Hollyhocks: A Great Cottage Garden Flower
HOLLYHOCKS (Alcea Rosea)
Hollyhocks are a true treasure for any garden. They are known to be a cottage garden flower because of their tall expressive way. They remind me of a romantic wild flower opposed to the manicured types often seen in gardens. There are many varieties and you may find that when they come back the next year, you are charmed by the difference in the new lovely flowers they produced. Simply stated: they are a seamlessly charming summer flower to grow.
Hollyhocks are a very easy flower to grow; however, if planted by seed, the first year they will most likely produce green stalks, but don’t be despaired, because these plants will produce beautiful stalks that will range anywhere from 2 to 12 feet tall and about 18 inches wide, depending on the variety, that will be filled with an abundance of flowers for years to come.
Furthermore, just when you thought they would not bloom, you will be surprised to find compactly enclosed buds forming at the bottom of the slightly hairy stalk. At next glance, they will burst into beautiful 5 inch clumps of flowers that will unfold all the way to the top. They will continue to bloom like this from early spring to late summer.
Some Hollyhocks will take on a short lived perennial approach; however, they do self-sow and the new plants will surprise you because they may be quite different than the first one you planted. Plants that have been produced from the parent plant may take on a single, double, or semidouble flower and the colors may be entirely altered. If you planted white, you may end up with pink, red, yellow, or even a deep burgundy, just to name a few. Likewise, you may find that the flower itself has taken on a different look; possibly, fringed or even ruffled.
Where to plant
Hollyhocks are perfect for a backsplash effect in an informal garden and beautiful when paired with Garden Roses, Black-eyed Susan’s, Sneezeweed, Shasta Daisies, Peonies, Tree Mallow and/or Lavender, just to name a few. Additionally, they look outstanding when grown against walls and fences. Provide them with full sun and well-drained soil. For summer blooms, plant them in early spring. If planting from seed, be sure to provide adequate watering until they are fully established.
To assist them in coming back each year, DO NOT remove the flower stalks until they have gone to seed. Once this has occurred, cut the stalks to the ground, preferably in late summer, and discard the debris to prevent the risk of disease.
Moreover, if smaller plants have developed along the parent plant, separate and transplant them to another area of the garden to create an abundance of diverse plants and an aesthetically pleasing garden.
Rust Fungus, Japanese Beetles, Spider Mites and Leaf Miners are some serious pest that will affect the stems and leaves of your Hollyhocks. Frequent pest control is recommended. To help control or lessen disease, space them far enough apart for suitable air circulation when planting. Additionally, remove the Japanese Beatles by hand. If you notice brown blistering spots on the leaves and they are wilting, you have rust fungus. This is caused by being planted in a too wet or dry area.
Note: instead of chemicals – try planting Dahlias!
With a little preventative maintenance, Hollyhocks are sure to bring you an abundance of joy each and every year, and grace you with big beautiful flowers to enjoy in the garden or cut and fill your vases around the house. You just can’t go wrong with a Hollyhock.
Note: If cutting Hollyhocks for filling vases, please follow these steps to produce long lasting blooms.
- Cut on a cool day and when the lower buds have opened
- Before placing in water, make a slit in the stems with a knife. This will enable water absorption.
- If you don’t make the slit, they will rot at the bottom (I learned this the hard way!) and they will smell horrible.
- Zones: 3-7
- Summer display
- Grow from 2 – 12 feet tall, which means they may need staking
- Biennial; although, some varieties will come back each year
- Full Sun – well drained soil
- Pest control is needed
Chater’s Double – grow 6 to 8 feet tall and will produce compact double flowers in shades of yellow, pink, white or scarlet. This variety is the most popular.
Nigra – produces single bloom flowers and is a beautiful plant because of its chocolate colored flowers – it is often times referred to as a black hollyhock
Indian Spring – grow 6 feet tall and produce single bloom flowers in mixed colors
Powderpuff Mixed – grow 8 feet tall and will produce thick – generous blooming - double flowers that are ruffled in shades of red, maroon, white yellow, or pink
Happy Lights – are a rust resistant hollyhock that will bloom from early summer all the way to late fall.
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