Friday, December 14, 2018


Hollyhock Seed Pods Drying On The Stalk

Hollyhock Seeds

Hollyhock plant showing root system

Hollyhocks are admired, especially by older gardeners who remember them from their youth at times when hollyhocks were planted near every barn, outbuilding, outhouse, house door, woodshed. Rarely do I grow any for sale because they require care when transplanting because of their root system as evident in the last picture here. If the roots are injured when transplanting, they will look great for the balance of the growing season but probably will not overwinter. I hear questions all the time from people who have had repeated failures and tell me they must have a black thumb. The issue is the roots, not the color of the gardener's thumb!

The easiest way to grow hollyhocks successfully is to start with seeds. They need sun, benefit from good soil, and do not need a great deal of moisture. Plant them in the spring by sprinkling them on the ground and then covering the seed lightly. They will bloom the following year. Single and double flowering types are available.

If they are planted in a windy location, stake them early on or they might topple and be lost for the season. This happened to me last July. They typically produce copious amounts of seed as shown here and the seed can be picked  and direct seeded in the fall or saved until spring. If you want an individual color .....say white, dark red or dark pink....... order early as these flowers are not grown for seed as much as they were even 15 years ago.

Hollyhocks are best planted at the back of the border or some distance from walkways because they are a natural magnet to Japanese beetles and they are susceptible to rust. Neither of these problems will kill the plants but will discolor and misshape the leaves. If you plant them back a bit, neither problem will be obvious.

My mother used to dry hollyhock blossoms in a 50-50 mix of Borateam (boraxo) and corn meal.  Mix well and then layer the bottom of a container (she used to save shoe boxes for this)  with the mix and then spread out the blossoms so they don't touch. Cover with a layer of the mix, add another layer of the blossoms and continue on. In about two weeks they will be dried and can be used in dried flower arrangements by threading a plant wire through the center. They hold the color very well! Surprise!

Best gardening wishes!

George Africa
Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
Marshfield, Vermont

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