Growing Hollyhocks in Atlanta
Hollyhocks Have a Home in Atlanta
Hollyhocks feel right at home here in the Atlanta area. Just a few hollyhocks can add an amazing vertical presentation to any space in your garden. Our mild winters allow this hardy plant to maintain an impressive vegetative growth year round. The foliage consists of rough, broad leaves. A full sun location helps to encourage more robust stalks, which are covered with clusters of flowers each summer.
Although most hollyhocks are short lived perennials, self seeding is quite common. This self seeding results in a never ending supply of gorgeous flowers. The seeds appear in large clusters after blooms wilt away. They are easily harvested for expanding your existing hollyhock patch and sharing with friends. Pruning wilted stalks after their first bloom of the summer will produce more stalks. These stalks seem to thrive in Atlanta's climate, easily reaching heights of eight feet when well watered.
Hollyhocks start easily when planted directly in garden soil. Early spring planting is recommended, with blooms appearing the following year. Once planted, keep the seeds well watered. When new plants reach twelve inches in height, thin to one cluster every two feet. This thinning provides room for blooming stalks to spread out, giving them access to more sunlight.
After a good blooming season, you would be well advised to do a little winter pruning, cutting away the flower stalks after the first hard freeze. Adding some fertilizer and mulch will help the roots to improve over the winter, building a good foundation for some amazing blooms next year. Although cold nights can bite back your hollyhocks, a few warm afternoons will have them bouncing right back. Hollyhocks are as resilient as they are beautiful.
Scientific Name: Alcea rosea
A hardy accent plant perfect for vertical borders
Variety of colors and bloom types
Grows 8'-12' tall and 2' wide
Prefers full sun and well drained soil
Biennial; blooms in it's second year of growth
Smaller could be better
When placed in a full sun location and watered well, hollyhocks tend to grow straight up with no pruning. While it is tempting to produce some twelve feet tall giant flower stalks, hollyhocks seem to do better with some light pruning. In mid to late spring a strong vegetative growth will begin in preparation for summer blooms. During this vegetative cycle the stalks should be pruned regularly to maintain a height of four to six feet. This ensures that during the blooming cycle the stalks will not be too slender. Tall slender stalks will start to fall over soon after blooming begins as they become loaded with flowers. As the blooms tend to form near the top of the stalks, the taller stalks are destined to become top heavy. Of course tall stalks can be tied or 'staked up' to prevent falling over if the situation presents itself.
To stake up individual plants, just drive a tall stake next to the stalk and tie the plant to it. To stake up a several plants, or a patch of hollyhocks, the method is a bit different. Drive a tall stake at each corner of the flower patch. Using your favorite garden twine, or yarn, tie supports from stake to stake. Add more twine where needed until all of the plants are supported.
What do you think?
Do you plan to grow hollyhocks after reading this article?
Harvest Hundreds of Seeds Every Year
While hollyhocks produce large amounts of beautiful flowers, they also produce even larger amounts of seeds. Every flower that blooms will leave behind a large seed pod filled with big, flat seeds. These seed pods are easily recognized and harvested. After harvesting, pods may be dried by placing them in a basket or on a mesh screen out of the weather for a couple of weeks.
In no time, you will have hundreds of seeds. It is always a great mystery wondering what next year's flowers will look like. Depending on their pollination, the seeds often produce a variety of colors.
These seeds are great for starting new hollyhocks in your own garden, sharing with friends and family, and trading. There are groups out there that trade seeds collected from their respective gardens each year. A bag full of hollyhock seeds could be a great way to trade around with like minded gardeners for a unique variety of free seeds!
Starting Hollyhock Seeds
Heirloom hollyhocks come from some of the older original stock with only a single colored bloom. Most modern hollyhock varieties come in a wide range of colors, from bright to pastel. The heirloom flowers are generally a very dark, rich, deep color. There are a few heirloom varieties, with the most popular being crimson and black. Clusters of black flowers in full bloom on an heirloom hollyhock is enough to stop anyone in their tracks.
These heirloom varieties were a little hard to find only ten years ago. Now, I am happy to say that many heirloom varieties are making a comeback. Some stores specialize in heirloom seeds, and this is probably a great place to start. Aside from hollyhocks, there are many other interesting seeds you may want to try. If you keep a vegetable garden, you have got to try a few heirloom vegetables. Tomatoes, for example, come in dozens of heirloom varieties. Some of these you may have seen or heard of, but I would bet there are at least a couple that you never even knew existed.
Heirloom varieties are classic favorites with some different advantages. Many of these exhibit very favorable characteristics such as unique colors, shapes, and flavor profiles. Some are naturally disease resistant or drought tolerant. There is a reason these particular varieties were passed down through families, from generation to generation. If you are looking for something a little different, heirloom hollyhocks could be right for your garden.