Alcea rosea

November 26, 2010

Plant Particulars

Zones: 3-9
Height: to 8 ft.
Spread: to 24 in.
Shape: erect
Color: many shades of pink, purple, white, yellow, red, deep maroon
Bloom time: early summer
Light needs: best in full sun
Soil: fertile, well-drained
Special hint: good sanitation (cleaning up debris in fall) and good air circulation are important to keep rust from being a problem. An essential component of classic cottage gardens, hollyhocks of old were tall, swaying beauties. These varieties are being supplanted by shorter versions, the most recent being a stunted 2-foot-tall dwarf. Fortunately, you can still get seeds of some of the older types—a testament to their toughness. Look for 'Chaters Double' or 'Indian Spring'. Often regarded as perennials, hollyhocks will in fact return for a year or maybe two if cut back immediately after they finish flowering. But allowing the seeds to mature, and then thinning and tending the seedlings by refreshing the soil with compost, will provide you with more vigorous plants. Young hollyhock seedlings can be relocated when they are small.