How to grow hollyhocks in your garden. A pollinator host plant and beautiful flower that adds height and beauty to any garden. Easy to grow for beginner gardeners!
How to Grow Hollyhocks in Your Cottage Garden one easy step at a time. An easy to grow biennial that is perfect for beginner gardeners.
Hollyhocks have been part of Cottage gardens from the beginning. Many equate them with England but in fact the English got them from the Middle East during the crusades. The soldiers brought the seeds home because of the the many medicinal uses of the plant. It is believed the name ‘Holy Hock’ is derived from treating sore horse’s hooves on the battlefields during that time and somehow it became Hollyhock.
Though the European Hollyhocks came from the Middle East, they originated in the Far East.
In Japan some ancient shoguns used the Hollyhock as a symbol of their clans and the town of Kyoto holds an annual Hollyhock festival.
Planting Hollyhock Seeds
Hollyhocks are considered biennials but mine have lived for several years now, so I consider them more of a perennial. Many of my freely reseeding plants get sown in Fall and they bloom the following Summer. To read a post on that, just click to read…Sow your seeds in Fall. It will open in a new tab so you won’t lose your place here.
Many times I don’t do a thing other than let the plant drop its seeds in place but if I am taking seeds to another spot in the garden I will loosen the soil with my Hoe Dag and toss the seeds on top, I press the seeds into the soil with a firm step. I sprinkle a bit of compost on top, not much, the seeds do need light to germinate and let them overwinter in place.
Hollyhock plants get rather large so thin the seedlings out in Spring to about 2 feet apart.
If you wish to start some in pots in February you will still get blooms in Summer. Plant the seeds in pots or trays, space the seeds about an inch or so apart, press them into the soil and sprinkle a bit of potting mix on top, very lightly firm it down. I sometimes pre-germinate the seeds like I do my Delphiniums.
The seeds like it warmer to get started so at 70-75 degrees they will germinate in 14 to 28 days. I do this in my greenhouse and I also start seeds inside my house.
Plant out in the garden about 2 weeks after last frost.
Hollyhocks like fertile soil with regular moisture though once established they are drought tolerant. We have some around the neighborhood that thrive in gravelly soil close to the road with no irrigation. But for best performance irrigate from below and provide good air circulation.
After flowering, cut back plants hard, to within a few inches of the ground, you can mulch and fertilize with some well composted manure and you may get another flush of blooms. Once you get Hollyhocks established you will have them forever. You will have to be sure and dead head them to prevent getting too many, they spread easily but that is all part of gardening.
Single flower hollyhocks attract hummingbirds, bees and butterflies and they are host plants for the Paint Lady larvae. So Hollyhocks are must in your Butterfly garden!
Bees like the easy accessibility of the single hollyhocks but the doubles are just too gorgeous not to grow as well.
Where to Plant Hollyhocks
Hollyhock plants can get up to 10 feet tall and when the flowers are blooming near the top they get top heavy and can topple over. Plants may need staking to keep upright, especially if you have much wind.
They look best up against a wall or at the back of a border where they can be used as a screen. It is claimed that back in the olden days Hollyhocks were planted in such as way as to screen the view of the outhouse from the main house which sounds like a very practical use of them to me.
They like full sun with lots of heat. Some will tolerate a little shade but it can cause them to ‘reach’ for the sun and lean.
Hollyhocks are easy to grow, but they are not without their problems. When growing hollyhock flowers, you need to keep an eye out for rust.
Rust will typically attack the lower leaves but it may spread to upper leaves. The past couple of years Rust has become a problem for me. See the little brownish yellow spores under the leaf?
Last year I snipped off any leaves that had the rust on them and a couple plants I just whacked off a few inches up from the ground. Dispose of the leaves, don’t compost them, the rust will live on and continue to be a problem.
I sprayed the rest of the plant with Green Cure (an organic solution) and it seemed to keep the worst of it at bay. The plants I whacked off continued to grow fungus free but they bloomed shorter, I was happy they bloomed at all. In the photo below you can see they are only about 2 or 3 feet tall.
I have read that you can help keep rust at bay if you dig up the older plants and start with fresh ones and I may try that this year. They have a huge tap root and can be a real challenge to dig up so I will have to do that when the soil is still good and moist this Spring. But with lots of hollyhocks growing around the neighborhood that are infected with Rust and the spores travel on the wind I probably need to grow a variety that is resistant.
Botanical Interests have a variety of Hollyhocks that are reputed to be rust resistant and I will start some of those to try, they are called Happy Lights.
Hollyhocks come in various colors, even ones that are nearly black called the Watchman! There are also some dwarf varieties but I have yet to grow them so I cannot say how well they do compared to the others.
If they grow well in your region you can keep them in check by pruning them back hard before they start to go to seed. Not only do you prevent them from reseeding but you can get a second flush of blooms from new stalks growing. I read a recent blog post on not planting Hollyhocks because they can become a problem. That is such nonsense that I had to laugh out loud. Any gardener worth their salt knows how to keep well growing plants from becoming an issue in their garden and that maintenance is required no matter what you plant.
Don’t be afraid to plant these wonderful flowers and enjoy the beauty they bring to your garden.
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