The Hollyhock is a favourite in UK gardens, with their spires adding lovely interest to garden borders. Find out my answers to Google’s most asked questions on this flower.

Where are Hollyhocks native to?

Hollyhocks are native to China and East Asia.

They have some relevance to ancient Japanese culture. Hollyhocks are associated with prayers for abundance in Japan. And one of the largest festivals in Kyoto is the Hollyhock Flower Festival.

Kyoto Hollyhock festival

Are Hollyhocks annuals, biennials, or perennials?

Hollyhocks can be either biennial or short-lived perennials.

Perennial varieties should live for at least 3 years, but probably not many more than that. After which you must replace them with new ones.

Which garden style are they best suited for?

Hollyhocks are regularly found in cottage garden styles but can also look wonderful and bright in formal garden borders and garden beds.

Hollyhocks in a garden border cottage

Are Hollyhocks easy to grow?

Yes, you will be glad to know that hollyhocks are easy to grow.

They particularly grow well from seed and are fully hardy, so they don’t require too much attention once grown.

Where do Hollyhocks grow best?

These plants aren’t particularly fussy about soil type and tend to grow anywhere. I’ve even seen them growing through cracks in pavements or sidewalks for my viewers in the USA.

For the best results, I would recommend that you plant them in fertile, well-drained soil if you can, and somewhere with full sun. This will make sure they produce as tall flower spikes as possible.

A sheltered position is ideal, as their tall blooms could be caught by strong winds, blowing the plant over.

How do you grow Hollyhocks?

The first decision you need to make is which hollyhock would you like to grow? They come in a variety of jewel-tone colours, so make sure you pick the Hollyhock that matches your existing design.

You can purchase them as seed, plug plants, or established plants that you can plant straight out into the garden.

As I’ve mentioned before, choose a sunny, sheltered position with fertile soil. Dig in some well-rotted garden compost before planting.

Plant your pot-grown hollyhocks in the spring or autumn, around 60cm apart. If you have bought plug plants, first grow them in 10cm pots to establish their roots before planting them out.

You need to water your young hollyhock plants often for the first few months. Check the soil, and make sure that the top 15cm of soil is damp, rather than soggy, and water accordingly.

They shouldn’t need any fertilising once they are planted.

How do you grow them from seed?

Sow your seeds indoors in peat-free compost in mid-to-late spring.

You can sow them outdoors where you want them, but do this later, in May/June. Water them in well.

Once you have established seedlings, plant them out in the spring/summer.

Hollyhocks grown from seeds

How long do Hollyhocks take to germinate?

They don’t take long at all! You will see them germinate within 10 to 14 days of sowing.

How long do they live for?

As they are either biennials or short-lived perennials, you can expect them to live for about 2-3 years before they will need to be replaced.

How big do they grow?

These plants can be quite tall! Which makes them great for the back of garden borders, and striking thanks to their wonderful colouring. In garden design, we use the phrase architectural plan. Sounds very swish!

Many varieties can grow to between 1.8 and 2 metres tall.

Some of the taller varieties, reaching 2 metres, include Hollyhock ‘Banana’, with lovely double blooms in a soft yellow, or Hollyhock ‘Blacknight’, which is a striking dark purple shade.

Hollyhock 'banana'

How long do Hollyhocks flower for?

You can expect to enjoy your hollyhock blooms between July and September, so up to 12 weeks!

Are Hollyhocks good for bees?

Yes, they are! Bumblebees and other various pollinators enjoy the pollen from hollyhocks.

Hollyhocks bees

Are they frost hardy?

Hollyhocks are fully hardy and have an RHS hardiness rating of H5.

This means they are hardy in most of the UK, to severe temperatures as low as -15 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit).

What colours do Hollyhocks come in?

As I mentioned before, you can get hollyhocks in a wide variety of bright, jewel-like colours. These include purples, pinks, reds, whites, and yellows.

Some shades of purple are so dark, that they look almost black.

Purple hollyhocks
Pink hollyhocks
Red hollyhock
White hollyhock
Yellow hollyhock
Black hollyhock

Do Hollyhocks flower in the first year?

If you grow your hollyhocks from seed, you can expect to see them flower in the second year.

If you buy your hollyhock plant from the garden centre, it may already be flowering!

Do Hollyhocks need a lot of water?

Once they are established in the garden, no, not a great deal of water. Just make sure to water them during dry spells, or if the soil feels dry to the touch.

Do they need staking?

It’s not essential for Hollyhocks, but due to their height a little support will help them. Particularly if your garden can get a little windy.

Just use a bamboo cane or stout stake and tie them to the stem as the plant grows.

Staking hollyhocks

Do Hollyhocks need deadheading?

Once the flowers have faded, cut the flower spikes down to the ground to deadhead them.

If you want to harvest the seed, leave the flowerheads on the plant.

Do Hollyhocks change colour?

The original plant itself will not change colour, no.

You may find that they appear to grow back a different colour, but this is likely a result of cross-pollination with other varieties.

Will they flower twice?

If you deadhead your fading flowers, there is a good chance that they will flower again in the late summer.

What do you plant with Hollyhocks?

Thanks to the great range in colours that hollyhocks are available in, they will grow well with many different plants. They also aren’t particularly fussy about their growing conditions, which broaden your planting horizons even more!

Some good flowering companion options include lavender, lupins, and delphiniums.

Lavender plant
Lupin plants
Delphinium plants

How can I use companion planting to protect my Hollyhocks?

The main insects that enjoy feasting on hollyhocks are Slugs, Snails, Aphids, some Caterpillars and Flea Beetles.

Alongside attracting predators such as birds and small mammals, there are companion plants that you can introduce that will either repel these creepy crawlies or they will attract their predators.


For cottage garden design fans then slugs and snails struggle with plants that are Woody, so most trees, and woody shrubs, plants with herb-flavoured leaves like rosemary, lavender, salvia, monarda, Agastache, and teucrium, and plants with more tactile leaves such as artemisia, helichrysum, and Stachys.

To slow down caterpillars, garlic, rosemary, peppermint, and mugwort all produce strong scents, which can repel them from your hollyhocks.

If you are growing hollyhocks as part of a potager garden, then strongly scented plants such as catnip, sage, mint, or hyssop planted close by are known deterrents to flea beetles, whilst also keeping with your design.

So not only will you have your hollyhocks to enjoy, but you’ll also have an array of plants that look great together too.


As you can see, Hollyhocks are pretty good at resisting pests. They don’t have many problems at all with diseases, with the exception of rust. Heavy attacks of this disease produce reddish-brown lumpy spots on the surface of the leaves, and it can be quite difficult to get rid of, stunting the Hollyhock’s growth.

With smaller infections, remove the affected leaves, but in larger cases, you should dispose of the plant, and not use their seeds to grow more plants.

Are Hollyhocks drought tolerant?

Yes, Hollyhocks are drought-resistant. They have a long taproot which helps the plant search for water underground, whilst they bathe in their preferred sunny spots.

Do you need to soak Hollyhock seeds?

This is an interesting question. There is evidence to suggest that soaking seeds can help, however, there is also evidence to suggest that by planting your hollyhock seeds in a tray of consistently moist (not wet) peat-free compost they will grow. Germination takes around 10 to 14 days.

So perhaps try both methods and see which works best for you. When soaking your seeds, do so in warm water for 12 hours (or overnight), before sowing.

Soaking seeds

Can I grow Hollyhocks in a container or pot?

Yes, you can, though you need a deep pot for the hollyhock to thrive. The deep tap root of the plant and its strong lateral roots mean that both height and width are important. A barrel-style container may be the best option.

Do they make good cut flowers?

Yes, hollyhocks look great in tall almost stately-looking vases. Hollyhocks have a hollow stem, and when cut they can form an airlock preventing the flower from absorbing water. To avoid this, cut the hollyhock at an angle and remove any lower leaves. Then, turn the flower upside-down, and fill the stem with some tepid water. To keep the water in place, hold your thumb over the cut and place it in a vase with water inside it. The trapped water helps to keep the stem strong and upright.

Another method particularly popular in the US is to sear the cut ends of your hollyhocks. The theory behind this is that the hollyhocks produce a healing sap when cut, which stops the stem from taking up water. By searing, the sap is destroyed, allowing the plant to still take up water. However, I have never tried this method, and find that the angled cut method works perfectly well.

Hollyhocks in a vase

What to do with Hollyhocks after flowering?

As a fully hardy plant, they don’t need any special care during the cold winter months. Just remove the dead leaves and discard any plants that have suffered from rust.

When should I harvest my Hollyhock seeds?

Hollyhocks stop flowering in September, so once the flowerheads have dried out, you can harvest your seeds in early autumn, between September and early October.

How do I know when my Hollyhock (seeds) are ready to harvest?

You will find the pods forming at the base of the drying flowerhead.

The petals will drop off, and once the pod has gone brown, you can check whether they are ready to harvest.

The texture of the seed pod should be papery, and the seeds inside dark brown, when they are ready to collect.

Hollyhock seed heads

When do Hollyhocks start to grow back?

They start growing back in the spring, and you can expect to see flowers from July onwards.

Do they self-seed?

Hollyhocks can and will self-seed in your garden.

Once the seedheads mature, they will burst and scatter the seeds around your garden borders.

Will Hollyhocks spread?

Yes, they can if they self-seed. If you want to prevent this from happening, deadhead your hollyhocks once they fade.

Otherwise, let them fade on the plant, and harvest your seeds before they burst.

What are the common problems with Hollyhocks and how do I fix them?

Rust fungus – this is quite a severe problem for hollyhocks. You will notice orange-brown spots on the stems and leaves, which may cause the leaves to die and fall from the plant. If the stem becomes severely infected, the whole plant may die. To treat this, remove and destroy infected leaves as soon as you notice them.

Hollyhock rust fungus

What are the common pests for Hollyhocks?

The main pests are slugs, snails, caterpillars, and occasionally flea beetles.

Caterpillars won’t harm the plant, but if you don’t want them damaging your plants, look for them on the undersides of leaves at dusk, and gently remove them.

Otherwise, you can hide damaged foliage with shorter plants in front of your hollyhocks. These will disguise your damaged leaves and allow your hollyhock blooms to do all the work.

Hollyhock with a caterpillar on the stem

How do I stop slugs and snails from eating my Hollyhocks?

You could be patient and go out at night to find slugs and snails angling for your hollyhocks. Simply remove them from your plants or from nearby and move them elsewhere.

Scatter natural deterrents like dried eggshells around your hollyhocks. These aren’t completely slug-proof, but they won’t like moving over the sharp texture.

Growing garlic nearby is also a good option to keep slugs away. Garlic contains a compound that repels slugs, so naturally will keep them at bay.

Are Hollyhocks poisonous to humans?

No, these plants are considered safe and non-poisonous to humans. There have been a small number of reports of skin irritation, but this is not common.

Are they edible?

All parts of a hollyhock are edible! The blossoms can be eaten raw, but they may be a little bitter to taste.

It may be a nice option as a garnish on a salad, or you could crystalise the petals with sugar and add them as decoration to your baked goods!

Are Hollyhocks poisonous to pets?

No, they are not poisonous to pets.

Hollyhocks create wonderful towering swathes of colour in garden borders. If you have any questions about this or any other plants you want me to do a video on, please subscribe to my YouTube channel and leave a comment below one of my Google Questions videos.

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