Hollyhock (Alcea rosea)


Deep burgundy double-blossomed hollyhock in bloom in the back patch under the big cherry, in bloom July 2020.  We harvested the seeds on vacation in Bordeaux, Frane, summer of 2018.

We adore these magnificent traditional cottage garden perennials, and have hollyhock with blossoms in white, creamy yellow and deep raspberry crimson planted in the woods, front woods meadow and also in the back patch.

We love hollyhock – though sometimes they need staking and support.  Queens of the cottage garden, hollyhock can flower from June to August.

They are best grown from seed and can self-seed if planted in a good spot with rich, well-draining soil.  They prefer sunny conditions but can also tolerate partial shade.

Hollyhocks can be tricky to transplant because of their long taproots.  It is best to grow them where they are suited as they do not transplant well (as is also the case with sea holly)

Overall they are fairly impervious to garden pests and even withstand slugs and snails.  Some garden websites suggest they suffer from rust, but we’ve not seen that so far….   If rust is a problem in your yard, try to ensure they have suitable air circulation.

These gorgeous garden plants attract bees and other pollinators.  We’ve even seen sparrows and other small garden birds flitting on the blossom stems eating bugs.

If you’ve got a cottage garden, it’s just not complete without a few hollyhocks, though be aware that they can grow to over 2 metres in height and can therefore take up considerable space when fully mature.

A spectacular introduction from the Middle East, and trailing the influence of the Crusades with it, is the hollyhock Alcea rosea (syn. Althaea rosea), which Queen Eleanor is thought to have brought to England following her travels in the Holy Land with Edward I.  The old Saxon name for mallow was hoc, hence ‘holy-hoc‘, and its Green derivative name is from althaia, meaning a cure: the pigment found in the flowers is supposed to have healing qualities.  The flowers are occasionally recommended in Chinese cookery, and the leaves, so John Evelyn (1620-1706) reported, were sometimes used as a pot-herb.  There are about 60 species in the genus and they are all at home in rocky sites widely spread across Europe and Asia.” (The Origin of Plants, p.96)

“The hollyhocks (Alcea) and mallows (Althaea and Malva) as well as the Lavatera genus are all very closely related genera and are found in the Malvaceae, mallow, family.” (The Origin of Plants, p.97)