Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) are a biennial or very short-lived perennial that is a favorite in virtually all country gardens. In July and August the flowers produce long spears that tower up to nine feet tall in some varieties. The flowers produced often measure six inches across in colors of pink, yellow, red, lavender and white. Blossoms are either single, double or semi-double in appearance. Dwarf hollyhock varieties are also available.
The first year of the hollyhocks life it produces foliage and the second year it will blossom with seed production. Once the seeds are produced the plant dies back. A few varieties are known to live for several years with ease but flower production is severely depleted
The hollyhock is a drought tolerant plant that requires very little water. They do not like standing water around their roots and will often perish in severely wet conditions. Drip irrigation or soaker hoses are often the best way to water the tall stately flowers because overhead watering systems will saturate the flowers and leaves with added weight that can make the flower spears bend over to the ground.
Hollyhocks are often planted along fence-lines or beside walls to protect the tall plants from severe wind that can break the stalks. The areas also offer wintertime protection in extreme cold.
Flowering begins at the lower half the long spear. As the flowers deplete and die they should be gently picked away to encourage the upper flowers to bloom. Once the plant has ceased blooming for the season it can be cut down to around 12 inches from the ground. Many people prefer to allow the hollyhock to go to seed after flowering to encourage new plant production.
Propagation is done easily by seeding. Seeds planted midsummer will result in blossoms the following summer. Seeds can also be planted in the spring but the hollyhock will normally not flower until the following year.