How to Grow Hollyhocks

For the last month an elderly neighbor and I keep initiating the same conversation, apparently. She’s one of those folks who has totally transformed her front lawn into dozens of perennial flowers, patchworked into loveliness that everyone who passes admires. There are always multiple flowers in bloom, and the landscape is always changing. And I have asked her more than once, “What about hollyhocks?” which I grow randomly and generously around my garden–primarily because they are self-seeding and abundant. And she always says the same thing, “I think they don’t like much water.” To which I respond, “I water my hollyhocks every day.” And we have had this dialogue several times with no resolve, really. So I finally took the time to get my facts straight and now I will share with you. And her.

Hollyhocks actually do like water, though they need to drain properly. And she most likely has this impression as they don’t like to get their leaves wet as they are prone to rusting and this means it’s much better to water them early in the morning when there’s plenty of time for water to evaporate by day’s end, lessening the likelihood of rust problems. So I’ve inadvertently been caring for them according to their needs and they have responded accordingly and most beautifully.

I knew, as you might also know, that once the seeds have fallen on the soil (or planted just below the surface if you are doing it yourself, which I’m imagining you most likely are) they will sprout, grow foliage lower to the ground the first year, and then the second year they will emerge tall and their flowers will blossom. So it takes some patience.

Bees love hollyhocks, and one of the most enchanting experiences is to find a bumblebee tucked inside fast asleep until morning, when it will awaken to the warmth of the sun and resume where it left off. Is anything more charming? I think not. And then one day this happened:

Hollyhocks that are happy in the sun, away from strong winds and watered properly can grow very tall. I love planting them along a side fence, which offers some support should they need it as the season progresses.

At season’s end, in fall, the petals will have fallen and the seeds become very apparent inside drying pods, all stacked next to each other in a circle.

I personally collect some seeds, which I share with other hollyhock lovers, and then I simply cut the dry stocks off and toss them along some patch of earth that I think might well benefit from their beauty. There is a community alley I’ve chosen to be the primary beneficiary of these stalks and each year there are more emerging, which is a secret delight.

Have you had success with hollyhocks in your garden? They are a nostalgic choice that seems to kindle fond memories of family.

Love and garden blessings,
Kathryn xoxo
Oops! Meant to mention! If you do spot any leaves with rust (usually ones near the bottom that get wet when you water them), remove them and conventional teaching is, get rid of them, so they don’t spread their rusty selves around! 😉

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10 Responses to “How to Grow Hollyhocks”

  1. So excited you shared seed with me. I am dreaming of strong, tall plants growing up against my fence. Thank you for your loving gift.

  2. Julie, you were one of the inspirations for this post! Can’t wait to see your hollyhocks blooming! Kathryn xoxox

  3. Lovely! I like their blending of strength and delicate petals. Definitely a wonderful addition to the garden. <3

  4. Hi Kathryn!
    Hollyhocks did best for me when we lived in the high desert in Inyo Valley. The soil there was deep and sandy. They don’t do nearly as well here and I never really knew why. Thanks for writing this! I’ll give it another try in a perfect spot where granite sand has washed down the hill.
    P.S. In Inyo the hollyhocks also grew in a neglected alley behind the back fence. I planted morning glories to cover the fence and the desert view through blues and pinks was wonderful! Sorry my feed didn’t pick up the previous post. Thank you for writing both as you brought back some happy memories for me.

  5. Hi, Antonia, You could probably grow well where you live! They are one of my favorites, for sure. Always attracting lovely company. Love, Mom xoxox

  6. Hi, Katie, and welcome! I do hope you try hollyhocks again and that they do well for you in your new chosen spot! Happy to hear you grow morning glories, too. There’s a fence here I should try the morning glories on! Kathryn xoxo

  7. Kathryn, your photos are lovely. I have been working on mine for a few years now. Finally had some height and DARK burgundy (almost black) blossoms. The leaves were laced by a chewing pest early summer but as they got taller, they also started to look healthier. I have collected seeds and would be happy to mail some to you. Wonder what The Language of Flowers has to say about this flower?

  8. Hi Kathryn,
    I LOVE this column and your HOLLYHOCKS. I would love some seeds. When is best time to plant?
    Ronney Aden

  9. Hi, Carol! Thank you. I love photographing hollyhocks. So fun. I would love to trade seeds. I have rose, pink and white seeds all bunched together. I think I still have your address. I’ll pop some in the mail to you! I’d love to plant some of your seeds and see what comes up. Thank you! Kathryn xoxo

  10. Hi, Ronney! Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed this post. Regarding best time to plant: I honestly just put mine on the ground as described and see what emerges in spring. Early spring is probably the best time to sow them by hand. However, I will send you some seeds. Put some in or on the ground (they don’t want to be down deep) when you get them. (That’s what is happening organically, right? The plants are scattering their own seeds. I’m paying attention to that.) Then save some and put them about 1/4″ deep in spring. Keep me posted. Private ms. me your best address, Ronney. Kathryn xoxo

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