Friday, March 12, 2010

Black Hollyhock

For Christmas a gardener friend of mine gave me Black Hollyhock seeds. Does she know me well or what? :)

I have planted Hollyhocks before, but never this black (actually dark purple) version before. That being the case I did a little research on them before I started the seeds for the garden.

The "Nigra" variant of Alcea rosea is as nearly black as any flower gets. It is an heirloom variety which Thomas Jefferson grew. The species is native to the Mediterranean region, & has been gardened throughout Europe since at least 1500. The black form was described in 1629 by John Parkinson as, "Of darke red like black blood."

It is an easily self-seeding biennial or short lived perennial which will live two to five years. It grows swiftly to an enormous height. The main plant is only a foot & a half, but the gigantic flower spikes are "small" at five feet, & frequently eight or ten feet tall!

The individual maroon-black flowers all over these spikes are two or three inches across. It blooms from May or June; deadheading extends bloom to summer's end.The flowers make excellent bouquets & are liked by butterflies, bees, & hummingbirds.

Toward autumn the basal foliage begins to look spotted & poor, hence is usually regarded as a back-border plant not only because of its extreme height, but because it is not "specimen worthy" as a center of attention, though splendid for ongoing bloom in the background.

It's other fault is the flower-weighted spikes are apt to fall over in hard weather so will either need staking or preferably to grow against a fence or barn wall. It should be cut to the ground early autumn when the final blooms go to seed.

Black Hollyhock requires a dryish light or poor soil in full sun area to do well, & where it will be low-maintenance. To get them started, seeds should be sewn in the summer. Rosettes of big hairy leaves will develop by autumn then die back before winter. It will bloom the following summer. And how it will bloom!

Sounds like the perfect plant for my yard. The soil in my area is not great, mostly clay, which requires me to bring in lots of mulch and compost every year to keep the soil health. Any plant that likes "poor soil" is welcome in my garden!

I will put the seeds in the garden shed until next month when I will start them in pots. Looking forward to this added contrasting color in my garden this summer.


  1. ~OH my STARS...these are absolutely STUNNING...i have been wanting to plant a "black" garden this year...will be off to find these beautiful seeds...thank you for sharing...brightest blessings~

  2. Love them! I haven't had them in a couple years. I'll need to snag some seeds this year. :)

  3. It is quite hard to find a flower as black as this Hollyhock. Quite stunning.
    Shall keep it in mind for future gardens.

    Thank you! :0)

  4. I picked up a bunch of seeds, but then read on the internet that they will not bloom until the second year. Thats okay, because they are stunning.

  5. i planted a black hollyhock last year, and i am waiting to see what it does! i also planted a dark poppy (from seed) and i am thrilled that they are all sprouting like mad! i am loving your garden blog...beautiful!