A Beginner’s Guide to Hollyhock Flowers
The family of the hollyhock flowers is made up about 60 species of flowering plants. Native to southwest and central Asia this biennial comes to us through the genus Alcea, a species of the mallow family. Growing up to five feet tall this stately plant with long, broad leaves and loads of flowers is probably one of every grandmother’s favorites. In the wild they are pink or yellow but when grown in the backyard garden today shades of pink, to red to crimson to almost red/black, to golden or canary yellow to the purest white can be found.
Hollyhock plants are fairly easy to grow, and will reward one by flowering the first year-especially if care is taken to start them indoors. Universally admired down through the years the majestic, towering hollyhock flowers add beauty wherever they are grown. They are especially appreciated in new gardens where their impressive height, look and color will fill in a multitude of bare spaces.
One can only love the great quantities of tall, showy blooms that grace any background, prominent border or fence from July to September. Though there are double hollyhock blossoms the singles radiate a simple beauty on the tall spike head of 5-9 flowers. Leaves usually grow together on the lower stalks giving way to the blossoms that can reach a diameter of up to five inches if the plants have been well cared for.
Hollyhock flowers require a well-drained soil, preferably made up of equal parts of a good workable soil-mixture of clay, sand and silt (loam) and leaf-mold. A well decayed manure or aged organic compost is good to mix into the soil as well, but not necessary.
Hollyhocks are often started from seed and can be sown directly into your flower garden. However, starting them indoors 6-8 weeks before the final frost of the year almost ensures they will bloom that first year.
Out in the garden, hollyhock flowers need a deeply dug bed and plenty of room for growing with a final spacing of about 20 inches. This gives them plenty of room and allows for air circulation; minimizing rust which the older plants are susceptible to. They should be planted in warm places and given extra water when it is dry as they like a moist environment at all times. They have been known to survive droughts just fine though. They do very well in full sun but do not mind partial shade either. Fertilizing once a month will result in bigger, fuller blooms; using just a good general purpose product.
Where grown over many years in established beds, hollyhock flowers can be troubled by rust. This happens when the older plants have not been separated and replanted at ample distances at least every other year. Younger plants are rarely affected. Mixing sulfur and lime to blow under the leaves will help prevent outbreaks. If plants are badly infested they should be dug up and burned.
When the growing season of the hollyhock flowers is over, the plants need to be cut back to the ground. This will assure that the plant does not die out over the winter-especially with a cover of mulch. Established plants can, and should be separated by division in the fall of the year. This allows the plant time to grow good roots before winter comes.
Hollyhock flowers are not generally bothered by insect problems, but can be easily treated with an insecticidal soap if necessary. With older plants applying fungicides for rust regularly is recommended.
Hollyhock flowers make stunning additions to indoor arrangements adding drama and color. They, however, wither very quickly and should be used in arrangements that will only be temporary.