Alcea rosea: How to grow and care for Hollyhocks

Hollyhocks are also known as Alcea rosea is a native plant of south china, which was imported to Europe during the 15th century. It is an ornamental dicot flowering plant belonging to the Malvaceae family.

Hollyhocks in a biennial plant mean it’s a complete life cycle in a span of two years. In the first year, it spent time growing stem, foliage, and storing energy. In the second year, the stalk shoots up and bloom numerous flowers and forms seeds.

Hollyhocks

source: Mike Atkinson

However, there are some varieties that grow perennial and bloom flowers in the first year of planting if planted in early spring or started indoors in winter.

This plant does not need much maintenance but it is required to protect from pests and diseases. Here in this post, I’ll describe Hollyhocks how grow and care for them.

Let’s get started:

How Hollyhocks looks like

It’s a classic cotton garden staple that blooms in mid-spring with multiple flowers on tall spikes about 6-8 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide.

Grows well in full sun and partial shade mostly in hardiness zone 3-8.

Hollyhocks blooms have single or double-cup-shaped flowers that look similar to Japanese anemones. The flowers grow with or without stalk on a tall spike.

It’s available in many varieties with different shapes and colors including pink, yellow, white, purple, red and even black.

In the blooming season, the spikes are decorated with numerous flowers from top to bottom. Their leaves are large, coarse, and palmate in size.

Toxicity

Hollyhocks are not reported toxic when ingested by pets or humans. But, their leaves and stem cause irritation when the small glass-like fiber is touched or brushed against them which is obviously a very rare condition. 

How to Grow Hollyhocks 

hollyhock

source: devra

Where to plant 

Plant them in the spot where they get at least 6-8 hours of sunlight. Although hollyhocks most varieties are biennial they need enough sunlight to grow leaves and store energy.

The plant has long taproots, planted them in long individual pots, and quickly transplant in the garden when they get 5-6 inches taller in height. 

As the plant has a tall long spike, plant them against a wall, fence, trellis or stalk to protect from strong winds.

Lastly, plants where drainage is good, their long taproot does not like to stand in water for a longer period, it may cause root rot and fungal diseases.

When to plant

Start indoor planting 9 weeks before the last frost. The seedling can be transplanted two to three weeks after the last frost.

You can easily grow hollyhocks from seeds indoors as well as outdoors. Seeding is the best and easiest way to propagate hollyhocks, they will readily self-seed if their flower stalks are left in place.

They are tall so it’s not possible to grow in pots, it might not bloom. For better results plant seeds directly in the garden.

Here what to do:

  • Collect fresh 2-3 seeds and wash with water to moist. Seeds shouldn’t be too old, it may germinate late or mostly even don’t germinate.
  • Sow the seeds one inch deep in the ground. Make sure to sow one or two seeds into a hole, too many seeds in a particular spot will lead to improper growth. 
  • Plant seeds at least 1 foot apart from each other, while planting it looks odd but when they get mature they have a healthy distance to spread.
  • Soil is an essential part of planting, do not plant in the native ground soil. Instead, use a 50:50 ratio of compost and native soil. For ease use potting mix soil.
  • Dip a 4-5 inches wide hole and put prepared soil and sow seeds on top.
  • Water the plant thoroughly to make the soil moist. 
  • It takes nearly 14-20 days in germination, keep in mind in the first year of planting it will only produce stems and leaves. Adding unnecessary fertilizer will not help in blooming. 

Care 

Hollyhocks

source: Amanda Slater

Soil

Always plant them in rich compost soil. The soil pH is usually not a problem for them, they grow in neutral soil pH. Prepare the soil with compost and sand soil for good drainage.

Water 

Water regularly to keep the soil moist but avoid overwatering. Hollyhocks need regular watering in the starting once they get established, they are drought tolerant. The best way is to water when the upper surface of the soil looks dry. 

Always water onto the base of the plant, avoiding wetting stem foliage. The wet parts of plants increase the chance of fungal diseases leads to disease leaves.

Pruning

Prune yellow-brown leaves or dry flowers from the plant, these parts look dead but they keep sucking energy from the plant once you remove them the energy redirect for new growth.

When the flowers bloom cut 5-6 inches of the stalk and decorate these flowers in vases. Cutting the blooming branch is important to encourage new flower growth.

Pest and diseases

The hollyhocks often suffer from rust, a fungal infection that first appears like a small yellow spot then develops into brown rust the colored bumps on both sides of the leaves.

This fungal disease is caused due to overwatering and improper air circulation.

To prevent this water the plant only when its soil looks dry. And for proper air circulation, plant each hollyhock at least 1 foot apart. 

Any leaves showing the susceptibility to rust should be removed from the plant and get destroyed before they spread to the whole plant.

If you often suffer with rust in your garden, then consider growing rust resistant cultivars such as “Alcea rugosa” varieties.

Did I Miss Anything?

Now I’d like to hear from you: which tip from today’s post are you going to try first?

Or maybe, I didn’t mention your favorite plant growing tip. Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.

Before going if you want to grow beautiful flowers in your garden? Then click on these articles also.

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