Photo: Janice Tucker
In 1873, a rust disease spread from South America to Australia and then to Europe where it attacked hollyhocks. The effects of the disease were so devastating that the cultivation of hollyhocks was all but abandoned by the end of the 19th century in Europe. They began to be popular again by the 1930s. Rust can still be a problem, but there are more effective methods of treatment today.
Malcolm Newman of Newman’s Nursery says hollyhocks are well suited to the Santa Fe climate, heat loving, with very deep roots and the ability to winter over. Plants can thrive on their own, but will also do well with light feeding and adequate water. Soil must drain well. If plants are cared for properly and spent blossoms removed, a plant can bloom two or even three times during the growing season. They can be started from seeds or purchased from many nurseries.
“I recommend clipping off leaves near the blooms so they are more visible,” says Malcolm. “If the plant is doing well, you can get up to two or three bloom displays per year. Many new varieties are being introduced now, so there are new possibilities every growing season.”
Summing up how to grow hollyhocks, Malcolm says, “Gardening is the same as cooking. You have to start with really good ingredients (or plants). Then you have to pay attention to your plant. No matter how good your ingredients are, if you don’t pay attention you can burn your dinner or weaken your plant.”
Avail/able colors now range from pale yellows to deep purple with double and single varieties. Some local nurseries carry one year, and even two-year plants ready to bloom. Whether you have a pampered plot in your garden, or pass a cluster growing by the wayside, enjoy this reminder of our “good luck” to be a part of the enchantment of northern New Mexico.