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Cottage Garden: Growing Hollyhocks

Hollyhocks are tall, easy to grow, biennial flowers. They’re perfect for adding a colorful backdrop to garden beds and look excellent along fences. Hollyhocks are a mainstay in English and cottage-style gardens and are great for attracting bees.

As biennials, they don’t bloom their first year. They spend the first year growing attractive dark green rosettes of foliage and storing energy. In the second year, the tall stalks grow, and the hollyhocks bloom and produce seed. They typically bloom from around June until August.

These incredible flowers are native to Southwest and Central Asia. Their roots were often used in herbal medicine. The blooms are also edible and can be used to make tea.

At SESE, we offer two hollyhock varieties.

Black Hollyhocks

This dramatic heirloom is a show-stopper in any cottage garden and dates back to pre-1830. It features magnificent spikes of satiny blue-black single flowers that form the second year from first-year leafy 18 inch leaf rosettes. 

Find seeds here.

Outhouse Hollyhocks

This mixed-color beauty was traditionally grown around outhouses. The spires of single pink, white, red, and burgundy flowers grow up to 9 feet tall and made perfect screens for outhouses. You didn’t have to ask where the bathroom was; you could just look for the hollyhocks!

Find seeds here.

Outhouse Hollyhocks

Planting & Care

Hollyhocks can be grown with relative ease. They can be started indoors or direct sown. They germinate best when the soil temperature is around 60°F. Germination can take 14 to 21 days; you’ll have to be patient with these flowers!

Location

When planting out, select a location with well-drained soil and full sun. As tall plants with heavy flowers, Hollyhocks do best in areas sheltered from the wind. They thrive in fertile soil with a neutral pH.

Spacing

Hollyhocks are large, tall flowers, so proper spacing is crucial, plant them 12 to 24 inches apart. If they’re too crowded, hollyhocks are also susceptible to rust (Puccinia malvacearum), a fungal disease that typically begins on the lower leaves.

Watering

Watering your hollyhocks is most important when they’re germinating and newly planted. Keep them consistently moist during this time. After they’re established, hollyhocks are quite drought tolerant. Over-watering established plants can make them more prone to lodging and diseases.

Staking

Hollyhocks benefit from a bit of support and can be prone to lodging, especially in windy areas. Grow hollyhocks along a fence, trellis, or use stakes to keep flower stalks upright. 

Should I Deadhead Hollyhocks?

As with many flowers, deadheading hollyhocks isn’t necessary, but it can encourage them to bloom more. However, deadheading hollyhocks means you will get fewer seeds. Many gardeners like to save seeds from hollyhocks and re-plant or let them self-sow. Allowing plants to self-sow or re-planting them yourself will ensure that you have some hollyhocks blooming each year.

Soil Care

Hollyhocks aren’t super heavy feeders, but you still need to take care of the soil, especially if you allow hollyhocks to keep re-seeding in the same bed. Adding a layer of compost each spring can help keep the soil healthy.

Hollyhocks are a fun, easy-to-grow flower great for adding lots of color and height to your garden. Following these tips can help you have success with them.

Grow a Cut flower garden

Having fresh flowers on the table can help make a home feel pleasant and inviting. Store-bought flowers can be expensive, but growing your own may not be as hard as you’d think. Gardeners can grow and create their own cut flower bouquets with surprisingly little time and space.

What Types of Flowers Should I Grow?

There are many flowers that are suitable and easy to grow as cut flowers. These include:

  • Sunflowers
  • Celosia
  • Zinnias
  • Cosmos
  • Sweet Peas
  • Snapdragons
  • Tulips
  • Yarrow
  • Poppies
  • Daffodils
  • Asters
  • Amaranth
  • Bachelor’s Buttons
  • Ageratum
  • Echinacea (coneflowers)
  • Lavender
  • Sweet William

Especially if you’re new to flower gardening, we recommend growing zinnias and cosmos as they produce tons of flowers over a long season. The more you cut and deadhead, the more they produce.

Soil Preparation

Just as you need healthy soil to produce a good vegetable crop, you need healthy soil to grow quality cut flowers. Forking your flower bed, adding compost, and testing your soil before planting can help ensure that you get a great harvest.

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Plant Early & Plant Successions

Many flowers need to be started indoors weeks before your last frost. Be sure to read the growing instructions for your chosen varieties well before the season begins and stay on top of spring planting.

You can also use the fall to do some extra-early planting. Tuck in bulbs like daffodils and tulips and sow self-seeding flowers like poppies. Visit our post, Fall-Sown Flowers for Spring Blooms, for more ideas.

Throughout the beginning and middle of the summer continue sowing, if you have space. Some quick-growing flowers like zinnias can be sown every 2-3 weeks until midsummer. For more details on how to succession plant flowers, check out our post, Succession Planting Flowers.

Keep the Weeds Down

Keeping the weeds at bay, especially while plants are getting established, is essential. Plants won’t produce as many flowers if they’re competing with the weeds for nutrients and space.

Water Consistently

Consistent watering is key to good flower production. Soaker hoses or drip irrigation are an ideal low maintenance way to keep flowers watered. They’re also more efficient!

You can also mulch around flowers once they’re up. Mulch will help block weeds and keep the soil cool and moist.

Harvest & Deadhead Regularly

It may seem counter-intuitive, but for many “cut flower” varieties, the more you harvest, the more they will grow. The same goes for deadheading. Not letting flowers go to seed will encourage them to keep producing. So even if you don’t need another bouquet, cut your flowers and give them to a friend.

Harvesting

There are a few things you should know when harvesting cut flowers. The first is that your flowers will last the longest and look the best if you harvest them in the morning after the dew has dried, but while it’s still cool.

Always use clean cutting tools. Cut stems at a 45° angle and bring flowers into the shade as soon as possible. When arranging flowers, remove all foliage that’s below the waterline.

8 Reasons to Grow Edible Flowers

As most of the garden is put to bed for the season and the new catalogs are coming out it’s time to start planning for spring. Deciding on which varieties to select is always a tough choice. But whether you enjoy cottage style gardens or more “market style” gardens with tidy rows you should include a few edible flowers on your list.

They’ll help you avoid food dyes. 

Edible flowers are perfect for dressing up baked goods without using processed food dyes and preservatives. Any cake or cupcake will look just as instagram worthy with bachelor’s buttons petals instead of blue frosting.

You can make your own medicine.

Many edible flowers are also helpful medicinal herbs. This year add some echinacea, feverfew, or chamomile to your garden to create helpful herbal teas. Try growing a patch of calendula to concoct your own skin soothing lotions and balms.

Birds will enjoy your flowers too.

Many birds will enjoy the seeds from sunflowers, coneflowers, poppies and other flowers once they’ve finished blooming. If you love seeing birds in your yard they’re a great way to attract them without hanging a bird feeder.

They do double duty in a garden space.

If you’ve got a small garden you want to maximize every square foot. Growing edible flowers brings you beauty and a harvest for your table. Nasturtiums are a great choice because they can be trellised to save space and their leaves and flowers are excellent for salads. Though most people just enjoy the seeds, sunflowers are actually entirely edible and can be used as a trellis for runner beans.

You can make cute cocktails.

Edible flowers are an excellent way to make cocktails or even just an iced tea or lemonade feel extra special for your next summer gathering. Small flowers like Johnny-Jump-Ups are perfect for freezing into ice cubes. Edible flowers also make awesome garnishes especially paired with fresh herbs.

They’re perfect for homemade candy recipes.

Candied flowers and flower petals were a sweet treat long before the advent of modern candy brands. They’re also easy to make and beautiful. You can also try using flower petals in lollipop, hard candy, or even popsicle recipes.

Flowers attract beneficial insects.

One recent study showed that having flower strips planted in croplands can decrease the amount of insect damage to crops. This is because they attract beneficial insects like wasps and ladybugs which feed on harmful pests like aphids. While this obviously doesn’t just apply to edible flowers it is another one of their many qualities. Adding a few patches may help make your whole garden more productive.

Flowers attract pollinators.

Obviously, flowers are also a great way to attract pollinators such as bumblebees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other species. Having a patch of edible flowers benefits both you and local wildlife!

Growing and using edible flowers is a lot of fun! To find more information on edible flowers we carry visit our old post, 12 Edible & Medicinal Flowers to Add to Your Garden.