Figleaf Hollyhock (Alcea ficifolia) Info
The large flowers and soft fuzzy leaves make this hollyhock a Venus-ruled plant. This magick herb is associated with Ceres and Demeter and the festival of the first fruits. The seed pods of this wonderful Faery plant are known as "fairy cheese" because they are shaped like an old-fashioned wheel of cheese. They make a good symbol for a well stuffed purse and because of the abundance of seeds, for fertility. The flower essence of hollyhocks opens the heart chakra and is encouraging and uplifting. In ancient Egypt, flowers of this herb were imported and made into wreaths used to decorate mummies. Thus, this plant has strong associations with death and rebirth. Top
Butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds love the flowers, which can be dried and used for coloring. Hollyhocks are good cut flowers (after cutting, turn the stem over, fill the hollow interior with water, and plug with a bit of cotton ball). The buds will open. All hollyhocks are great plants for cottage gardens; this particular variety was very popular with Victorians. It resists the hollyhock fungal disease called rust better than any other hollyhock, but you can keep it strong by making sure that it does not suffer any stress. Keep well watered and give enough fertilizer. Some people also remove the lowest two leaves to decrease the amount of damage from rust. This herb is also known as Antwerp hollyhock and Althea ficifolia. Some botanists consider it not to be a separate species from Alcea rosea at all. Top
How to grow figleaf hollyhock: Barely cover seeds to germinate at 68F/20C in 1-2 weeks. Keep moist but not soppy. You can also plant directly outside in June. This plant likes a sheltered (not too much wind), sunny site and rich soil. If your soil is heavy clay, add sand or peat moss to fluff it up and help with drainage. Space at 2ft/60cm. It does not like extreme heat, as in south Florida. If grown there, try planting it on the north side of the house and not in full sun. It usually spends the first year making a rosette of leaves and forming a sturdy root, then in the second year a large spike will shoot up 70"/108cm and start blooming, but sometimes you will get lucky and it will bloom late in the first year. If you cut the stalk after the flowers start forming seedpods, the plant will get more branches and thus more flowers. Cover with mulch the width of a human hand to protect in winter, although if you get good snow cover all winter, you don't need to. They like to reseed themselves. Survives in zones 3-8 (down to -40F/C). General growing info Top
© 2004, 2013 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction of any part without permission.