Alcea also known as Hollyhock is a genus of flowering plants native to Europe and Asia. Hollyhocks are annual, biennial, or perennial plants usually taking an erect, unbranched form. The flower stalks on hollyhocks can reach heights of 9 feet tall and can tower above a garden, adding a lovely vertical element to your garden. The flowers of hollyhocks may be solitary or arranged in fascicles or racemes. The notched petals are usually over three centimeters wide and may be pink, white, purple, or yellow. Gardeners enjoy growing hollyhocks in borders against walls and fences where their spectacular flowers stand tall above all else.
Hollyhocks need full sun and moist, rich, well drained soil something that novice gardeners made a mistake of when they planted hollyhocks in a soil that is a bit dry. Prior to the start of planting prepare the area by working in plenty of organic matter such as compost or aged animal manure into the garden. This step is essential to improve the condition of the soil by improving the drainage and increasing its ability to hold water and nutrients.
Next step is to sow the seeds just beneath the soil 1-2 weeks before last frost. In 10-14 days the seeds will germinate, after that thin to 18-36 inches apart after seedlings have sprouted. During dry conditions water as needed to ensure flowers keep blooming. To obtain bigger bolder blooms add organic flower fertilizer every couple of weeks. Cut stalks to the ground when the flowers fade.
Bear in mind that hollyhocks are susceptible to fungal diseases, such as anthracnose, rust and powdery mildew, which can disfigure the leaves under severe infestations. Avoid overhead watering whenever possible, properly space plants to improve air circulation and apply copper or sulfur spray to prevent further infection.
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