The Q&A Archives: Hollyhocks: biennials?

Question: I'm confused about my Chater's Double hollyhocks. Some say they are biennials, and others say they are perennials. Can you settle this? D.B. Colorado Springs, CO

Answer: Chater's Double and other hollyhocks are often described as biennial, but in many gardens they're short-lived perennials, says Kevin Milaeger, owner of Milaeger's Nursery in Racine, Wisconsin. Chater's Double is a popular old variety we've grown successfully for years. To be sure of having it every year, collect seed as soon as the husks are dry. Sow it right away in containers or in a short nursery row in the garden. Transplant it to its final spot at least a month before hard frost. The plantswill flower the following summer. Chater's Double comes true to seed, so the offspring that flower each year will be similar, Mileager adds. Hollyhocks make stubby roots with renewal buds near the crown, which is how they remain perennial. But these buds are easily damaged or destroyed by digging or frost heaving, so individual plants can come and go. There are usually replacements waiting in the wings, however, because the plant self-sows so readily. If you sow hollyhock early enough in the season, in a greenhouse or cold frame, for example, some of the plants will flower the first year from seed.

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