My love for flowers came from my father’s, mother. When I was very small, I remember going out into the yard and weeding. When it was cold weather and we were forced to stay in the house, our days were spent looking through seed catalogs and learning to sew.
There were lots of flowers she grew in her tiny yard; however, my favorite was always the long tall stems of the hollyhocks (Alcea rosea). Perhaps I thought they could grow so tall that we could climb them like Jack in the Beanstalk.
I did not know that perennial meant they would come back the next year. Nor did I understand why some were one color, and others a different color; but I was excited when they returned each year.
Learning about Gregory Mendel and his famous pea plants helped me to understand why different colors might appear. Basically they were all the same color year after year. Now that I plant them in my gardens, I realize that plants can cross breed and the color of some plants will change. Even with all the latest new crop, I tend to want those that have been around for a long time.
They can be propagated from seed, or take root cuttings. They will continue producing more seeds as they grow and bloom. Many hollyhocks are short lived. They will survive for about three years and then they will die. The seeds will produce new stalks and flowers.
Another major concern of hollyhocks is rust. If they are watered from the top and the water is allowed to run down the stems, rust may form on the leaves. Rust, caused by the fungus, Puccinia malvacearum, is the most common disease of hollyhocks. Under favorable environmental conditions, the disease spreads rapidly from leaf to leaf. Older leaves are usually killed, and plants become unsightly. There are chemicals that can be applied. If you would rather take the non-chemical approach, remove all leaves that appear to have small dots or pustules on the leaves. Flowers are not affected by the fungi.
•Light: Sun or part sun
•Soil: pH of 6 to 8 (slightly acidic)
•Perennial: Short lived or biennial. May die out every couple of years, and new stalk will form. Stalks are more prone to disease.
•Width: 1 to 3 feet wide from heavy stock branches and roots
•Height: 1 to 20 feet depending upon light
•Flower Color: Blue, Pink, Red, and White are the most common. There are breeders working on different colors…even one that appears to be black.
•Foliage Color: Chartreuse/Gold
•Seasonal Features: Early Summer Bloom
•Special Features: Cut flowers, Good for containers, Low maintenance, Attracts birds
You will find that these flowers are grown in all type of gardens; however, many grandmothers have introduced their offspring to the beauty of one of the older flowers. These flowers were first grown in China. Once it entered the United States it was planted and survived in various climates. At one point is might have been called a wildflower. Wildflowers tend to find a niche and grow and even overtake the region and shut out the production of other flowers native to that area.
The hollyhock is one of the very oldest of cultivated flowers and is today an inhabitant of most gardens, and is known by its common name not only to all cultivators of plants but even to school children.
They tend to grow better when planted in an open area, with little or no competition. They usually produce blooms the first year. They can be deadheaded to conserve their energy to produce more flowers.