About Hollyhock: As its appearance suggests, Hollyhock is a relative of the exotic hibiscus of the tropics; records show that the first of the plants brought to Europe came with the Crusaders from the Holy Land, by way of their original home, China. The name is derived from "holy" and "hoc," an Anglo Saxon word for this type of flower. Hollyhock has become a traditional favorite in the arid southwestern regions of the United States and in Mexico because of its hardy survival of blazing sun and persistent drought. The plant has a history of medicinal use; also, the stems contain a tough fiber that has been used for making both paper and cloth, and dyes of various colors can be obtained from the petals. For centuries, little girls have found their own use for this plant by making "hollyhock dolls" from the blossoms. To make your own, pluck a hollyhock flower from the stem and turn it face down to find a lady wearing a silky ballroom gown.
Hollyhock Germination: For early spring growth, direct sow in August or September; hollyhock can also be spring planted after the last spring frost. This plant grows best in full sun and rich soil, in a protected location. Plant the seeds no more than 1/4" deep and do not allow the soil to dry out until the seeds germinate, which should occur in 14-21 days. Thin to 20-24" apart in rows 3' apart. Thinned seedlings can be transplanted. To start seed indoors, plant the seeds just below the surface of the soil; keep the soil moist and at a temperature of 70 degrees F until germination. After the last hard frost or when the plants grow big enough to handle safely, transplant them.
Growing Hollyhock Seeds: When the hollyhocks bloom, make sure the soil does not dry out; these plants do not tolerate dry soil. Water carefully to avoid getting the foliage wet, since this often leads to rust and other diseases. If leaves become infected by rust, remove them immediately. Watch young plants especially for slugs and snails. While some first year plants may bloom, full blooming will occur in the second year of growth. Pinching off the tips of the stalks for several weeks will cause fuller, shorter growth. Hollyhock self sows readily, making it practically perennial unless the spent blossoms are removed to prevent seed development. After the first frost of autumn, cut the stalks of the hollyhocks down to ground level and cover with a layer of mulch for protection; remove the mulch in the spring. Hollyhock also grows well as a container plant and attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.
Harvesting Hollyhock: Though hollyhocks reach their full potential when displayed in the garden, they can be used for cut flowers after a simple treatment. Because the stems secrete a sticky substance that causes them to become unable to draw in water, the stalks will immediately droop unless the ends are seared either with a flame or boiling water. Opinions differ on the best method of treatment, so experimentation may be necessary.
Saving Hollyhock Seeds: After the flowers have finished blooming, they will drop their petals and a fuzzy seed pod will form. When the outer covering of the pod begins to fold back to reveal the brown seeds, they have matured and are ready to be harvested. Remove the pods and spread them out to dry away from direct sunlight. Rub them lightly to separate the seed from the pods, and store the cleaned seed in a cool, dry place.
Detailed Hollyhock Info: Origin: China, Central Europe Other Common Names: Joseph's Staff, Hockleaf, St. Cuthbert's Cowl Duration: Biennial Bloom Time: Summer Height: 72-96 inches Spacing: 20-24 inches Light: Full Sun Soil Moisture: Medium USDA Zone: 2a-9b Seeds Per Oz: 3,000 Produces towering spires with heart shaped leaves, and 4-5" funnel-shaped blossoms that vary to red, pink, pale yellow, and white.