Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens

Plant of the Week: Hollyhocks

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Hollyhocks always bring to mind an old fashion garden out on the farm, perhaps standing tall along the milkhouse.  They have a familiarity to them that take you back a few generations – when I see them, I always have to stop and admire.


The common hollyhock is Alcea rosea.  This popular plant has been heavily hybridized over the years for plant height, disease resistance/hardiness and bloom color.

Family:  Malvaceae, the Mallow Family

Other plants in the Malvaceaea include rose of sharon, hibiscus, okra and the cocoa tree.

Hollyhocks are easily grown in the garden, preferring well drained soil with full sun and tolerating a variety of soil types.  Although hollyhocks are not perennials, they can be long-lived in the garden.  Hollyhocks are biennials, meaning they complete their life cycle in two years (while annuals complete their life cycle in one).  But if allowed to reseed in the garden, the flower will easily colonize in the garden.  Like many other biennials, hollyhocks are nearly impossible to transplant (because of their large taproot).  If not planted next to a building or fence, the taller varieities may require staking in windy areas.

The lobed leaves of the hollyhock is anything but dainty, and is often fuzzy (fun for children to touch!).  As the leaves progress up the rigid stem, they become smaller.  The old fashioned hollyhocks can grow to an impressive 4 to 6 feet but there are also many new shorter varieties for smaller spaces.  Bloom color range from reds, pinks, purples, whites and yellows.  May attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

Interested in designing your own cottage garden?  Other perennials that would provide the old fashioned charm of hollyhocks would include iris, foxglove, shasta daisy, poppy, bleeding heart dianthus, and peony.


See you in the gardens.



Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

January 4, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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