How to Grow Hollyhocks From Seed in 7 Simple Steps

Looking to plant some hollyhocks by seed in your garden this season? These garden favorites are often purchased as nursery transplants, but are also a favorite plant to grow from seed. In this article, gardening expert Paige Foley outlines the simple steps you'll want to follow when growing hollyhocks from seed this season.

hollyhocks from seed

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Hollyhocks are an old-time biennial flower grown in gardens for centuries. They rise high above the garden with beautiful double or single-bloom flower stacks. Starting hollyhocks from seed is a common practice in the fall or spring, but they can also be purchased as bare-root plants or containers.

These flowers produce thousands of seeds and are easy to harvest. Once the flower is spent, cut or pinch it off the plant and remove the seeds from the head. Plant the seeds in a new location or share them with others who love the look of hollyhocks.

Traditional varieties are biennial; you will have to plant seeds 2 years in a row to get flowers every year. A few varieties will bloom and produce seeds in their first year. Let’s look at some simple steps to help you grow hollyhocks from seed, indoors and out.

Step One: Choosing Varieties

There are endless varieties of hollyhocks to choose from. These plants come in numerous sizes, from 3 feet tall to 8 feet tall. They can have single and double blooms that come in many colors. It can be overwhelming to choose from, but below are a few popular varieties to help in your search.

‘Nigra’

Close-up of a blooming Hollyhock 'Nigra' plant in a sunny garden, against a blurred background. The plant is tall, forms vertical stems covered with large velvety leaves and showy funnel-shaped flowers. The leaves are large, lobed and palmate, dark green in color, with a slightly velvety texture. The plant forms large single flowers maroon, almost black. The flowers are collected in vertical spikelets, with many flowers opening from the bottom up.
‘Nigra’ has tall stems and deep maroon single blooms. It is a captivating choice for attracting pollinators.

This dark single-bloom hollyhock is a true classic. It produces deep maroon, almost black large, single blooms. This variety has a mature height of 5 to 7 feet and attracts many pollinators. This variety will turn heads with its almost black blooms, a rarely seen bloom color.

‘Charters Double Yellow’

Close-up of a Hollyhock Charters Double Yellow flowering plant in a garden against a blurred background. The plant has large double yellow flowers. The flowers have several layers of petals, which creates a rich and full look. The flower petals are slightly frilled.
‘Charters Double Yellow’ is a tall hollyhock with abundant, ruffled, yellow double blooms that thrive with ample water and sunlight.

This beautiful golden-yellow double-bloom hollyhock has a mature height of 5 to 7 feet. Provide plenty of water and sunlight for the best performance. ‘Charters Double Yellow’ is a double-blooming variety. This will produce numerous ruffled petals all from one flower head.

‘Radiant Rose’

Close-up of a blooming Hollyhock Radiant Rose flower in a garden. The flower is large, showy, funnel-shaped with overlapping petals. Petals range from soft pastels to bright and rich hues. They have a smooth texture with many white veins.
This is a stunning single-bloom hollyhock with a range of beautiful pink shades.

This is a delicate single-bloom variety that produces dazzling shades of pink. Blooming from mid-summer to late fall, the stalk of blooms grows from the bottom up. This variety is known for blooming in its first year when sown early in the spring. An excellent option for the impatient gardener like myself!

Step 2: Choosing Location

Close-up of blooming hollyhocks in a sunny garden. hollyhocks is a tall and elegant perennial with large green lobed leaves with a soft velvety texture. The flowers are large, showy, and have a distinct funnel shape with overlapping petals. Flowers are pale pink, medium pink and deep pink.
For optimal growth, ensure they receive at least 8 hours of sunlight daily, resulting in more blooms and taller stalks.

Deciding where to plant hollyhocks can be a struggle. Since they can get so tall, you must find a location where they won’t cover lower-growing plants. They are best grown at the back of flower beds, along buildings, fences, or walkways. The dwarf varieties can be grown in containers or low flowerbeds.

The species need plenty of sunlight. They can tolerate partial shade, but you should choose a location that receives 8 hours of sunlight per day for the best performance. This will encourage more blooms and taller stalks. They will continue to produce blooms and stalks in partial shade, but their production may be significantly less.

Step 3: Planting the Seeds

op view, close-up of a wooden plate with Hollyhock seeds. There are many dry Hollyhock seed heads on the table next to the plate. Seeds are small, oval, dark brown in color, covered with a protective seed coat.
Fall planting is easier, as they can lie dormant until spring, resulting in seedlings sprouting within 10 days.

Hollyhock seeds can be planted outdoors in the fall or indoors in early spring. Depending on the season you choose to plant, more work will be involved in one over the other. Let’s take a look at planting seeds in autumn.

Fall Planting

If this is your first year planting hollyhock seeds, the easiest time to plant is in the fall. Planting in the fall will allow the seeds to lay dormant in the soil until conditions are ideal to germinate. Hollyhocks are very winter-hardy, and their seeds can withstand freezing soil conditions.

Once you have chosen your variety and location, work the soil so it’s loose and easy to create holes. Place the seeds into ¼-inch deep holes and cover them with soil. Seedlings should be about 2 feet apart. If you are worried about seeds dying over winter, you can plant closer and thin out once they have germinated.

These flowers need plenty of space to spread. Planting too close together can cause diseases like rust. Once conditions are ideal, your seedlings should sprout within 10 to 14 days. Planting in the fall is much simpler and less time-consuming than spring.

Spring Planting

If you plant in the spring, the seeds must be started in containers indoors. Consider starting indoors 6 to 9 weeks before the anticipated last frost of the season. Begin by gathering supplies. Below is a list of items to gather before planting indoors:

  • 2 to 3-inch pots or celled planting trays
  • Potting soil
  • Seeds
  • Light source (grow lights or south-facing sunny window access) 
  • Water

Helpful Tip: Place your seeds in warm water to help soften the seed coat and encourage faster germination. This step isn’t necessary, but it speeds things up.

You don’t need a greenhouse to start your hollyhock seeds, but they do need access to adequate lighting. Fill your pots or cells with the potting soil and make a shallow hole, about ¼ of an inch deep. Place one seed per hole and cover it with soil. Water well and place in indirect sunlight.

Step 4: Successful Germination

Close-up of a young sprouted Hollyhock seedling in a starter seed tray, against a blurry background. The Hollyhock seedling has a thin short pale green stem with three cotyledons. The cotyledons are small, rounded, smooth, green in color with white veins.
These flowers prefer warm, moist conditions for germination.

Hollyhocks thrive in warm, moist conditions. Typically, it will take 10 to 14 days for your seedlings to germinate. There are some ways to promote germination.

Consider placing plastic wrap or clear plastic bags over pots or cells if planted indoors in spring. This will create a small greenhouse effect and keep temperatures and moisture high. This is a great option if you don’t have access to a greenhouse.

It may take longer for seeds to germinate if soils are too soggy or dry. Check your seedlings daily to ensure they are properly watered. Hollyhock seedlings prefer room temperatures around 65 to 75 F.

Step 5: Caring for Seedlings

Top view, close-up of growing Hollyhock seedlings in seed starter tray. The seedlings are young, consist of a pair of cotyledons and a pair of true leaves. The cotyledons are rounded, slightly heart-shaped, smooth, green with white veins. The true leaves are small, heart-shaped, with lobed margins and are slightly wrinkled and velvety in texture. The starter tray has square deep cells filled with a moist soil mixture.
Transfer seedlings to a larger pot when they reach 2 to 3 inches tall.

Once hollyhock seedlings are 2 to 3 inches tall with a set of first true leaves, move them to a larger pot. A 3 to 4-inch pot should be enough room until you are ready to plant outdoors. The deeper the pot, the better. Hollyhock produces a large tap root that grows deep into the soil. Consider using pots 10 to 12 inches deep to allow for adequate growth. Be careful when removing to avoid breaking or damaging the seedling.

Upgrading your pots will require more space, be sure to find a location that will allow indirect sunlight to hit the pots. Direct sunlight can burn the seedlings and cause them to die. Intense sunlight will also dry your soil quicker. Monitor your seedlings to prevent the soil from drying out. Water frequently to promote proper growth.

Step 6: Hardening Off

Close-up of Hollyhock seedlings in small white plastic pots outdoors while hardening off. The seedlings produce a rosette of upright thin stems with lobed leaves, round in shape, with serrated edges and a slightly velvety texture. The leaves are bright green.
Hardening off seedlings involves gradually exposing them to outdoor temperatures so they can acclimate.

Hardening off allows your seedlings to get acclimated to the outdoors. This can be beneficial in spring when the risk of frost is still present at night. In northern regions, frost can happen late in the spring. Your hollyhocks will love the bright sunlight but be protected from cold night temperatures.

To begin, place your plants outdoors 1 to 2 hours a day. Every few days, increase the time the seedlings are outdoors. This gradual increase will help the plants adjust to the temperatures and sunlight outside.

Bring your seedlings indoors every night to protect them from early spring chills. This process should only last a few weeks, and once the risk of frost in your region has passed, you’re ready to plant your seedlings outdoors.

Step 7: Planting Outdoors

Close-up of a gardener's hands in grey-black gloves transplanting a Hollyhock seedling into the soil outdoors. The Hollyhock seedling has a root ball shaped like a small plastic pot. The plant forms upright, thin, slightly hairy stems with rounded bright green leaves with serrated edges. In the blurred background, there are two young Hollyhock seedlings in white plastic pots.
Choose a sunny, well-drained area. Dig holes matching the pot or cell tray’s height and space your seedlings 2 feet apart.

It’s finally time to plant your seedlings outdoors. Begin by choosing a sunny, well-draining area to plant your hollyhock seedlings. Once you have identified a location, dig holes as deep as your pot height. This way, you can pull the hollyhock from the plant and place it directly into the hole.

Plant your hollyhocks about 2 feet apart. This will allow for spreading as the seeds drop each year. We don’t want to overcrowd the hollyhocks because this won’t allow proper airflow between each hollyhock. Lack of airflow can cause diseases like rust to grow and spread rapidly.

Cover with soil and water frequently for the next couple of days. We want to encourage root growth to establish a healthy plant.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will my Hollyhock bloom the first year?

This is dependent on the variety you choose to plant and your climate. Hollyhocks are usually biennials and produce blooms in their 2nd year of life. Some varieties boast that they produce a bloom in their first year. If these varieties are started early enough, they may flower in their first year, but it will often be a smaller flowering than if allowed to overwinter and bloom in year 2.

Why aren’t my seeds germinating?

There are a number of factors to consider if your seeds are germinating. If you have planted outdoors, soil temperatures may not be warm enough to induce germination. If planted indoors, lack of sunlight and heat can be causing delays in germination. Room temperatures should be 65 to 75° F and planted in indirect sunlight for at least 8 hours a day. Inconsistent soil moisture is also a major problem in germination; ensure your soil remains damp to the touch while your seeds are germinating.

Does Hollyhock spread?

Because they are so great at self-seeding, they will drop their seed and new hollyhocks will grow. This will appear as if the hollyhocks are spreading and they will quickly fill the area you have planted them in.

Final Thoughts

This self-seedling species is an ideal choice for beginner and experienced gardeners. Their beautiful blooms are sure to bring towers of color all season long. Starting hollyhocks from seed is a cost-effective way to bring more blooms to your yard each year. Share seeds with friends, family, and other gardeners so they, too, can experience the joys of growing hollyhocks.

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