|My hollyhocks appear healthy - lots of leaves, and grow the flower spires and buds, but most of the buds never bloom, just turn brown and dry up. What causes this?|
|I believe the problem with your flowers is thrips. It's such a common problem that there are thrips species named for the two flowers! These insects are very tiny and start their work inside the emerging flower and leaf buds, so by the time the symptoms show up, the damage has already been done.
You can try to control them with early detection. Place yellow sticky traps in the flower beds around 4 weeks after your last spring frost. Check them daily for signs of the tiny, fringe-winged adults (a hand lens or magnifying glass helps). As soon as they appear, treat the leaf and flower buds with insecticidal soap every three days for two weeks. This should reduce the damage.