Cottage Garden Plants: Hollyhocks

Apricot hollyhocks on an allotment
Apricot hollyhocks on an allotment

For most of us, I suspect, hollyhocks are a dream, but what a dream they are!

Alcea 'Halo Candy' - pink hollyhock with dark centre
Hollyhock (Alcea ‘Halo Candy’)

Ruffled blooms with a hint of crinoline have the old fashioned charm and romance we associate with cottage gardens. The leafy green buds, typical of the mallow family, are decorative too.

Unlike more regimented spiky plants that open their blooms in sequence from bottom to top, hollyhocks flowers are delightfully laissez faire.

Hollyhocks with echinacea in a community garden
Hollyhocks with echinacea in a community garden

Open flowers are scattered among the buds seemingly at random without waiting for sister flowers, creating airy towers that lean and sway on the wind.

In any discussion of hollyhocks there’s an elephant in the room: rust. Like many plant diseases it’s a question of where we place our attention. In the picture above, do we oooh! over the flowers or yeuk! about the rust?

Mixed colours of hollyhocks

It is possible to grow healthy hollyhocks, even in large clusters, and modern varieties are selected to be less prone to disease.

Purple hollyhocks - Alcea 'Halo Lavender'
Alcea ‘Halo Lavender’ with Daucus carota ‘Dara’

The dusky purple blooms of Alcea ‘Halo Lavender’ caught my eye at a flower show – lavender is stretching a point – here combined with ornamental carrot. Daucus carota ‘Dara’ is white in the bud, opens to pink and darkens almost to burgundy which will be lovely with the hollyhock.

Double pink hollyhock - Alcea 'Apple Blossom'
Double pink hollyhock (Alcea ‘Apple Blossom’)

I seem to have a weakness for plants named ‘Apple Blossom’: Pelargonium ‘Apple Blossom Rosebud’ is a favourite and I’m an admirer of Clematis armandii ‘Apple Blossom’ too. Alcea ‘Apple Blossom’ is no exception, with its tissue paper-like balls of powder pink fluff.

Mixed hollyhocks (Alcea)

If you’re growing hollyhocks, I hope they’re doing you proud. And if, like me, you are just dreaming, I hope these will be fodder for the imagination.

Shared for Cee’s Flower of the Day.

46 Replies to “Cottage Garden Plants: Hollyhocks”

  1. When, in my London maisonette childhood, I painted pictures of my dream country cottage I always put hollyhocks in the garden. Now I live in one – complete with hollyhocks.

  2. What a lovely collection of photographs of Hollyhocks.
    If I had to pick just one, it would be Alcea ‘Halo Lavender’ – but I fear they wouldn’t cope with the combined rain and wind in this garden, so sadly they remain forever off my planting list. I’m happy just to look at them elsewhere. 😊

  3. Love your photos. And, I love hollyhocks as well, but I am on the verge of not growing them, not because of rust but because of the sawfly larvae. I spray daily with Bt, but still the leaves are skeletonized. Maybe it says more about me than the plant, but I see those ugly leaves more than the beauty of the flowers! I would miss them though…

    1. It’s difficult isn’t it? I know all about leaf skeletons – if you could see my garden peas, you’d know how much I sympathise.

  4. Love these flowers!! A fee years ago, a “garden guerrilla artist” planted seeds of flowers all around Zurich. Now in spring and summer, lots of flowers bloom wildly in the city… Now is the time for the hollyhocks! Zurich is full of these beauties, growing tall and colorful in almost every street 🙂

  5. I love hollyhocks, but stopped growing them because of rust. I’m trying them again this year, this time A. rugosa and A. ficifolia which are supposedly rust resistant. Do you have any experience with them?

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