22 May 2012

Hollyhocks, Althea Rosea, have come a long way

Hollyhocks, originally from China, were found in a 50,000 year old grave of a Neanderthal man and today they are the official flower of Taos, New Mexico.

This humble mallow flower was known for decades as the flower that showed visitors where the outhouse was. It grows 6 to 9 feet tall, helping to show the way.

Our Seed-started hollyhocks
 Related to okra, cotton and hibiscus (Rose of Sharon), hollyhocks are easily started from seed. Just remember that they are biennial and take two years to bloom.

Summer Carnival, a lovely, double, pink hollyhock, has been around a long time. Gardens Ablaze has a nice article about them here.

Swallowtail Gardens has a large selection of colors and varieties. They could be started now in garden beds or in pots and allowed to grow their leaf clusters this summer. Next year they will shoot up and flower.

Summer Carnival Hollyhocks - Jung Seeds

These easy-to-grow lovelies get rust, mold, caterpillar damage, and a few other diseases and bugs, but, we grow them every year anyway. The problems can be minimized by planting them in full sun with air circulation all around the plant - which means not grouping them together in large plantings.

Hollyhocks re-seed themselves so once you get a few going, they will be around for decades, leading some people to think of them as perennial.

They will re-seed and re-seed, so if you want just a few, you have to be diligent about removing the extras or cut down the stalks before they throw seed. You can always give the extra baby plants to gardener friends.

Check out this list of questions and answers for fascinating queries and tips about hollyhocks. The author is extension agent and horticulturist Ron Smith at NDSU. Someone said that the roots made their dogs sick when they ate them.

If you want to save seeds from your plants, after they flower, Wintersown explains everything you need to know.

Great for the back of the bed, along a fence, as a specimin in the middle of a cottage garden or around your outhouse.

3 comments:

Capital Gardens said...

Did you know Althea means 'The Goddess'? :) They're gorgeous flowers!

Martha said...

I did not know that and wonder even more about the outhouse/hollyhock connection.

The literature says that the hollyhocks were planted around the outhouse to make it easy for the ladies to find.

50 years ago I lived in a defunct resort with a leaky septic tank. It was always covered with nasturtiums in bloom.

Something about those old fashioned flowers!

Capital Gardens said...

Now you're the one teaching me things!

Althea is The Goddess is one of the common African languages I think, I'm not sure entirely which. It's 'healer' in Greek too according to Google...