Hollyhocks were alley plants when I was a child. They grew and thrived in gravelly soil and were never tended to. I can't tell you why your stand died off. You may have over fertilized them at some point. A bit of compost in fall is all they need. The soil may not drain well so they succumbed to winter kill. They are short lived biennials or perennials so re-seeding is a must. I plan to grow them at my display garden at the OPC in Rochester so I will be researching their culture. Stay tuned. Best And Happy Yardening, Nancy