Commonly known as hollyhocks, alceas are wonderful hardy perennials producing hairy leaves from which appear tall, dramatic spikes of open flowers loved by pollinating insects. Perfect planted at the back of a border or against a wall/fence, these cottage favourites will add interest to the garden with their impressive blooms. Try mixing with achilleas, agapanthuses, astrantias, crocosmias or geraniums.
Plant in well-drained, moderately fertile soil in full sun. Stake as needed and water regularly in summer as they do not like very dry conditions. After flowering, cut back to around 15 cm from the ground.
Alceas are supplied in 9 cm pots. Always unpack and plant on arrival.
Potential problems, pests and diseases:
Flea beetles:these small beetles feed on foliage, creating small holes and cavities in the upper side of the leaves. Although it is unlikely that established plants will sustain fatal damage, vulnerable seedlings may not survive. Cover young plants with a net as needed and dispose of any deceased plant material and debris ahead of the winter months to prevent flea beetles from overwintering in your garden.
Snails, slugs and cut worms:these pests enjoy munching on young shoots, stems, leaves and flowers. Watch out for damage!
Hollyhock rust: this fungal disease generally appearing in the form of bronze pustules on the underside of the leaves can dramatically impact the appearance and strength of alceas. Since humidity promotes infection, avoid growing plants in areas with poor air circulation and water them first thing in the morning to allow their leaves to dry out quickly. Destroy any affected foliage.