Althea – hollyhock

Tall, stately hollyhocks are classic cottage garden flowers. Available in a wide range of colours, these hardy perennials and biennials make a beautiful background plant for a display of summer bedding.

Suitable site and soil. Choose a sheltered, sunny location with good air circulation and a rich, heavy, moist soil. Ideal for growing along a fence or wall to add tall interest.

Cultivation and care. Plant out potted hollyhocks in spring, with the crowns slightly below the soil surface. Feed in early spring with a reputable brand of fertilizer and water well during dry spells.

Propagation. Hollyhocks are best grown as biennials. Sow where you want them to grow in shallow drills 20cm – 8in apart. Thin out to 60cm – 2ft apart. Seeds can also be sown in a cold frame (if you have one) and transplanted in autumn to their final position, where they will flower the following summer.

Recommended varieties. A. rosea has spikes of single flowers in a range of colours, including pink, yellow and cream. Look out for ‘Chater’s Double’, which has rosette-like flowers and ‘Majorette’ and ‘Summer Carnival’, which have double flowers. They are available in mixed or separate colours, in shades of red, pink, purple, yellow, cream and white.

Pests and diseases. Rust can be a serious problem but generally affects older plants. Diseased leaves should be picked off and burnt as soon as possible. Hollyhocks are also susceptible to attack by mildew.


Rust shows as brown pustules on the stems and leaves of hollyhocks. Spores spread and can affect other healthy plants. Cut down and burn stems and leaves in autumn and pour fungicide on the crown.

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