More Information About Alcea
Alcea is a genus of roughly 60 Asian and European species of perennial plants related to hibiscus, cotton, cocoa and okra (Mallows). Gardeners in the northern states are especially familiar with cultivars of the common garden hollyhock, Alcea rosea, whose tall spikes of large colorful flowers are a common site in cottage gardens and on farmsteads. The flowers are beautiful and attract hummingbirds. In the wild, Alcea species live in hot dry habitats in grasslands or on rocky soils. In the garden they can survive in very hot, dry sites, but humidity will do them in. In the South where summer humidity is sauna-like, the common Alcea rosea is very short-lived and the plants to quickly succumb to one of the many diseases that are common with this group such as rust and powdery mildew. However there are species that can beat the heat.
We searched to find hollyhocks for humid gardens and found Alcea rugosa in of all places, the Carpathian mountain region of the Ukraine and the Caucasus mountain region of Armenia and Turkey. This species is much more rust resistant and better suited to the South than a typical hollyhock. Alcea rugosa is quite drought-tolerant and can really take the heat once established. The flowers produce copious amounts of seed which will replace the short-lived (3-4 years) parent plant and provide plenty to share.
Alcea is in the mallow family. To see all the other mallows for sale, check here.