Alcea ficifolia is a less-known variety of hollyhock. Native to Siberia it was introduced at the end of the 16th century. Reliably perennial it is commonly known as the 'Antwerp' or 'Fig-leaved Hollyhock' due to its attractive, unusual palmate foliage.
'Single Mix' bloom in a gorgeous variety of shades - cream, gold, rose pink,, copper and plum. Very easy to grow from seed, this reliable perennial is extremely hardy and will flourish in full sun and rich soil.
Alcea ficifolia is a substantially more robust plant than the common hollyhock and is reliably perennial, and unlike the biennial forms which produce a single spire, Alcea ficifolia produce many upright stems emerging from the base, resulting in a bushy form. It is considered a perennial and will act like one if cut back after blooming and is shown to have the best levels of resistance to rust.
Growing to around 180 to 240cm tall, (6 to 8ft), it produces large, 8 to 12cm (3 to 5in) single saucer shaped flowers from May to October. They are most impressive in the garden as tall border plants or for background planting. They bloom from mid summer to frost and the long stems make for excellent cut flowers.
Sowing: Sow in late winter to spring or in autumn
Sow November to March for blooms the same year.
Like all Hollyhocks, the Fig-leaved Hollyhock is easy to grow from seed, but unlike the tall varieties which are biennials, it is a perennial that will flower in its first year if sown early in the year. The plant quickly forms a dense, well-branched plant.
Sow the seeds can be sown directly into a prepared bed or can be started in pots in a cold frame or indoors.
Sow the seeds on the surface of the soil, cover with about 2mm (¼in) layer of soil. Keep moist and do not let the seeds dry out once planted. They will usually germinate in 2 to 3 weeks at 20°C (68°F). If planted indoors, prick out each seedling as it becomes large enough to handle, transplant into 7.5cm (3in) pots or trays. Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out after all risk of frost.
Plant out in rich, moist but well drained soil about two weeks before the last frosts. The flowers grow throughout June to July at an incredibly fast rate The plants need plenty of room, space them 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) apart. Hollyhocks love rich soil, dress the soil around them with compost, rotted or mushroom manure or seaweed.
Deadhead to prolong the flowering season through to August. Alcea ficifolia perennialise very well, especially if the flower stalk is cut off after the majority of the blossoms have gone to seed.
To encourage self-sown seedlings for the subsequent season, allow some blossoms on the stalks to form seed pods. Others can be pulled up and composted.
The foliage lasts well into autumn. Once the leaves have died back for winter, give your plants bonemeal for the roots of the plants. In cold area the plants will benefit from a mulch to protect from winter frosts.
Plant Uses: :
Cottage/Informal Garden, Containers, Flower Arranging, Flowers Borders and Beds, Wildflower Gardens or Wildlife Gardens
Swedish Botanist Carl Linnaeus whose arrangement for classifying, naming, and ranking, living things during the mid to late 1700s is still in wide use today, albeit with a good many changes; identified this plant, and suggested both the Latin Alcea and Greek Althea to designate these pretty cultivars.
“Althea” is the Greek word for “healing”. Hollyhock have long been used medicinally.
“ficifolia” means “with leaves like a fig”
Holly is said to be an altered form of the word holy. The plant is said to have been brought back with the Crusades having been transplanted in many parts of the world during the Middle Ages. In Medieval times the hollyhock was known as "St. Joseph's Staff.'
It is referred to in a British horticultural treatise of 1548 as holy-hoke, an adaptation of the Welsh name. It may also have been called Hock Leaf because it was used to reduce the swelling in horses' hocks. The Anglo-Saxon word for Mallow was "hoc”.
The seeds have been called "cheeses" because the pod is shaped like a wheel of cheese.
Hollyhocks recognised today are believed to be of Asian origin, they are depicted in Chinese art as early as the 9th century, symbolizing passing time. Their route to the the rest of the world seems to have followed the Silk Road.
Hollyhocks may have started out as plants for the wealthy, shown in Chinese art and (much later) in the walled gardens of the rich. But it wasn’t long before the innate hardiness of hollyhocks, and the large supplies of seed they provide, brought them into the working classes and into cottage gardens.
The Hollyhock is a very old plant. The grave of a 50,000 year old Neanderthal man was found to contain the remains of Hollyhocks. Although Hollyhocks may have no medicinal uses in modern times, the plants were used in antiquity to solve a myriad of health issues. Medicinally, the plant was used primarily as an emollient (something that softens, something used to make a salve), as a minor pain reliever, and as a diuretic.
If you have a sheep with sore feet, follow the instruction of Gervase Markham (1614) and
"annoint her feet with the juyce of the Hearb Holyhocke."
The flowers are edible. Hollyhock buds were used in a recipe of 1660, with Marigolds, Wild Thyme and young Hazel buds to enable one to see fairies. In the past Hollyhocks were pressed into service for making and dyeing cloth and children used to make Hollyhock dolls from the flowers.
And before we leave the subject, one more lovely bit, from Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses:
All the names I know from nurse:
Gardener's garters, shpher'd purse;
Bachelor's buttons, lady's smock,
And the lady hollyhock.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 1 gram Average Seed Count 80 seeds Family Malvaceae Genus Alcea (Althaea) Species ficifolia Cultivar Single Mix Common Name The Antwerp or Fig-leaved Hollyhock Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers A variety of shades - cream, pink, gold, rose, copper and plum. Natural Flower Time Mid Summer to Late Summer Foliage Herbaceous Height 180 to 240cm tall, (6 to 8ft) - Fast growing Position Full Sun Soil Fertile, well-drained soil Time to Sow Sow in winter through to spring (November to March)