Alcea, or hollyhocks, are perfect picks for the back of the border where they grow up to 2m tall. The masses of flowers that bloom from June to September are a perfect addition to many garden styles, although they are a classic cottage garden choice.

Planting hollyhocks

Hollyhocks are easy to grow from seed and will self-seed around the garden too. They can be biennials, meaning they produce foliage in their first year, bloom in the second, then set seed and die. Or they can be short-lived perennials.

Bear in mind that they don’t do well in shade, so a sunny spot is needed. Also, due to their height, they can be blown over by wind, so staking is ideal.

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They are tolerant of most soil conditions. In fact, they will grow in the most inhospitable ground, even cracks in the paving where they grow to great heights.

If growing from seed, they can be sown directly in position in May or June or sown indoors in mid to late spring. Alternatively, they can be bought as plug plants from garden centres. Hollyhocks grown in pots are best planted out in spring or autumn to establish best, however it is fine to plant them any time of year.

Caring for hollyhocks

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When growing from seed, ensure the seedlings and young plants are watered regularly to keep the soil moist for the first few months. After this, it is only necessary to water in prolonged dry spells.

Hollyhocks don’t require feeding, especially if they are grown in good soil. Instead, the soil can be improved by adding some well-rotted garden compost to the spot where the plants are going to be grown.

Try not to overcrowd hollyhocks as they are susceptible to rust and mildew if not given good air circulation around their leaves.

After flowering, the spikes can be cut down to the ground. However, to collect the seeds, wait until the seed cases turn brown in colour and save the seeds. Then, the spikes can be cut down.

Varieties to try

Alcea rosea (hollyhock) ‘Halo Apricot’

As its name suggests, this variety has apricot-pink flowers and deep pink centres that sit atop the tall flower stalks.

  • Flowers in summer
  • Hardy
  • Grows up to 2m tall
  • Well-drained soil
  • Full sun
  • Exposed or sheltered
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Alcea rosea (hollyhocks) ‘Nigra’

Without a doubt, the dramatic colour of the deep, maroon flowers will look striking in a dark planting scheme.

  • Flowers in summer
  • Hardy
  • Grows up to 2m tall
  • Well-drained soil
  • Full sun
  • Exposed or sheltered
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Alcea rosea (hollyhock) ‘Mars Magic’

Last are the ruby red flowers of ‘Mars Magic’, which are a beautiful addition for amongst a border.

  • Flowers in summer
  • Hardy
  • Grows up to 2m tall
  • Well-drained soil
  • Full sun
  • Exposed or sheltered
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So, try your hand at growing hollyhocks from seed and you’ll have borders bustling with blooms through summer.

Spring is here, see my post on spring pollinators:

Or check out my Pinterest board for more ideas:

spring pollinators
Spring pollinators
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Pinterest Board