Hollyhock grows best in zones 2-10. It thrives in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. This plant can grow to 6-8 feet (mature height) and spread 1-2 feet wide. Tall varieties need staking to prevent wind damage. Pinching the main stem early in the season produces bushier, shorter plants. Planting hollyhock in various parts of the garden helps to lessen rust disease problems and attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Concerning diseases, hollyhock is typically affected by Japanese Beetles, slugs, spider mites, rust, leaf spots, and anthracnose (fungal disease). Apple cider vinegar fungicide can be used to prevent disease as well as garlic fungicide spray to treat leafspot. Baking soda spray can be used to treat anthracnose and act as a general fungicide. Hollyhock a long-time garden plant that has the ability to reseed and come back for years, and can serve as a great green groundcover for summer bulbs such as lilies, glads, and irises. Companion plants with hollyhock are other cool-loving plants such as pansies and campanulas (1-3).
Culinary or Medicinal Uses
Hollyhocks are prized flowers in Chinese cookery; tradition says that hollyhocks should be cooked in the seventh month (August) for maximum flavor and nutritious benefit. Being so closely related to the mallow, Hollyhocks are used for many of the same illnesses mallow can treat, such as respiratory complaints and inflammation. Hollyhocks were originally grown in European gardens as food rather than ornamentals (4). Black hollyhock petals have been useful for imparting deep colors to teas and wines, and roots yield an edible starch (5). In the 16th century, the Spanish reported early Mexicans using desert hollyhock leaves in powdered form, sometimes with sage, as a treatment for diarrhea and hives (6).
Significance to Cultural Communities
Hollyhock originates primarily from China as well as the Middle East (Syria and Palestine), India, and Southern Europe. During the Victorian era, Europeans viewed hollyhocks as symbols for ambition and fecundity (the intellectual productivity of a creative imagination). Hollyhocks started out as plants for the wealthy, shown in Chinese art and in the walled gardens of the rich (4). Arabians drink the sweetened floral tea for cough and use leaves in collyria and to treat abscesses. Brazilians and Chileans apply the leaves to treat inflammation, while Costa Ricans take floral infusion for cough and sore throat. Lebanese mix hollyhock juice with powdered coffee, soot, spiderwebs, or sugar to stop bleeding, and they take tea of the dried plants and/or flowers for colds, cramps, sweating, and sore throat. Middle Easterners apply mucilage from the hollyhock to bruises or with dough and olive oil to tumors (5).
From the Community Voice
“The Holihock disdains the common size
Of Herbs, and like a tree do's proudly rise
Proud she appears, but try her, and you'll find
No plant more mild, or friendly to mankind
She gently all obstructions doth unbind.” -Abraham Crowey (4)
1. “Hollyhock (Alcae rosea).” University of Illinois Extension Hort Answers. http://urbanext.illinois.edu/hortanswers/plantdetail.cfm?PlantID=2&PlantTypeID=1"PlantTypeID=1.
2. “Plant Disease.” Go, Grow Organic! Go Harvest Organics. November 23, 2013. http://www.ghorganics.com/page15.html.
3. “Alcae rosea (single).” Missouri Botanical Garden. http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=j240.
4. Belvedere, Pomona. “Sweet Peas that Beat the Heat: Lathyrus odoratus ‘Zinfandel’ and ‘Cupani’.” Tupisinthewoods.com. August 14, 2009. http://www.tulipsinthewoods.com/flowering-plants/.
5. James A. Duke, Duke’s Handbook of Medicinal Plants of the Bible (Boca Raton, FL: Taylor & Francis Group LLC, 2008).
6. Davidow, Joie, Infusions of Healing: A Treasure of Mexican-American Herbal Remedies (New York, NY: Fireside, 1999).