Hardy, early-summer flowering biennial
Description: Maroon-black, single flowers on tall stalks
Habit: Grows 6-8 feet high and 2 feet wide
Culture: Prefers full sun and moderately rich soil
Hardiness: Cold hardy to USDA Zone 3
Origin: Asia Minor
Attributes: Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies
Hollyhocks have been grown in American gardens since early colonial days. In John Parkinson's A Garden of Pleasant Flowers (1629), he described a variety as being "of a darke red like black bloud", which probably corresponds to this black form. The Boston nurseryman, John B. Russe, offered seeds of "Black antwerp hollyhock: Althea nigra" in a forty-two-page catalogue published in 1827. Hollyhocks are often reminiscent of cottage or grandmother's gardens of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and were a dominant flower in garden illustrations. Thomas Jefferson grew hollyhocks, but there is no reference to the black hollyhock in his papers. Although classed as a biennial, hollyhocks often live for several years, like a perennial. Hollyhock flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds.