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Guide to the Perennial Specimen: Hollyhock

Hollyhock blooms
Hollyhock blooms
Betsy

When choosing flowering specimens for your gardens, consider the labor savings of planting perennials, biennials and self-seeding annuals. One such flowering plant that may fall into all of these categories is the Hollyhock. Some growers start seeds of these plants in a cold frame around this time of year. Read more about growing this diverse plant.

Hollyhock Height
One of those flowers you may remember from grandmothers' garden, the Hollyhock is an ornamental which can be used as a specimen (focal point) in the landscape or as a background for shorter varieties of flowering plants. Single and double blooms are available in a range of colors. Hollyhocks come in different varieties, reaching various heights in the flowerbed.

Different Varieties
Althaea rosea of the Mallow family, grows shorter and displays bold, beautiful blooms growing near the hardy stalk. This variety of Hollyhock reaches 5' to 8'.

Alcea rosea is the taller variety and may reach a height of 6' to 10'; staking may be necessary. Hollyhocks need a full sun location and well-drained and composted soil to produce successfully. This stately specimen is useful for hiding unsightly aspects of the landscape, such a meter boxes, when planted in masses.

These are pretty, old-fashioned flowers that can sometimes be grown in the garden with little difficulty. However, many Hollyhock species are prone to a disease called Hollyhock Rust, which detracts from the lush appearance of the plants' foliage. Affected plants are usually those already established and returning from previous years.

Control of Hollyhock Rust
Control of rust on the leaves may be accomplished by spraying an organic mix of baking soda and water on your specimens. Another strategy is to simply remove infected leaves while allowing the showy flowers to remain. Serious growers of this species may combine sulfur and lime and use as an undercoating of the leaves.

Some experienced growers believe the Hollyhock performs best if started from seed in cold frames in early autumn and transplanted into a permanent location in spring. This appears to create a healthier, disease free specimen; however, it may be that the plants are healthier in the first year.

Add a touch of the old-fashioned to your garden with Hollyhocks. Try these varieties for towering appeal and showy flowers.