How To Grow Hollyhocks From Seed

A tall and beautiful plant, Hollyhocks are associated with cottage gardens and at up to two metres high can create a stunning backdrop to a border.

Something to bear in mind is that Hollyhocks are predominantly biennial or short-lived perennials, which means they spend the first year establishing a root system and foliage, and will then flower in the second year.

It’s worth it though, and the flowers are loved by bees and other pollinators.

Here we will look at how to grow Hollyhocks from seed, and how to get the best out of them year on year.

When growing Hollyhocks from seed, first choose from the many beautiful varieties on offer. Here we look at how to plant the seeds, ensure the best growing conditions and resolve any problems that may occur.

Different Types of Hollyhocks

There are many different types of colours and forms, with the most common being the Alcea Rosea variety.

This has multiple single flowers on tall stems in a range of colours from red and pink hues to white.

There are also double flower varieties such as “Hollyhock Double Pink” which produces a mass of petals in a blush pink colour.

These double flower versions are less attractive to bees however, as the centres are harder to reach and less pollen is available to pollinators.

How To Grow Hollyhocks From Seed - Hollyhock Double Pink Flower

Hollyhock “Blacknight” has dark red/purple single flowers that would look striking in any border.

How To Grow Hollyhocks From Seed - Dark Red Purple Blacknight Hollyhock

There are also dwarf varieties should you be limited in vertical space, a fabulous example of this is the Hollyhock “Spring Celebrities” variety which grows to a more manageable 60cm high and has frilly blooms in a range of colours.

Most tall Hollyhocks are much better in the ground however the dwarf varieties can be grown in containers.

How to Plant From Seed

You can plant Hollyhocks directly outside into the ground, this is best done in May and June, although some sources say it is possible to sow them a week or two before the last frost has ended.

Hollyhocks can be planted in the spring in a seed tray in good seed compost that is kept moist and warm while they germinate.

Give them about 5cm – 10cm space between seeds and ideally use a fairly deep tray or even individual tall pots, as Hollyhocks have quite a long tap root.

How To Grow Hollyhocks From Seed - Hollyhock Seedling

When they are reasonably established and have at least four good strong leaves, they can be transplanted outside taking care not to damage the developing root system.

Make sure to wait until about three weeks after the last frost to ensure the seedlings have the best start.

As they continue to grow, keep them sheltered and watered, although don’t over water.

Once they have grown to a reasonable size they are fairly drought tolerant and will not need watering unless conditions are very dry or your soil is particularly poor.

The Best Growing Conditions

When choosing a location outside remember that Hollyhocks do like lots of sunshine and although they like well draining soil they also will grow much better in soil that has a good nutrient content.

If your soil is poor then add some compost before planting and also mulch if you can.

Hollyhocks look the best at the back of a border and provide a wonderful vertical splash of colour.

Some varieties have actually been bred to bloom in colours that look attractive against fences and brick walls.

How To Grow Hollyhocks From Seed - White Hollyhocks With Pink Centre Against Wall

As the majority of Hollyhocks are biennial or short-lived perennials, a good way to ensure you do not have to wait too long for flowers is to plant some from seed, and while they are establishing their roots one year on, plant another batch from seed again.

This means that you won’t have to go without flowers in the third year while waiting for the new self seeded plants to establish themselves.

From then on both batches will self seed providing you with a constant supply. You can then pick up and move plants where you want them to achieve the best effect through the garden.

Problems and Solutions

Hollyhocks can grow very tall and it is recommended to stake them as they get over 1 metre tall to prevent damage in windy conditions.

Don’t wait for them to be damaged and then stake them afterwards, it is far better to support them in advance and then should there be an unexpected period of bad weather then you know they are already reinforced.

Hollyhock rust is an airborne fungus that can become an issue if conditions have been warm and wet.

It forms on the underside of leaves and looks like orange, brown or red bumps, this then travels through to the top of the leaf causing yellow spots.

It can affect the plant quite badly and unfortunately is quite difficult to address once it gets going.

How To Grow Hollyhocks From Seed - Hollyhock Rust

The best way to manage it is to remove affected leaves and even full plants if they have been infected.

Do not use the seeds from those plants and do not put the removed material on the compost heap.

Mulch heavily around the base of the plants to form a barrier for the dropped spores and when watering, do not water the leaves or stem – water the soil around the base of the plant instead.

This will prevent the plant becoming too wet and attracting moulds and fungi.

Some insects can also be attracted to Hollyhocks, in particular the Hollyhock Weevil which can lay eggs in the seed pods.

If this happens make sure to remove and destroy the affected parts, and do not add the material to the compost.


Hollyhocks are an absolutely glorious plant to have in your cottage or wildlife garden.

The variety in colours means that they can be both incredibly fun and colourful pinks and reds, or refined pale shades of white and cream.

Once established they are incredibly low maintenance and are excellent for attracting bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

As they self seed year on year they will provide continual height and interest to your borders.

Why not choose a couple of varieties in contrasting colours to create a visual impact in your garden.

How To Grow Hollyhocks From Seed - Bee in Hollyhock Flower

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