Summer declines and roses have grown rare,
But cottage crofts are gay with hollyhocks,
And in old garden walks you breathe an air
Fragrant of pinks and August-smelling stocks.
—John Todhunter (1839-1916)
Hollyhocks, or alcea, are colorful garden plants with long stalks that often reach up to eight feet high and produce flowers in white, pink, yellow, and crimson. Each stalk typically grows 7 to 12 flowers. Among the 60 species of hollyhocks, the alcea rosea, alcea pallida, alcea biennis, and alcea sulphurea are popular with home gardeners. Hollyhocks are biennials, which means they produce leaves in July and August of their first year and flowers the second year. To maintain healthy and vibrant plants, you’ll need to grow fresh hollyhocks each year and maintain them well against pests and disease. Most hollyhocks survive from 2 to 3 years.