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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Alcea, Plants and history

What's the origin of the hollyhock?


I consulted The Gardener's Atlas by John Grimshaw (Firefly Books, 1998) and in the section on mallows, Alcea rosea (garden hollyhock) is described as "indigenous to the Near East." It was initially grown to be used for its fiber, like fellow Malvaceae family member Gossypium (cotton), but it didn't work well for that purpose, and has been used as an ornamental plant in Europe since the Middle Ages. Its seeds may have been taken to northern and western Europe by returning Crusader soldiers. "The soldiers added 'holy' to hoc, the Anglo-Saxon word for a mallow." All the doubles and strains with variegated flowers were cultivated in European gardens. There is a smaller species, Alcea rugosa, which is native to the Ukrainian steppes.

Date 2017-05-04
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Garden Tip

Keywords: Alcea, Seed companies and seed sources, Annuals and biennials

Add old fashioned charm to your garden with hollyhocks (Alcea rosea). These stately and edible flowers grow up to seven feet tall in shades of red, pink, yellow and white. Technically biennial (growing leaves the first season, flowering the next summer, setting seed then dying), hollyhocks can be coaxed to flower a few more seasons if stopped from going to seed. The down side to growing hollyhocks is the potential for their leaves to look tattered from rust disease and weevil holes. Never mind - just plant them at the back of the boarder where only their flowers will show.

Here is a source for hollyhock seeds in single colors, plus growing information, pictures, history and lore.

Date: 2007-04-03
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May 31 2018 13:14:08