Hollyhocks are a traditional garden favorite reminiscent of Grandma's garden and a simpler time. But this doesn't mean they are too old-fashioned to use in your modern garden. They will look great in any number of settings, bringing a "pop" of color to any garden space.
There are two varieties of flowers sold as "hollyhocks." The traditional hollyhock's Latin name is Alcea, and this is the variety to get if you're looking for the tall stalks of bright flowers of your childhood memories. The other variety of hollyhock is called Althaea and is shorter and less varied in color. It is a mallow rather than a true hollyhock. The most important thing to keep in mind when planting hollyhocks is whether they will have support where you place them.
Against the House
Hollyhocks are perfect for giving a little interest to a boring area of your house's exterior—a windowless stairwell wall for instance—or maybe you want to camouflage the area where the cable and electric meters come into your house. You can add more charming interest here with a trellis mounted to the house to support the hollyhocks. You don't have to be too structured about tying up the flower stalks – as they grow and start to lean, attach them loosely to the trellis with string or green "twist-tie" coated wire. If you live in a windy area, this can make the difference between a summer of beauty and the heartbreak of broken-off plants. You can also stake them individually, but the stakes need to be sturdy and deeply sunk into the ground. You can plant the hollyhocks alone or as the back row of a bright perennial garden or border.
Along a Fence
Again, hollyhocks make a great back-of-the-border flower, and look great against both tall and short fences. Just tie them loosely to the fence to keep them upright.
Among Trees and Shrubs
For a pop of color among greenery, plant hollyhocks to tower above low shrubs and trees.
In a Bed
With careful staking, you can make hollyhocks the centerpiece of a shaped bed. Just make sure you can reach them to adjust the ties as they grow.
A couple of things to keep in mind:
Care: Make sure your hollyhocks have sufficient sun for several hours a day. They are otherwise pretty self-sufficient. Give them water during dry spells as you would any other plant.
Pests and Diseases: Hollyhocks are susceptible to weevils and rust. Watch out for yellow or "lacy" foliage. Check online or at your garden center for insecticides and herbicides available in your area that will treat these infestations.
Non-Blooming: While considered a perennial, some hollyhocks are actually biennials, meaning they bloom every other year. So you may find your hollyhocks bloomless at some point. Hopefully you will have new plants sprouting to "take up the slack" in those years.
Self-Propagation: Hollyhocks self-seed quite easily, so you will probably have new plants every year. Just keep an eye on where they spring up so they're not in an unsupportable part of the garden – or in the lawn!
Season: Hollyhocks will flower through the summer months and sometimes well into fall.