Growing Hollyhocks: Hollyhock Varieties and Care

Hollyhock — also known as alcea rosea — are romantic, old-fashioned flowers with showy blooms that will add color and drama to your garden.

May 22, 2020
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Why You Should Grow Hollyhock

Hollyhocks are one of a variety of short-lived perennials that are used in cottage-style gardens because of their loose, carefree look and beautiful large blooms that attract bees and butterflies. Many are heirlooms that have been used in country gardens for centuries.

A Garden Classic

Want to add some height to your cottage garden? Consider including hollyhock (Alcea rosea), which blooms over a long period in summer. Depending on cultivar, its blooms come in singles and doubles in shades of lavender, pink, purple, red, salmon, apricot, white and yellow. The fast-growing hollyhock can reach up to 8 feet in height on rigid spires. Hollyhock is a biennial or short-lived perennial but reseeds itself readily in the garden.

How to Grow Hollyhock

Members of the mallow family, hollyhocks are related to hibiscus, Rose of Sharon, and even the okra plants that grow in our vegetable gardens. These stately plants are easy to grow, if they have plenty of sun and moist, well-drained, rich soil. Sow the seeds outdoors, just before the last spring frost, about 1/4" deep and at least 2 feet apart. Give them shelter from the wind, so their tall stalks don't get blown over; you may need to stake them. Water from below, to avoid splashing the foliage and inviting disease.

Placement in the Garden

Hollyhocks are wonderful for providing verticality in the garden and adding old-fashioned appeal to cottage gardens. They work well as border background flowers and when placed against garden fences, walls or other structures.

Hollyhocks 'Halo Mix'

'Halo Mix' Alcea rosea is a hardy perennial in Zones 3 to 9. Each colorful, two-toned bloom has a distinct eye, or halo. The plants can grow to 6 feet, so you may stake them or grow them behind shorter, shrubby plants that can help support them.

Hollyhock 'Spring Celebrities Carmine-Rose'

Like other hollyhocks in the 'Spring Celebrities' series, 'Carmine-Rose' behaves like a short-lived perennial or a first-year blooming biennial in Zones 5 to 9. Butterflies flock to the ruffled blooms, held atop plants that grow 36 to 42 inches high.

Hollyhock 'Chaters Pink'

Hollyhocks like 'Chaters Pink' (the pink flowers in the center of this image) were traditionally grown in cottage gardens. Tough and drought-tolerant, this plant performs as a perennial in Zones 3 to 8, opening its doubled flowers the second year after planting. It tops out at 6 to 8 feet tall.

Black Hollyhock

On cloudy days, this heirloom hollyhock, once grown by Thomas Jefferson, looks almost black. It's actually dark purple, although you can see flashes of red in bright sunlight. This biennial black hollyhock matures at 5 to 6 feet tall.

Hollyhock 'Fiesta Time'

Cerise-pink 'Fiesta Time' has fringed, double blooms that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Especially recommended for gardeners in Zones 3 and 4, 'Fiesta Time' doesn't thrive in the Gulf states. Like other hollyhocks, it can suffer from rust when the humidity is high; this disease shows up as orange spots on the foliage. Treat with a copper-based fungicide and leave space between the plants for good air circulation.

Outhouse Hollyhock (Organic)

Farmers once grew tall hollyhocks around their outhouses, to help disguise them. This old-timey biennial blooms in the second year after planting in Northern regions, and may bloom in the first year in temperate climates. 'Outhouse Hollyhock' grows 6 to 9 feet high.

Hollyhock Alcea Rosea 'Nigra'

'Nigra' is a classic hollyhock with deep maroon blooms. Flowers can reach a height of 5-8 feet tall.

Hollyhock 'Creme de Cassis'

'Creme de Cassis' has raspberry-colored centers and yellow throats. Gardeners in cool regions often get more double blooms, but you may get singles, semi-doubles, or fully doubled flowers on the same stalks. These hollyhocks grow as biennials or short-lived perennials.

Hollyhocks 'Spring Celebrities Lemon'

Drought tolerant 'Spring Celebrities Lemon' hollyhocks are easy to grow, as long as you have lots of sun. The pale yellow blooms attract butterflies and are great for a cutting garden. Hardy in Zones 5 to 9, this variety can be planted in big containers or in the landscape.

Hollyhocks 'Majorette'

At 24 to 30 inches tall, 'Majorette' is a dwarf hollyhock. The pom-pom flowers come in a mix of colors, including white, pink, red, and yellow. Like other hollyhocks, the plants need good air circulation to help prevent disease, so space them according to package or tag directions.

Hollyhock 'Spring Celebrities White'

Hollyhocks re-seed easily and can be transplanted if you do it when they're seedlings. But be careful; established plants have a long taproot and don't like being moved. 'Spring Celebrities White' is a bushy, dwarf variety that grows 24 to 32 inches tall. Its doubled flowers open from summer to early fall and are at their best when the weather is cool and sunny.

Hollyhock 'Mars Magic'

Unlike some hollyhocks, 'Mars Magic' is a true perennial, not a biennial. Its single, red flowers open on strong stalks beginning in midsummer. Be sure to water if the weather is dry. 'Mars Magic' grows 4 to 6 feet high and bears its blooms on the top third of the stems.

Hollyhock 'Blacknight'

From the Spotlight Series, this hollyhock was developed over an 18-year period to produce tall, sturdy stalks and single flowers, 'Blacknight' has dark, purplish-black blooms. Like 'Mars Magic', it grows dependably as a perennial, not a biennial.

Hollyhock 'Spring Celebrities Apricot'

Big, frilly blooms the color of fresh apricots make this hollyhock, from the Spring Celebrities series, a standout in the garden. The dwarf plants don't need staking, and bear lots of side shoots that flower in the summer. Like other hollyhocks, 'Apricot' should be deadheaded once the flowers fade.

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