Flower of the Month – Hollyhock

Common Name: Hollyhock

Latin name: Alcea sp.

Family: Malvaceae:  Mallow Family

Hollyhock (Alcea rosea) is a biennial plant native to China, meaning the foliage appears the first season as a low clump of leaves, followed the second year by the flowers. The leaves are deep green, leathery, and two to three inches across with a rounded or scalloped shape. It’s a member of the Malvacea family, which also includes hibiscus, okra, cotton and other plants. There are about 70 species of this summer-blooming flower that grow between 3 to 9 feet tall, depending on the variety. Hollyhock has a long history evidenced by its presence in a 50,000-year-old Neanderthal grave and it was one of the earliest plants brought by colonists to the New World. Hollyhocks are in the same family as cotton, Malvacea, and have been considered a potential source of fiber for cloth.

The three to four inch diameter flowers open sporadically all over the vertical stalks, which can grow anywhere from four to eight feet above the foliage. The round blossoms come in almost every color of the rainbow.

Hollyhocks self seed producing their own seeds after flowering whereby their seeds can be harvested from the plant itself or let drop on the ground to germinate themselves. During the winter season when the hollyhocks are dormant, the plants are cut to ground level and covered with a mulch layer that helps prevent wind and precipitation from harming the plants. Sunlight is very important for hollyhocks to grow, where as frequent watering is also mandatory.

The Hollyhock, grown locally by Green and Gold Flowers, is a cottage garden favourite and old fashioned variety that is making a comeback. Taller stem varieties look majestic in church and pedestal arrangements and the shorter stems compliment rustic bouquets with multi floret stems yielding papery delicate poppy and hibiscus-like blooms. Read more about Green and Gold Flowers here.

Cut Flower Tips:

  • The cut stems of poppies, hollyhocks, hibiscus, and oleander, all ooze a milky or yellowish latex.
  • If the ends of the stems are untreated, this sap will coagulate and clog the stem’s water-conducting tubes.
  • Make a few slits in the stem end and sear it for about half a minute over a candle or gas flame, or dip it into a few inches of boiling water for about a minute. Take care to apply heat only briefly or too many of the water conducting cells can be damaged in the process.
  • Finish conditioning in a deep, water-filled container, cleaning the stems of their residue and re-filling water every few hours.
  • Blooms will continue to flower and unfurl if conditioned correctly and flowers are kept out of direct sun and heat.
  • Vase life is up to 8 days