Fall Gardening for Summer Hollyhocks

Old-fashioned hollyhocks are the perfect plant for gardeners who like to go to seed.

When I was in Albuquerque for the annual Water Conservation and Xeriscape Conference in February, I bought several envelopes of hollyhock seeds at the book sale. A local gardener must have collected them from the garden, packaged them for sale, and donated the proceeds to the conference organizer, the Xeriscape Council of New Mexico.

I’d been wanting to add more hollyhocks to my cottage garden, especially the old-fashioned kind with large single flowers and, at 50 cents an envelope, the price was right for me.

I started the seeds in a planter as part of the patio container garden this summer with the idea of planting in fall so they’ll bloom next summer. Fall planting means these plants will have time to develop a strong root system before the ground freezes.

I planted five small plants in well-drained soil in a sunny spot along the picket fence earlier this month. I hope my fall gardening efforts will be successful and that I’ll have flowers next summer.

But because the seeds were home-grown and the envelope was simply labeled “red hollyhocks,” I’m not sure whether I’ll have perennials or if they’ll be biennial.

Biennials are plants that have a two-year growth cycle. During the first year, the plants are busy establishing leaves and roots. Flowers are produced the second year after which the plant usually dies. However, because some biennials are such prolific self-seeders, they seem to grow on forever.

Hollyhocks can also be started from seed. I’ve heard other gardeners talk about sprinkling seeds around the garden in the fall, lightly covering them with soil, and waiting for the flowers to appear next summer.


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