Maintaining hollyhocks is a great and rewarding way to improve your flowerbed. With their large single and double blooms, hollyhocks can add great color and attract butterflies to your garden. Growing and maintaining hollyhocks require some understanding of its needs and some basic gardening care. Follow these tips to ensure success with your hollyhock plants.
The first step to succeed with growing hollyhocks is to plant them correctly. Hollyhocks need plenty of sunlight and well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5-7.5. If starting from nursery stock, plants should be 18 inches apart and if growing from seed, thin them out to keep them at the same distance.
In order to avoid the two biggest diseases that can affect hollyhocks; Japanese beetle infestation (which is caused by too dry soil) and hollyhock rust (caused by too moist soil); regular watering is needed. In warm weather, water a few times a week and even daily if it is extremely hot and dry. Water in the mornings to give them a chance to absorb the moisture and to avoid fungal problems that can occur overnight. You can also mix sand and gravel into the soil to help it dry out and to prevent hollyhock rust.
Hollyhocks benefit from a boost in the spring. A phosphorus fertilizer can help promote blooming. During the summer adding a light all-purpose fertilizer such as 10-10-10 every 6-8 weeks will help maintain both the foliage and flowers.
Deadheading spent flowers throughout the summer months is also necessary to keep the plants blooming until the early fall. Remove the spent flowers just above the supporting leaves and don’t allow the hollyhock to start seed formation too soon as this will affect blooming. If wish to collect the seeds from the seed pods, wait until early September.
In late June, check your hollyhocks for yellowing leaves or insect infestation and remove these to quickly stop the spread. Cut back the oldest, woody branches with pruning shears and take out any infested plants to discard in the trash. Do not compost these.
Finally before the first snowfall, cut the stems down to the root crowns, after a frost. Apply a 1-inch-thick layer of dry mulch such as hay or cedar chips to protect the hollyhock roots. Once the first shoots emerge in the early spring, rake away the mulch.
Growing hollyhocks are a great way to add color and attract butterflies to your garden. With the right care and following the tips above, you can enjoy the beautiful blooms from year to year.