Planting hollyhocks is the first step to creating the perfect classic cottage garden and, because hollyhocks need minimal care after planting, this is also the most attention you’ll need to give them. A longtime favorite, the sweet, lacey blooms give this flower a quaint feel that helps to create the cottage garden impression. Because of their height, they reach 6 to 9 feet, hollyhocks are ideal for placement along a picket fence or at the back of your garden.
Hollyhocks will grow in any USDA zone including and above zone 4. In most climates, they are a biennial or a short-lived perennial, lasting at most 2 to 3 years. However, they often self-seed, meaning that new plants will spring up in the same location the following season. It is also very easy to collect some seeds each year to plant yourself the following spring.
The first thing you’ll need to do is find the perfect location and prepare the soil. Location is an important factor with all plants, but with hollyhocks in particular it will have quite a strong influence on factors like how healthy the plant is, how well it grows, and how many blooms has.
Though hollyhocks prefer full sun, they will tolerate as much as partial shade. However, without several hours of sunlight each day they will do poorly. Their growth will be stunted and, because their focus will be on leaf production in an attempt to take in as much sunlight as possible, they will flower less.
They need moist, rich soil, but it must also be well drained. This is best accomplished by adding plenty of compost and decomposed manure to your garden, which makes the soil rich and nutritious while improving the drainage. Turn over the soil with a pitchfork prior to planting. Then spread a layer of compost and manure over the freshly turned soil. Use the pitchfork to turn the soil once more to mix the rich compost and manure into the soil. Moisture can be easily controlled by regular watering. Just make sure you water from below, so as not to get the leaves unduly wet, which can lead to rust.
Plant seeds outdoors one week before the first frost day. They like only a thin layer of dirt above them and should not be planted too deep. Planting them quarter inch below the surface of the soil will provide sufficient depth. The seeds will germinate in 10 to 14 days. Once seedlings have sprouted, you’ll want to thin them out to a spacing of roughly two feet apart in order for them in order to have enough room to grow well. Make sure you pull out the weaker seedlings, leaving the strongest to grow into tall, beautiful hollyhock plants.
If you prefer, you can also start seeds indoors under grow lights or in a sunny windowsill. Broadcast seeds in a shallow tray or plant in individual containers, covering with only a thin layer of soil. You should wait for 2 to 3 weeks after the last frost date before planting your seedlings in your garden.