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Growing Hollyhocks – A Traditional Cottage Garden Favorite-

If you love plants with a long blooming season, you will likely have a fondness for growing hollyhocks.

This lovely biennial is a popular garden favorite that flowers throughout most of the summer months.

Hollyhocks (Puccinia malvacearum) are often found in cottage gardens.  They make a great background plant for shorter plants and come in a wide variety of colors.If you love cottage garden flowers, try growing hollyhocks. They add height to a garden border and bloom all summer long.

Tips for Growing Hollyhocks

If you love adding plants for your cottage garden, try your hand at growing hollyhocks, these tips will help you to grow and care for them in your yard.Hollyhocks and other flowering plants

Sunlight needs for hollyhocks

Be sure to plant hollyhocks in sunny locations.  Since they have very tall flower stalks, protect them from the wind to avoid breakage.

A good spot is in front of fence with slat openings to give the plant air circulation or at the back of a garden bed in a full sun location.

Hollyhocks, with their tall spikes of flowers are also useful plants to used in landscaping to hide a chain link fence.

Hollyhocks can grow to 9 feet tall

Watering requirements

Hollyhocks like moist, well draining soil. Adding organic matter such as compost in the spring will help, too.

If you plant them in too dry a location, they will languish during the heat of the summer and won’t produce flowers well.

Hollyhock flowers

The flowers are produced on very long stalks that tower over the garden.  They may need staking. They range in color from white to deep burgundy and all shades in between.Hollyhocks come in many colors

Many hollyhocks have pink flowers but this is not the only shade for them. There are even varieties with blooms that are so dark that they look like black plants.

The flowers have a slightly scalloped edge with a pretty throat and are profuse on each stem.  

Malva syvestris – a relative of the normal hollyhock and  commonly known as French hollyhock has purple variegated hollyhock comes in more than one shade.Purple variegated hollyhock

Planting instructions

Hollyhocks grow easily from seed. A soilless seed starting mix works best to start the seeds in.

Plant them just below the surface and space them about two feet apart to give them room to grow. I chose hollyhock seeds in my project for starting seeds in peat pellets. Check out the tutorial here.

Propagating hollyhocks

Hollyhock seedlings

Hollyhocks are rampant seeders.   If you dig them up and plant them in small pots, they will grow and give you additional plants for other areas of your garden.

Seedlings are not normally quite as strong or as vigorous growing as the original parent plant.

You can also collect seeds from existing plants to save for future plants.  Root cuttings will also produce new plants.

Hollyhock loom time

Hollyhocks have a long blooming season and will flower from mid summer until early fall. Blooms start near the base of the stem and open upward so that eventually 1 1/2 to 2 feet of the stalk is covered in petals.Hollyhock flowers open from the bottom to the top of the stalk

Leaves and foliage of hollyhocks

The leaves of the hollyhock plant are large and dark green with a rounded shape. They are prone to a rust fungus called puccinia so care should be taken when watering.
Hollyhock leaves

How cold hardy are hollyhocks?

Hollyhocks are considered hardy in zones 3-8.  Typically they are a short lived biennial of about 2-3 years.

In colder zones, treat the plant as an annual. You can also take cuttings or plant seedlings and bring them in during the winter months to replant again in the spring.

Hollyhocks will readily re-seed, so they are sometimes described as perennials.

Uses for hollyhocks

This pretty plant makes a great screening plant to hide more unsightly areas of your yard, since it grows to quite a tall height. Use it at the back of the garden bed with shorter plants in front of it for best effect.

Holly hocks in front of a house

Photo credit Angela Marinaro, Fan of the Gardening Cook on Facebook

The make a great border plant near the side of your house to add curb appeal and height to hide the foundation. (note that this limits the air circulation so it’s not a good choice if your garden is prone to rust on hollyhocks.

Hollyhocks add a lovely vertical element to your garden because of their long flower stalks.  Some can grow to 9 feet tall!

Problems Growing Hollyhocks

Hollyhocks have a tendency to develop rust, so take care to water from below to keep moisture off the leaves. Giving the plant good air circulation also helps. Adding some composted leaf mulch under the plant will keep the spores from last years plants from developing.

You can treat with an all purpose fungicide such as Chlorothalonil or sulphur.Rust on hollyhock leaves

This pretty plant can be a short lived biennial, lasting only w years. Prolong flowering by cutting off the flower stalks close to the ground after they have finished blooming.

Hollyhocks by the bucket load from a reader!

Angela Marinaro, a fan of The Gardening Cook on Facebook had a large bed of hollyhocks in her garden which contained four hollyhock plants that she put in a few years ago. Last summer she transplanted just four of them into this spot in her front yard .

She says that her hollyhocks got enormous, bloomed almost all summer died off, and then bloomed again late fall.

Holly hocks 2 seasons ago

Photo credit Angela Marinaro, Fan of the Gardening Cook on Facebook

Angela had numerous seedlings that she potted up with great success the following year after this photo was taken. It shows the immense height of hollyhocks!

I hope that these tips will be useful to you to help with growing hollyhocks.  Growing this lovely flower will add color and dramatic height to your garden.

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You can pin the following image to Pinterest so that my tips are handy for you.

Hollyhocks are a flower that is often grown in cottage gardens. See my tips for growing these pretty plants.

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Julia Ouellette

Monday 29th of August 2022

Hollyhocks are actually bi-annuals and not perennials and come up every year because they reseed themselves. The best time to plant the seeds is in the fall.


Saturday 6th of August 2022

The purple hollyhock you mention is not actually a hollyhock its called a Malva

Carol Speake

Saturday 6th of August 2022

Thanks for the information. I have adjusted the text in the listing to add its common name (French hollyhock) and botanical name.

sally stern

Tuesday 13th of July 2021

My hollyhocks were 6-7 feet tall last year. This year they are a foot tall.So disappointed. I am in Michigan. We had a late frost here at the end of May. Could his have stunted their growth?

Carol Speake

Wednesday 14th of July 2021

Hollyhocks like warm temperatures so it's possible that they were stunted in growth because of the frost.


Monday 26th of October 2020

Hello! Do you have to soak the seeds in water to get them to germinate? And can the seeds become to old to plant? I love Hollyhocks!

Sarah Perry

Saturday 26th of March 2022

@Carol Speake, take a piece of sand paper and scuff the seeds before germination. Use a wet almost soaked no puddles paper towel or coffee filters in a container with tight fitting lid glass or plastic dark or clear.Lay scuffed seeds on wet paper, don’t cover the seeds and close lid.

Keep out of direct sun and open lid to check daily. When you see any growth breaking though, plant growth side down in location or give the seedling some growing time in a 4” pot of your soil.

Place in Full sunny location being careful not to burn them up if it gets too hot…move them around if so. Then transplant when the look healthy with a few leaves. They will germinate faster with the scuffing and container method.

Carol Speake

Monday 26th of October 2020

Hollyhock seeds are large and have fairly tough seed coats. Soaking them in water before sowing will help them to germinate better. The seeds last a long time - up to 9 years..


Thursday 23rd of July 2020

Can you take seeds from plants in your garden? How and when? And when should you start them inside to have them ready for spring planting outdoors?

Carol Speake

Friday 24th of July 2020

To save hollyhock seeds, cut the hollyhock seed pods from the stalks, and place them in a brown paper bag. If you want to sow them instead of saving them, autumn is also the ideal time for that.

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