Hollyhock is a tall, stately plant that has long been favored by artists when painting scenes of romantic cottage gardens. Hollyhocks have also been a favorite children's plaything -- the flowers can be turned into "Southern Belles" complete with long, ruffled skirts.
Description of hollyhock: Most varieties will grow to 6 feet or taller, the stems surrounded by hibiscus-like flowers in every color except blue. Flowers can be single, semi-double, or double, and are waved or fringed. Leaves are large, round, and coarse.
Growing hollyhock: Plant in full sun where there's good air movement to avoid rust. Water and feed heavily and spray with a fungicide if rust develops. Staking may be necessary with very tall varieties or if the site is very windy. Plant 12 to 15 inches apart in clumps. Hollyhocks are prolific reseeders, although they will not come true to type this way. To prevent undesirable colors, deadhead the spent flowers.
Propagating hollyhock: By seed. Most varieties are biennial but, if seeded early enough indoors, can be treated as annuals for the garden. Sow seeds indoors in February or March for flowers the first year. Barely cover seeds (they need light to germinate) and expect germination in 10 to 24 days at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant outdoors after final frost where they'll bloom from July until frost.
Uses for hollyhock: Since hollyhocks are bold in scale, they add height to the rear of a border. They can also be used as a bright clump beside garden paths or at doorsteps.
Hollyhock related varieties: Powderpuff Mixed provides a wide range of colors with very double flowers. Majorette produces semi-double and laced flowers on 3-foot stems. Summer Carnival with double blooms will flower as an annual if sown early indoors. Happy Lights and Old Barnyard Mix have single flowers in a range of colors. Nigra is nearly black.
Scientific name of hollyhock: Alcea rosea