14 Excellent Hollyhocks Questions Answered

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hollyhock faqs questions answered growing hollyhock flowers

Nothing delights visitors to our gardens more than an array of tall, strong, colorful hollyhocks in full bloom. Here I present my hollyhocks FAQs, a list of frequently asked questions regarding growing hollyhocks.

hollyhocks faqs answering questions about growing hollyhocks
Part of the author’s hollyhocks

I think that hollyhocks’ very stature can be intimidating to new gardeners. They’re a large, looming plant, somewhat exotic in appearance. There are many excellent questions asked of growing hollyhocks, so let’s get started!

Why Listen To Me?

You can express your creativity in the garden bed. It’s a form of expression I’ve come to treasure. Our current home now has seven separate gardens. Each one has a different theme, each with a different focus.

I’ve hollyhocks planted in three gardens, and I love having them because of the verticality they provide. Their paper-light blooms on tall stalks, reaching to the sky, give the eye a chance to explore the garden up not just across.

My first hollyhocks were bare-root plants. I planted them near the end of summer 2020. They didn’t really do much in 2021. But the past two years they’ve been highlights of the garden.

growing hollyhocks from seed
My first foray growing hollyhocks from seeds. These sprouts are about 3 weeks old, raised in an outdoor mini-greenhouse. Image by author

This past year I’ve successfully raised quite a few hollyhock seedlings into thriving young plants. Hollyhocks notoriously need their first growing season to establish themselves and tend not to bloom, or grow very large. However, I have about a dozen that I eagerly anticipate to watch bloom and grow next season!

Do hollyhocks spread?

Hollyhocks will very slowly conquer a little more territory. This occurs over the course of many seasons, and in general, they are not considered invasive. This is a good question for a hollyhocks faqs informational page, and asking it denotes a conscientious gardener thinking about the future!

You might see one or two additional stalks growing a few seasons after they’re established and have a few blooming seasons under their belt. Also, they will grow a little taller as the seasons go.

They do not normally need to be divided like Shasta Daisies or Rudbeckias.

What do hollyhock seedlings look like?

what do hollyhock seedlings look like
Two of my newest hollyhock seedlings growing in a prominent place in a garden. These were germinated early spring 2023, and are about 4 months old. I did not cold stratify them.

Note their rough, bumpy and shamrock-shaped leaves. There’s a little bit of fuzz on the stems and leaves. They send up a number of stems from one seed, these have 6 or 7 stems growing at about 4 months.

Do hollyhocks need full sun?

Yes, hollyhocks do thrive in full sun. They should be in a position that gives them at least 6 hours a day of full exposure.

Do deer eat hollyhocks?

No. They’re relatively deer (and rabbit) resistant.

When to plant hollyhock seeds?

You have a few options. Start indoors late winter, or sow directly into the garden in the fall for spring flowering next year. Either way, hollyhocks do benefit from ‘stratification,’ subjected to winter temperatures. In a future article, beyond this superficial hollyhocks faqs, I will provide more of a guide for growing hollyhocks from seed.

How tall do hollyhocks grow? How tall do hollyhocks get?

When hollyhocks get established and have bloomed and grown through a few seasons, they can reach 7-10′ high.

how tall do hollyhocks grow?
Reaching for the sky! Image by author

Do hollyhocks come back every year?

Generally, yes, although it depends on your USDA Zone. Hollyhocks can be considered annuals in areas where winter temperatures drop too low and stay too cold for too long. Burpee considers hollyhocks to be “short-lived perennials in zones 3-8.”

I live in Zone 8b, and the bare root hollyhocks I planted in 2020 (2021?) are still going strong in 2023. We have had snowy, cold winters, but we’ve not reached temperatures below 27 degrees F in that time.

To promote your hollyhocks health and well being and keep them coming back year after year:

  • deadhead the spent blooms during the season
  • trim the stalks down to the ground in the fall
  • pinch off (trim) the seed pods before they start growing

These extra steps will save the plant’s energy for its next season. If you want to harvest some hollyhock seeds in the fall, don’t pinch all the seed pods.

When do hollyhocks bloom? How long do hollyhocks bloom?

Short answer: hollyhocks can be counted on to bloom for a good month or more, beginning early summer. They’re done flowering by the dog days of summer, deep into August.

Hollyhocks are a fun plant to watch grow and bloom! You’ll watch their stalks grow vertically for many weeks. You will then see their flower buds develop along the sides of the stalks, they look like little green donuts in a wrapper.

when do hollyhocks bloom?
My hollyhocks growing up and out, late spring.

The picture above shows my hollyhocks establishing their leaves, before growing up high. These are about 30″ high, late spring (zone 8b). They usually begin blooming nearer the base of the stalk, and the buds bloom gradually moving up the stalk. Usually, the lowest blooms crisp and fall off as or just before the upper buds bloom.

when do hollyhocks bloom
Middle of summer, you can see the lower buds blooming, the buds farther up are awaiting their turn! Image by author

My Hollyhocks usually bloom, depending upon weather, how I water and fertilize them, in early June and continually through July. You can deadhead spent/dead blooms to expedite further blooms.

Can hollyhocks grow in shade?

Hollyhocks can tolerate shade for some time of the day. However, they thrive when they have 6+ hours of direct sunshine per day. If they’re in the shade outside of this time, that’s not going to be a problem.

Also, wind is a weather-related concern. Try to plant in a position that guards your new hollyhock plants against strong wind. Consider and plan for supporting the stalks in any case. I use simple trellis panels, knotted together at the edges using twine, to form a V if my ‘hocks start leaning.

Where to plant hollyhocks?

Where they can normally get 6+ hours of direct sunshine per day in the summer

Plant in a garden that has good quality garden soil that is well draining. They do not do well in clayey soil, nor can they be too dry.

Plant them along a fence line. They’re terrific as a backdrop for the rest of your garden plants.

Do hollyhocks bloom the first year?

Don’t expect your new hollyhocks to bloom the first season. Mine never have. This is a time for the plant to build its strength. Remember, they’re going to get up to 10′ tall or more, and they use a season to build up their root system.

hollyhock seedlings growing in garden
Image by author

In the image above, these are some of my newest hollyhock seedlings. They sprouted early this spring, and as pictured they’re about 4 months old. I started them in seedling cups and they started life in a mini greenhouse. I did not cold stratify these seeds. Omitting this step probably thwarts their first year growth. The first year, you’ll probably see foot-high stalks with leaves. If yours do bloom, it will be of very limited number.

What to do with hollyhocks after flowering?

Save the seeds in the pods! When the hollyhock flowers die, the hollyhock shifts into Seed Production mode. About a month after the last flowers drop, you’ll be able to harvest the seeds, which grow right under the blooms.

Allow the seed pod to develop fully. Plan on harvesting the seed pods early fall. The seeds grow in a torus shape: imagine a donut being constructed of a series of concentric plates, rotating around a circle. Each pod delivers a dozen to 20 individual seeds. Allow them to dry in a paper bag for a few weeks, then save in an airtight glass or plastic jar in the refrigerator over the winter.

Are hollyhocks poisonous? Are hollyhocks edible? Are hollyhocks poisonous to dogs?

The consensus is that while hollyhocks can be consumed by humans in small quantities, some people may experience skin irritation as a result of handling parts of the plant. While hollyhocks may not be poisonous or eminently dangerous to humans, pets and animals, it’s a better idea to keep your pets from ingesting hollyhock leaves, stalks, and blooms.

I personally have no experience consuming hollyhocks.

What To Do Next?

Hollyhocks’ height, long blooming season, and unique growing style are what makes them a garden necessity. They don’t require any special considerations beyond perhaps support or staking. Give them a try next planting season!

If you have any questions not answered here, please ask in the comments below! Thank you!

Photo of author

Author

After years of denying it, Donald finally admits one passion in life is gardening. More specifically: growing seeds, plants, flowers and edibles and helping them to be the best possible. Neighbors call him a Green Thumb. He lives in Western Washington with his wife of 24+ years and three cats.

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