Large, double peony like flowers are the quintessential cottage garden flower. For the past few years there has been a renewed interest in the cottage gardens, with great influence from Martha's Vineyard and surrounding areas. Gardeners are also wanting drought and heat tolerant flowers as they are becoming more and more available. Alcea rosea ‘Chater’s Double’ give a wide range of large, fully double flowers are nearly pom-pom in appearance. White, yellow, crimson, pink, purple, rose, and red. It has been said that Hollyhocks are just as easy to grow as Sunflowers and more would be grown if more gardeners knew that Hollyhocks were that easy. Plant height 4-6 feet, with a 24-36 inch spread. With plenty of water and nutrients you can grow these up to 10-12 foot tall. Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. Zones 2-8, hardy to zone 3.
How To Plant and Grow Hollyhocks From Seeds
- Hollyhocks are generally planted in midsummer to autumn to give them a chance to establish a system during the winter months.
- Perennial Hollyhocks seeds need to be in the ground in late summer for next years bloom.Seeds can be sown directly into a prepared bed or can be started in pots in a cold frame or indoors, to be planted as transplants during spring.
- They must establish a root system first, and then they can produce the stalk(s) of flowers, for their first year they will bear leaves only. If sown early in the year they may bloom the same year, but sown midyear they will bloom the following summer.
- Sow seeds at 68°F on the surface of a peaty soil.(Peaty soil is a darker soil and feels damp and spongy due to its higher levels of peat. It is an acidic soil which slows down decomposition and leads to the soil having fewer nutrients. The soil heats up quickly during spring and can retain a lot of water which usually requires drainage. Drainage channels may need to be dug for soils with high peat content. Peat soil is great for growth when blended with rich organic matter,) the seed on the surface of well-tilled soil, cover with about 2mm (¼in) layer of soil.
- Keep moist and do not let the seeds dry out once planted. They will usually germinate in 2 to 3 weeks at 20°C (68°F).
- Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out after all risk of frost.
- Be sure the roots are covered well with soil and that the flowers are 1½ to 2 feet apart. They will grow best in full sun to partial shade and need watered regularly.
- Hollyhocks have been known to cross-pollinate. Gardeners should only grow one variety at a time to save pure seed.
- After the growing season is over, you can cut back the Hollyhock to ground level. To assure that the plant does not die back completely, cover the area with mulch, in case the winter is harsh.
- When harvesting your own hollyhock seeds, allow the pods will tell you when the seeds are ready. Make sure that the seed pods are fully mature on the stalk before removing them. You will notice that the small stem which holds the seed pod starts to turn brown. Try not to pick seed pods until the papery shell turns a yellow or golden brown.
The seeds are all lined up together in a ring inside the seed pod. Gently peel open part of the flap that covers the seed ring. If the seeds are not dry and blackish, don't pick that pod. Once the seeds appear blackish and dry they are ready to be harvested. Use sharp garden scissors to cut the pods from the stalk then dry and store the seeds in paper bags until you are ready to plant them.
After the seed pods have dried and you find yourself with six foot tall empty stalks, simply cut the stalks to the ground. Don't panic, this is not an art form. Just cut off the dead stuff. This is not a growing requirement it just makes the garden look neat and tidy.