Growing Hollyhocks From Seed

Overview

Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) are an old-fashioned cottage flower with towering spikes of papery petaled flowers in shades of white, pink, violet and red. Native to the Mediterranean region, it is a short-lived perennial that may grow and flower in two years (a biennial) or sprout and flower in just one growing season (an annual). Depending on the length of the growing season and severity of winter, hollyhock seeds may be planting in early spring if an annual variety of hollyhock or late summer if a biennial type that overwinters and flowers in the second growing season.

Planting Annual Hollyhocks

Step 1

Wait until the soil outdoors is free from frost and can be readily worked with a shovel or hoe. Do not work too early in spring when the soil is too wet and soggy and does not till with ease. Moreover, plant hollyhock seeds when there is no further danger of a late spring frost.

Step 2

Till the soil surface to a depth of 2 to 4 inches with a hoe or garden trowel, breaking up the soil into fine particles from any formed clumps. Gently grade the soil smooth with the hoe or your hands.

Step 3

Create a shallow furrow of about 1/4 inch depth in the worked soil area. Use the hoe or trowel blade or your hands with fingers clasped to form the furrow.

Step 4

Place hollyhock seeds in the shallow furrow, one every 6 to 10 inches. Replace soil atop the seeds, making sure they are not buried any deeper than 1/4 inch with the freshly tilled soil. Tamp the soil lightly with the flattened hoe blade or back of the trowel blade.

Step 5

Gently sprinkle water atop the furrow where the hollyhock seeds rest. Keep the soil moist to slightly dry, never overwatering so the soil is soggy.

Step 6

Monitor the area for the next 7 to 14 days, watching for sprouting plants to emerge from the furrow. Keep the soil moist, watering if needed so that the soil surface does not crack from dryness.

Planting Bienniel/Perennial Hollyhocks

Step 1

Work the soil with a hoe or trowel blade in the area where the hollyhock seeds are to be sown in late summer. Remove any weeds from this area.

Step 2

Till the soil surface to a depth of 2 to 4 inches with a hoe or garden trowel, breaking up the soil into fine particles from any formed clumps. Gently grade the soil smooth with the hoe or your hands.

Step 3

Create a shallow furrow of about 1/4 inch depth in the worked soil area. Use the hoe or trowel blade or your hands with fingers clasped to form the furrow.

Step 4

Place hollyhock seeds in the shallow furrow, one every 6 to 10 inches. Replace soil atop the seeds, making sure they are not buried any deeper than 1/4 inch with the freshly tilled soil. Tamp the soil lightly with the flattened hoe blade or back of the trowel blade.

Step 5

Gently sprinkle water atop the furrow where the hollyhock seeds rest. Keep the soil moist to slightly dry, never overwatering so the soil is soggy.

Step 6

Monitor the area for the next 4 to 10 days, watching for sprouting plants to emerge from the furrow. Keep the soil moist, watering if needed so that the soil surface does not crack from dryness.

Step 7

Allow the seedlings to grow untouched, so that a leafy rosette of leaves forms and then remains semi-evergreen but dormant over the winter months. Loose mulch or snowcover over the plants provides insulation from the coldest winter temperatures.

Step 8

In spring, when the soil can be worked, young seedlings may be dug up with a trowel and transplanted to other areas in the garden where a mature hollyhock plant is to grow. Keep as much soil around the plant's roots as possible, even having a massive soil clump in a shovel for one small seedling. Space seedlings no closer that 18 inches from each other.

Step 9

Monitor the seedlings of the hollyhocks through the spring as temperatures warm, watching for their healthy and fast growth into larger plants by late spring. The plants will send up a tall flower spike soon thereafter depending on the variety's growth habits.

Tips and Warnings

  • Many hollyhocks will self-sow, dropping their ripe seeds to the soil below and germinating without any help. To stop this haphazard event, harvest the seeds yourself and collect them in an envelope or cup, or cut off dead flowers so that seeds to not form.

Things You'll Need

  • Shallow-blade hoe or hand trowel
  • Sprinkling can

References

  • PlanetNatural.com: Growing Hollyhock
  • WuVie.net: When to Plant Hollyhock Seeds

Who Can Help

  • Learn2Grow.com: Alcea
Keywords: annual flowers, hollyhocks, sowing seeds

About this Author

James Burghardt has written for The Public Garden, Docent Educator, numerous non-profit newsletters and for Learn2Grow.com's comprehensive plant database. He holds a Master's degree in Public Horticulture from the University of Delaware and studied horticulture and biology in Australia at Murdoch University and the University of Melbourne's Burnley College.

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