Hollyhocks are an old-time favorite flower, growing a stalk up to 6 feet tall and producing brightly colored single and double flowers along that stalk. They are strikingly gorgeous in a cottage garden and are frequently seen in paintings growing next to old red barns.

Occasionally you can find someone selling hollyhock seedlings, but most often you have to plant them by seed – and you get a greater variety of blossoms that way.

You could direct-plant the seeds outdoors, but you will have better luck if you plant them indoors about now and transplant them outside in late May.

Hollyhocks are biennials, which means they produce only foliage the first year and flowers and seeds the second year. If you want to have hollyhocks every year, plant seedlings two years straight and they will self-seed to give you blossoms every year.

Plant the seeds a quarter-inch deep in a good planting medium, keep moist and provide good light and ventilation until the seedlings are about four inches tall. Once they are that large, put the seedlings outside during the day and bring them inside at night for about a week so they adapt to outside conditions. Then plant them outside in a sunny spot with rich soil (add compost or dried cow manure) and some wind protection (hence the planting by barns), about 18 inches apart. They might require staking when in bloom, but otherwise need little care.

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