Growing Hollyhocks in Atlanta
Hollyhocks feel right at home here in the Atlanta area. Just a few hollyhocks can add an amazing vertical presentation to any space in your garden. Our mild winters allow this hardy plant to maintain an impressive vegetative growth year round. Although cold nights can bite back your hollyhocks, a few warm afternoons will have them bouncing right back. Hollyhocks are as resilient as they are beautiful.
The foliage consists of rough, broad leaves. A full sun location helps to encourage more robust stalks, which are covered with clusters of flowers each summer.
Although most hollyhocks are short-lived perennials, self-seeding is quite common. This self-seeding results in a never-ending supply of gorgeous flowers. The seeds appear in large clusters after blooms wilt away. They are easily harvested for expanding your existing hollyhock patch and sharing with friends.
How to Grow Hollyhocks
Hollyhocks start easily when planted directly in garden soil. Early spring planting is recommended, with blooms appearing the following year. Once planted, keep the seeds well watered.
When new plants reach 12 inches in height, thin to one cluster every two feet. This thinning provides room for blooming stalks to spread out, giving them access to more sunlight. Adding some fertilizer and mulch will also help the roots to improve over the winter, building a good foundation for some amazing blooms next year.
Smaller Could Be Better
When placed in a full sun location and watered well, hollyhocks tend to grow straight up with no pruning. While it is tempting to produce some 12 feet tall giant flower stalks, hollyhocks seem to do better with some light pruning.
In mid- to late-spring, a strong vegetative growth will begin in preparation for summer blooms. During this vegetative cycle, the stalks should be pruned regularly to maintain a height of 4 to 6 feet. This ensures that during the blooming cycle the stalks will not be too slender. Tall, slender stalks will start to fall over soon after blooming begins, as they become loaded with flowers.
Of course, tall stalks can be tied or "staked up" to prevent falling over if the situation presents itself. To stake up individual plants, just drive a tall stake next to the stalk and tie the plant to it. To stake up a several plants, or a patch of hollyhocks, the method is a bit different. Drive a tall stake at each corner of the flower patch. Using your favorite garden twine, or yarn, tie supports from stake to stake. Add more twine where needed until all of the plants are supported.
Harvest Hundreds of Seeds Every Year
While hollyhocks produce large amounts of beautiful flowers, they also produce even larger amounts of seeds. Every flower that blooms will leave behind a large seed pod filled with big, flat seeds. These seed pods are easily recognized and harvested. After harvesting, pods may be dried by placing them in a basket or on a mesh screen out of the weather for a couple of weeks.
In no time, you will have hundreds of seeds. It is always a great mystery wondering what next year's flowers will look like. Depending on their pollination, the seeds often produce a variety of colors.
These seeds are great for starting new hollyhocks in your own garden, sharing with friends and family, and trading. There are groups out there that trade seeds collected from their respective gardens each year. A bag full of hollyhock seeds could be a great way to trade around with like-minded gardeners for a unique variety of free seeds!
What About Heirloom Hollyhocks?
Heirloom hollyhocks come from some of the older original stock with only a single colored bloom. Most modern hollyhock varieties come in a wide range of colors, from bright to pastel. The heirloom flowers are generally a very dark, rich, deep color. There are a few heirloom varieties, with the most popular being crimson and black. Clusters of black flowers in full bloom on an heirloom hollyhock is enough to stop anyone in their tracks.
These heirloom varieties were a little hard to find only 10 years ago. Now, I am happy to say that many heirloom varieties are making a comeback. Some stores specialize in heirloom seeds, and this is probably a great place to start.
Heirloom varieties are classic favorites with some different advantages. Many of these exhibit very favorable characteristics such as unique colors, shapes, and flavor profiles. Some are naturally disease-resistant or drought-tolerant. There is a reason these particular varieties were passed down through families, from generation-to-generation. If you are looking for something a little different, heirloom hollyhocks could be right for your garden.