Althaea hollyhock

Height: 6ocm-2.4m (2-8ft)

Planting distance 38-60cm (15-24in)

Features: flowers summer to autumn

Soil: heavy, rich

Site: sunny

Type: biennial and annual

Hollyhocks are old cottage garden favourites, their towering spikes of large pink, red, crimson, orange, yellow or white flowers always making a strong impact.

Potentially short-lived perennials, hollyhocks are often grown as half-hardy annuals, started under glass in late winter, or hardy biennials, sown outdoors in summer to flower the following year. They are ideal for the back of borders, where their stately magnificence – reaching 2.4m (8ft) -can be fully appreciated. The large, light green leaves at the base are lobed, rough and hairy.

Popular varieties:

: The true species hollyhock (Althaea rosea) has been superseded-by named varieties bearing double or single flowers in mixed or single colours.

‘Chater’s Double Mixed’, 1.8-2.4m (6-8ft) high has peony-shaped double flowers in a variety of colours.

‘Majorette’ is dwarf, 60-75cm

Single reel Althaea rosea (24-30in) high, with double fringed flowers in mixed pastel shades. It is grown as a half-hardy annual.

‘Nigra’ has single, rich chocolate-maroon flowers and stands 1.5m (5ft) high. It is grown as a hardy biennial.

‘Powder Puffs’ has double red, pink, rose, white and yellow flowers, and reaches l.8-2.4m (6-8ft) high. It is grown as a biennial.

‘Summer Carnival iMixcd’ has fully double blooms, in a wide range of colours, all along the 1.5-1.8m (5-6ft) high stems. It is grown as a half-hardy annual.


Hollyhockslike heavy rich soil and shelter. Sow biennial varieties outdoors in early and mid summer, 23cm (9in) apart. Thin the seedlings to 60cm (2ft) apart in early to mid autumn.

Sow annuals under glass in late winter for planting out in mid spring, or sow them directly in their final position in mid spring, and thin to 38cm (15in) apart.

Water freely during dry weather, and stake tall varieties in exposed positions. For more than one year’s flowering, cut the plants to 15cm (6in) above ground in autumn.

Pests and diseases: Rust may affect the leaves and stems, especially of older plants – a reason why hollyhocks tend to be grown as annuals or biennials.

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