One plant gardeners from cooler regions miss is the hollyhock opening white, pink, red and maroon blossoms for spring. It has not been a hard plant to grow locally, but difficult to grow long enough to flower. Most selections are true biennials that need two years of growth then the blooms form. But some hollyhocks flower locally within six months.
Here is the secret to hollyhock success. Find a seed source for quick flowering types. Generally these are not found with mail order companies or on seed racks. These are normally local seeds from neighbors and friends with the selection that grows and flowers in Florida. As you drive about or visit with friends at garden centers, locate a seed source so you can grow hollyhocks too.
Florida varieties appear to grow and flower year-round but the best production begins during the fall. Around October, plant your seeds in small pots or cell packs. Grow the seedlings for a month or two and then add them to the garden. They are hardy plants and can withstand most cold weather. Around March they shoot up flowering stalks and bloom.
Hollyhocks need minimal care. Keep the soil moist and begin feedings as seedlings. Use a liquid fertilizer at half strength at first. When the seedlings are several inches tall, you can use the full strength once a week.
Any sunny garden site is ideal. Feel free to improve the soil with organic matter and add your plants. Keep the soil moist and apply a slow release fertilizer which should feed the plants for the season. Then enjoy the plants as they bloom.
One major pest may affect the leaves of your plantings. Hollyhock rust, a disease, causes orange spots to form in the leaves and the leaves yellow and decline. It can quickly affect the plantings. A rust control fungicide available from your local garden center is likely to be needed when the disease is first noted. Follow label instructions.
Now here is something important. Save seeds from your plantings. These are needed to start more hollyhocks next year and to share with friends. When the capsules formed after flowering turn brown, the seeds are ready to harvest. Store them in a sealed jar or plastic bag in the refrigerator until the next planting time.
Spread the word about hollyhocks and share the seeds with friends.