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Cottage Garden Favorites: Hollyhocks

Updated on February 8, 2016
OldRoses profile image

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been a volunteer at Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.


Hollyhocks have been a cottage garden favorite for centuries.


Often found in early English cottage gardens, hollyhocks are not native to Great Britain. They are originally from China and were imported to England before or during the 15th century. No one is sure of the exact time period.

Hollyhocks were popular with herbalists because they believed that they could be used as a laxative, an anti-inflammatory, as a mouthwash to cure bleeding gums and to stop bedwetting.

Here in the US, thanks to their height, hollyhocks were frequently planted around outhouses to hide them.


Hollyhocks are hardy in zones 3 through 8. They are biennials, meaning they live for two years. The first year, the plant germinates from seed and grows only foliage. The second year, the plant comes back from the roots and develops flowers. They readily self-sow, giving the impression that they are perennials when in fact, you are seeing new plants not the old ones.

The flowers grow on stalks, opening from the bottom of the stalk to the top. They range in color from white to deep red, including pink, orange and yellow and come in single or double form. They bloom from mid-summer to early fall. Butterflies and hummingbirds are reputed to favor red flowering hollyhocks. Hollyhocks are quite tall, growing 6- to 8 feet in height depending on the variety. They grow best in full sun but will tolerate part shade. They like moisture but prefer well-drained soil. Keep them watered during dry periods.

Because of their height, hollyhocks need support. Plant them in a protected area where they will not be blown around by the wind. If you have a lot of them, plant them along a fence or wall rather than trying to stake up each individual plant.


Hollyhocks are easily grown from seeds. They can be direct sown in your garden in either the fall or spring. They can also be started indoors 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost date. Both indoors and outdoors, the seeds should be surface planted. They need light to germinate. Wait until after all danger of frost to move your seedlings outdoors. They should be planted 18 inches apart to provide good air circulation.

Hollyhock foliage infected with rust
Hollyhock foliage infected with rust | Source


Hollyhocks are very susceptible to rust which is caused by a fungus. You can purchase a fungicide at your local nursery but the best way to control rust is through proper sanitary practices. At the first sign of rust, remove the infected leaves and either throw them out or compost them. If a plant is covered with rust, remove the entire plant. In the fall, remove all plant material from your garden so that the rust doesn't overwinter to infect your plants again in the spring.

© 2014 Caren White


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    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      I envy you, Pawpaw. I no longer have space to grow hollyhocks. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • Pawpawwrites profile image

      Jim 3 years ago from Kansas

      They are such beautiful flowers. We have a couple, but plan to have a few more.

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      I always seem to lose my hollyhocks to rust. I hope your experience is better. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • RaintreeAnnie profile image

      RaintreeAnnie 3 years ago from UK

      I love Hollyhocks and other cottage garden type plants. Doing a lot of redesigning in the garden this year and Hollyhocks are going to be a part of it! Thank you for the helpful information and I will remember to watch out for rust!

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 3 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      I envy you. I moved to a townhouse and I don't have the space to grow hollyhocks. Good luck with yours. I'm sure that they will b beautiful.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      No; I should have been clearer; they grow good but shorter which I love because my moms were so tall they were always falling over no matter how much she tied them. I just let mine die out and am getting them restarted.

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 4 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Bac, a well-constructed compost pile heats up and kills seeds, rust, etc. Due to air quality regulations here in the US, we are not allowed to burn garden waste like leaves. Thanks for reading!

    • bac2basics profile image

      Anne 4 years ago from Spain

      I love hollyhocks and chose the name as my psudonom on another site I write for. I have them growing in my garden in Spain and they are stunning. I have one variety that is such a deep maroon colour it looks almost black at times. I'm not sure about putting rust infected leaves on the compost heap though, maybe they would be better burned. Just a thought.

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 4 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      My guess would be that your summers are too hot for hollyhocks. They grow well in England which has much cooler summers. There are some plants that just don't tolerate the hot summers of The Beautiful South. Thanks for reading.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      My moms hollyhocks got really tall up north but any I have had in the southeast do not get so tall. I have several coming up that are different; I hope I will see some flowers from them this year.

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 4 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Blueheron, I have loved hollyhocks since I was a little girl and I first saw them growing along a fence. Thanks for reading!

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 4 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      ES, hollyhocks don't climb, they just get very tall but I agree that they are very beautiful. Thanks for reading!

    • blueheron profile image

      Sharon Vile 4 years ago from Odessa, MO

      Love these!

    • ESPeck1919 profile image

      ESPeck1919 4 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      I enjoy climbing plants. These are beautiful!

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 4 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      That's great! Thanks for reading.

    • mactavers profile image

      mactavers 4 years ago

      They grow well in Northern Arizona too. Good Hub thanks.


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