Alcea Rosea, what are Hollyhocks, tips for cultivation, care and curiosities

Hollyhock flower
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The Alcea Rosea, also known as hollyhock, is a perennial plant belonging to the Malvaceae family, known scientifically as alcea rosea. It is a plant native to Asia and south-eastern Europe, commonly grown in gardens because of its large, colorful flowers ranging from white, pink, red and purple.

The plant can reach a height of two meters, making it a great choice for creating natural barriers o scenic backgrounds in the gardens. In fact, hollyhocks are plants that often evoke the image of the classic garden around the country house as they blend perfectly with wooden fences and small buildings.

Tall and colorful, hollyhocks add a particularly graceful touch to any garden, regardless of its style, but they must be cared for and grown with some care.
Let's see what the needs of hollyhocks are and how to take care of it so that they bloom beautifully and for a long time.

Hollyhock flowers

Care of Hollyhocks

Le Hollyhocks are not difficult plants to grow. They simply require regular, moderate watering, especially during periods of drought. But be careful: because excessive hydration and, above all, water on the leaves can often cause a feared disease of hollyhocks: the so-called "rust".

What is Hollyhock rust?

La ruggine hollyhock is a fungal disease caused by the fungus Puccinia malvacearum. This is a particularly common disease in plants of the Malvaceae family, such as hollyhocks. Rust is easily recognizable by its characteristic symptoms which can compromise the health and aesthetic appearance of the plant.

What are the symptoms of rust

Hollyhock rust manifests itself through a number of distinctive symptoms:

  • Yellow spots: At the beginning of the disease, small yellow spots appear on the upper surface of the leaves.
  • Orange pustules: Orange or reddish-brown pustules develop on the underside of the leaves and release spores.
  • Leaf decay: Infected leaves may yellow, wilt and drop prematurely.
  • Rapid spread: The disease can spread rapidly in conditions of high humidity and moderate temperatures.

To avoid "rust" we try not to wet the leaves during irrigation, preferring to water at the base of the plant.

How to fertilize Hollyhock

Fertilization does not take long. In well-prepared, fertile soil, plants can essentially manage themselves. Otherwise, in less fertile soil, it is recommended to apply 1-2 doses of fertilizer for flowering plants. It may be necessary to protect the long, flowering stems to prevent them from bending or breaking if there is a lot of wind in the area or if the plant is exposed to animals. It is recommended to tie tall stems to bamboo poles. Regular pruning of faded flowers will stimulate the plant to produce new buds.

Red Hollyhock flower

Decorativeness of Hollyhocks

Hollyhocks are biennial plants belonging to the Malvaceae family. These magnificent plants are popular for their spectacular flowering and ease of cultivation. Most varieties of hollyhocks are tall, reaching up to 2-2,5 meters. The first year after sowing, the plant forms a rosette of large round leaves with serrated edges. The following year, a stiff stem grows between the leaves topped with calyx-shaped flowers on short stalks. Depending on the variety, the flowers can be simple or double, and their colors vary from white, yellow, salmon, red and pink. Hollyhocks that bloom in dark burgundy are often called black. In addition to the classic forms, more and more varieties with curled or wavy petals are appearing. Hollyhocks look good in groups or rows along fences and walls. They can be beautifully paired with tall varieties of phlox, rudbeckia or cosmos.

The needs of Hollyhocks

Hollyhocks thrive best in sunny, wind-sheltered locations. A partially shaded location is acceptable, but they will grow less well in shaded, cold, moist areas. Before planting hollyhocks, it is important to prepare the soil: remove weeds and enrich the soil with compost to provide the plants with the necessary nutrients. Hollyhocks develop a long tap root, so it is essential to dig the soil deeply. They grow best in fertile, rich, moist soil. Sandy, clayey, heavy and compact soils are not suitable for these flowers. In winter, it is recommended to cover the plants to increase the chances of survival at low temperatures.

Cultivation of Hollyhock starting from seeds

Hollyhock seeds are readily available in garden stores. Offered in different varieties and colors, they are an interesting option especially for beginner gardeners who want to introduce themselves to a decorative plant without too much effort. Hollyhock seeds are relatively large, making them easy to sow. They can be sown directly in open ground or in prepared pots. The sowing period is late spring and early summer.

When the seedlings show 2-3 complete leaves (therefore no leaflets), they must be transplanted at a distance of 30 x 30 cm. The seedlings are transplanted to their permanent place in September or April of the following year. Flowering begins in June and lasts until the end of September.

If instead of going to the gardening shop you prefer to purchase online, keep in mind that hollyhock seeds high germination (so where a sprout is most likely to emerge) are available here:

Is Hollyhock dangerous for dogs if they ingest it?

The phenomenon of dogs ingesting hollyhock roots is quite widespread. This is a fairly common behavior that can be explained by several factors. First, the roots of the hollyhock have a pleasant flavour for dogs, who find them particularly appetizing. Furthermore, these roots contain nutrients which can help meet the nutritional needs of dogs.

But be careful: although they are rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre, hollyhock roots they are not completely safe for dogs. Excessive consumption can cause Health problems, such as diarrhea or vomiting, and some substances present may be toxic if taken in large quantities. Therefore, it is essential to carefully monitor your dogs' consumption of hollyhock roots and consult a veterinarian if you have any concerns regarding their diet.

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