A cousin of the hibiscus, hollyhocks are tall spires with large, round, frilly edged flowers. Modern cultivars are available in double varieties and some that can grow 8 feet tall. Popular in cottage or Victorian gardens, hollyhocks provide a brief but stunning flower display in a wide range of colors. Caring for these biennial or tender perennial flowers is simple if you understand their flowering cycle.
Choose a location with good drainage and in full sun.
Prepare the soil with organic compost because hollyhocks love the rich nutrients of organic matter.
Plant seeds in the late summer or early fall. Seeds should germinate by 3 weeks if the temperature is a consistent 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Thin seedlings to 18 inches apart. These seedlings will grow and flower the following summer.
Plant starts after the last frost in zones 3 to 8, and provide a balanced fertilizer to encourage blooms.
Water generously and keep moist throughout the summer.
Stake tall hollyhock stalks to prevent them from falling or bending. Rain and strong wind can damage stalks that are not held to a stake with garden twine or other fasteners.
Pick rusty, spotted leaves quickly and discard because this rust is a very common hollyhock disease and will quickly spread to the other leaves. If an entire plant is a host for the disease, cut the stalk to ground level when flowering ceases. Clean up around the base of the plants and cut all stalks back after flowers have seeded, but prior to winter, to prevent further spread of the rust.