Latin name Alcea rosea is a biennial that can sometimes grow as a short-lived perennial. A member of the mallow family, it is related to okra, hibicus and marshmallow. Hollyhock plants will typically produce foliage in their first year and send up a flower stalk in their second year. Once bloomed, the plants will drop seeds and typically come back reliably from seed year after year.



Believed to be native to East Asia, it is especially beloved in ancient Japanese culture. Plants moved westward towards Europe, becoming a staple of English cottage gardens. In ancient times the plants were used to make a salve to treat the sore hind feet, or hocks, of a horse, hence the name holly "hocks."


  • Pollinator attractor.
  • Beds, borders, cutting garden, cottage garden.
  • Traditionally planted along the sides of an outhouse to conceal the privy (also this helps to protect the tall plants from blowing over in the wind).
  • Edible flower petals.
  • Host plant for painted lady butterfly.




  • Seeds germinate in 10 to 14 days.
  • Direct sow seeds just 1/8-1/4 inch deep, as light aids germination, but seeds do not like to dry out.


  • Plants prefer full sun to part shade.
  • They require moist, rich, well-drained soil.
  • Space plants about 24 inches apart and provide staking for the tall flower spikes.
  • Cut down spent flower spikes to improve the health and longevity of the plant.


  • Hollyhock is a fairly care-free flower, but rust is a common issue. It can be avoided by providing good air circulation to the foliage and watering the base of the plants rather than the leaves.
  • The tall plants can be easily blown over in high winds. Position the planting area to protect against strong gales, such as close to the side of a building, or just provide some staking.


  • Allow flowerheads to turn brown and dry on plants.
  • Clip the heads and dry the seeds, placing them in a brown paper bag for a week in a dark, dry place.
  • Store seeds in a cool, dark, dry place over winter.