Latin name: Alcea rosea
Description: The quintessential cottage flowers, hollyhocks give back to the garden all season from May until October. Hollyhock varieties are generally known as perennial plants in Ohio, including hybrid-style hollyhocks which are developed to withstand cold temperatures, rust or diseases. Many hollyhocks naturally have a shorter life span, living two to three years (biennial), perhaps to grow leaves one year, grow blooms the next year and die the following season. But as beautiful blooms turn to green seed packs, hollyhocks reseed in the process and appear as new plants each year.
Without notice, the hollyhock may seem to be a perennial with no fuss in replanting. Other varieties may be true perennials, growing back each season. These tall, upright plants grow amazingly high in a short season as the hollyhock sprouts large leaves that grow all the way up the stems. Leaves begin tender and small, almost maple-like in shape, and then grow wider, several inches outward, often with deeper lobes. Leaves also become more textured as they grow larger with a few pale veins streaking through. Once flowers have finished blooming, notice the closed seed pods that continue to look fabulous upon the plant.
Characteristics: Blooms of hollyhocks are striking in their combinations of silky textures and colors. Depending on variety, flowers can take on soft shades of creams and pinks to darker shades of the same. But donâ€™t be surprised to see some hollyhocks with deep, deep colors that appear to be almost black. The blooms also come in whites. On a single tall stem, colors also may vary slightly as new blooms may change from pale pastels to passion pinks.
Single saucer-shaped blooms are airy and carefree with tropical appeal while double blossoms are very full and reminiscent of fluffy peony flowers or massive cabbage roses, light on scent. Flowers unfurl and will appear low on the stems as well as higher atop the stems which may reach 4 to 9 feet tall. Blossoms grow quite large, about 3 to 5 inches across or more.
Origin: Native to Asia, the hollyhock belongs to the Malvaceae family. Some single-bloom hollyhocks may look similar to the flower of the mallow. Thatâ€™s because they belong to the same family of plants.
Tips: Because of their height, hollyhocks usually are placed in the back of a garden border, along a fence or against a building structure. In an open space, itâ€™s best to stake the plants to prevent winds from toppling them. Hollyhocks are happy in the sunshine with rich, well-draining soil. Many hollyhocks are available in easy-to-grow seeds or plants. Hybrid types will produce seeds that revert to a different style of hollyhock. Hollyhocks tend to develop lots of great seeds, perfect to share with other gardeners.
Varieties: Appleblossom comes in soft pink, paling at its edges. Black Current Swirl comes in deep shades with single, semi-double and double flowers that have creamy edges. Chaterâ€™s Double Mix comes with large double blooms in a variety of colors. Chamois comes in a dreamy apricot with pinkish orange hues. Sunshine comes in glowing yellows.
â€” Lorraine Barnett
Green Scene: Hollyhocks