Why plant hollyhocks? They are so sweetly old-fashioned that they instantly take you on a mental journey to cottages in the countryside where roses and honeysuckle drape sun baked old stone and the large hollyhock rosettes light up children’s imagination.
The plants are usually biennial and not easy to grow. Notoriously susceptible to rust, they need serious grooming in the heat of summer and only bloom the second year.
If you really like hollyhocks but are not keen on taking on a lot of work, try the fig leaved variety – Alcea ficifolia. These perennial hollyhocks bloom the first year, don’t grow as tall as the other varieties, are less susceptible to rust and look very similar to the hibiscus flower to which they are related.The foliage is very decorative, deeply indented and resembling the fig leaves, as the name describes.
Fig leaved hollyhocks are single flowered and come in light butter yellow, burgundy-black, yellow, copper, pink and red.
These pretty plants are hardy to zone 3 and will benefit from being planted in the fall so that they have time to develop a strong root system over the winter. This timing will benefit even the perennial varieties for which first year blooming is not an issue.