Answer: It would be normal for hollyhocks to stay short the first year because most of them behave as biennials, meaning they grow at the base the first year, then send up a bloom stalk the second year. Hollyhocks are subject to a number of foliar problems, many of which are made worse by a damp season. (The most common problem would be hollyhock rust, but it has a noticeable symptom in that there are orange spots on the underside of the leaves. There are many responses about it in the Q&A archive.) Another possible cause would be insect activity, possibly aphids within the newest growth, with the damage only showing up later as the leaves mature. These can be controlled with insecticidal soap. In any case, remove and destroy the infected leaves as they appear and make sure to clean up around the plants this fall to try to reduce chances of carryover to next year.
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