The hollyhock, scientifically known as Alcea rosea, is a half-hardy biennial that is cherished for the vibrant flowers that grow on tall flower stalks in the summer. According to research conducted by Cornell University, the plant is most successful in the plant hardiness zones 3 through 9 of the United States Department of Agriculture. Because hollyhocks rapidly reseed themselves, it is uncommon to need to sow fresh seeds or hollyhocks in order to sustain an existing stand of hollyhocks that is well-established and healthy. However, in order to generate plantings in new sites or to start plants earlier than normal, seeds are required.
Collecting and Storing Seed
Wait until the spent petals have fallen off the bloom and the plump green disc at the bottom of the flower has turned a yellowish-brown colour before collecting hollyhock seeds. The top will open not long after this colour shift, and at that point, the seeds will be visible. Remove the disc either either before or immediately after it opens. After allowing the disc to dry for a few days, extract the seeds by pulling back the top of the disc and putting them on a plate that will be exposed to bright sunlight for a few hours. This will push any weevils out of the seeds.
Take the seeds out of the sun completely and let them to continue drying out for a few more days before putting them away for storage in an envelope or another appropriate container. When working near or touching pieces of a hollyhock plant, it is best to do so while wearing long sleeves and gloves. Hollyhocks have been known to cause skin irritation.
Starting Seed Indoors
Hollyhock seeds should be started inside during the winter for flower production the same year or in the spring to gain a head start or to make outside planting simpler. Flower production may occur either in the same year or in the spring. Utilize sterile containers and growth material, as well as a sterile flat or other containers. A ideal medium for germinating seeds has to have good drainage and can include a combination of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite.
Place the hollyhock seed packets on top of the medium and cover them with a very thin layer of the growing media. Maintaining a humid atmosphere may be accomplished by placing the container in a plastic bag, placing it beneath a cover made of plastic or glass, and exposing it to bright, indirect light. Hollyhock seeds germinate at 68 degrees Fahrenheit. As soon as the seedlings emerge, the humidity level should be lowered, and the young plants should be moved into a location with more direct light.
Planting Seeds Directly in the Ground
If you choose, you may put the hollyhock seeds straight into the earth. Plant seeds in the soil in the place you want them to grow anytime between the spring and about two months before the first frost. The seeds should not be covered since they germinate more successfully when exposed to light. Instead, they should be watered in well and kept uniformly wet until the seedlings emerge after around 10 to 14 days.
If you want your plant to thrive, you need to choose a location that gets enough of sunshine and, if required, you also need to get the soil ready. Hollyhock needs a well-drained soil to grow, thus a poorly-drained, heavy clay soil may require correction. In order to enhance the site’s structure and drainage, you should work amendments into the ground, such as well-rotted compost, manure, or other types of organic matter.
Encouraging Hollyhock Reseeding
Hollyhocks often self-seed prolifically and do not need any special care or attention to do so. On the other hand, inspection and corrective actions might be necessary if plants in an established stand are struggling or the stand itself is thinning out. The North Carolina State University Extension advises that the larvae of the hollyhock weevil devour seed embryos, which destroys the seed’s viability. Before the seeds drop, the seed discs should be inspected, and any contaminated seeds should be removed and discarded.
If a population of hollyhocks is suffering as a result of the region having poor soil, you should gather mature seeds and put them away. Then, you should work a large quantity of soil amendments into the area. Finally, you should plant the seeds on top of the improved soil.