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29.11.09

How To Collect Hollyhock Seeds

The first hollyhocks I grew in my garden were black hollyhocks in memory of an old neighbor who grew them when I was a kid. These hollyhocks were biennial, from seed they take two years to complete a life cycle, and I didn't save any seeds and so lost both of them.

Why didn't I save seeds from my hollyhocks? Not really sure why I didn't since hollyhock seeds are easy to collect. If you have a hollyhock in your garden that you really like, you should save some seeds from it every year and sow them.

Collecting and saving hollyhock seeds is very simple.

Hollyhock flower, how to collect hollyhock seedsHow to collect and save hollyhock seeds

The hollyhocks blooms in your garden will probably be pollinated by bees. Bumblebees, in particular seem to really like hollyhock blooms. After the bloom has been pollinated the petals will fall off.

Unripe hollyhock seed pod, how to collect hollyhock seeds
When the bloom's petals fall off they expose the pod where the seeds are developing. The hollyhock seed pod starts off green and then turns brown, like the above picture illustrates. The first time I paid attention to the seed pod I thought it resembled an old coin purse with the string at the top to draw it closed. This seed pod is probably ready to split open and harvest the seeds from. If you look closely, you may be able to spot the outline of the seeds. Although, I prefer to leave the seed pod alone until it opens by itself.


Ripe hollyhock seed pod, how to collect hollyhock seedsWhen the seeds inside have expanded and the pod has split open, you know the hollyhock seeds are ready to collect. The dark, circular seeds seem to expand to release themselves. Even at this point they don't go very far from the plant, the seeds stick together and are not easily disturbed by wind or rain.

Hollyhock seeds, how to collect hollyhock seedsFor example, these hollyhock seed and seed pod were ready back in August. I left them on the stem to see how long they would remain attached to the stem or to each other. In late November I finally collected them because they would probably would've remained in their location until the whole plant succumbed to a frost. Don't the seeds look like little coins?

 Hollyhock weevilsIf you grow hollyhocks in your garden you have to be prepared to deal with hollyhock rust and pests like the hollyhock weevils pictured above. Hollyhock weevils will feed on the developing buds of the bloom and will lay eggs inside. When you collect the entire seed pod, weeks or months later you may discover that the eggs inside have hatched. Separate the seeds from the pod and place them in a paper envelope, then seal the envelope with tape or glue. This way if you find you brought in any weevil larvae or adult weevils, you can toss the envelope containing the hollyhock seeds into the freezer for a few days to kill them.

Here is what a hollyhock seed pod infested with hollyhock weevils looks like. You want to avoid saving seeds from hollyhock seed pods that look like this.


Notice that the seed pods have holes in them. Inside the hollyhock seeds will also have holes in them. If you break open the seeds you'll find a number of weevils emerge. Seed collected from infected hollyhocks may contains hollyhock weevil larvae and eggs that will hatch indoors. The first time I saved hollyhock seeds I set them on a windowsill to dry and weeks later I had lots of hollyhock weevils all over the place, not fun.

How to Save Hollyhocks Video





Hollyhocks can be either annuals or biennial. Biennial hollyhocks will germinate the first year and grow, but will not flower until the second year of growth. After that they start to die after having been replaced by offspring produced by the hollyhock seeds. If your hollyhocks are biennial it is important to save your hollyhock seed ever year so as not to lose your plants.

46 comments:

  1. I love how the closed seed pod int he one photo looks like burlap--so textury! Hollyhocks are one of the first plants I grew from seed--I just sprinkled the seeds onto the ground and enough came up the next year--that way you always have blooms each year, too. They're also ideal for winter sowing because the seeds are easy to handle and they come up/can be planted out fairly early. P.S. Black hollyhocks rule! P.P.S. Why the heck do I not have any black hollyhocks? I used to!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes, I was going to say it looks like burlap as well! A burlap bag! Nice!

    Your trick about putting them in the freezer a few days is a great tip! I do this with bags of rice when I buy them now too...keep them in the freezer...to kill and small bugs that could come in the bag.

    ReplyDelete
  3. @Monica,

    If you can figure out why you don't have any black hollyhocks blooming in your garden let me know. Because I'm wondering why after two years of them being absent from the garden I have yet to rectify this problem!

    @Julie,

    Thanks for the rice tip, I had never thought of it. Your comment reminded me that when I was in college I was working at a home goods store that imported a lot of goofy things. One such goofy thing was Styrofoam balls covered in different colored beans that fancy people would buy and put out in bowls or vases to look like they lived in third world countries. Anyway, one year the store I was working at was overrun by some weird bugs that got into everything! These bugs would climb on you and get in your hair, ears, mouth-everywhere! We fought those f-ing bugs for weeks before we realized the bugs were hatching inside the beans used to decorate those Styrofoam balls. Who knows what those bugs were and what kind of problem this company imported into the country. A few days after we noticed the source of these nasty bugs there was a quiet product recall of the decorative balls in question. But by then it had been too late.

    I'm getting creeped out remember that experience.

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  4. Hi MBT, great photos! I love hollyhocks - grew them in the back of the border at my last house where there was lots of sun. They did a pretty good job of self-sowing, fortunately. I don't know why I never collected seeds back then. I do now, just like I did when I was little and used to have so much fun looking for four-o-clock seeds to save for the next year.

    Seed saving is definitely one of the pleasures and wonders of gardening. It's such a joy growing plants from seeds, and I'm happy to have rediscovered it in recent years.

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  5. Mr. Brown Thumb, do the hollyhock seeds stay true when subsequent generations flower?

    I am enamored of the black ones as well, but if the seeds of the black ones grow and make flowers that are, oh, pink or something... Well, that would make me cry. Just like my sunflower seeds--no idea what they'll turn out to be next year. But I'm excited to see!

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  6. Interesting photos of the seed pods. That one you thought looks like a change purse reminds me of those cafeteria ladies with their hair nets. Weevils! Yuck. One time I had to throw away a double batch of cookie dough I was making because of meal worms or some such thing getting into the flour. I didn't notice them in the flour when I measured it. Guess I was in a hurry or forgot to wear my glasses. But I sure did notice them when I started to portion the dough on the cookie sheets and saw something crawling out! Maybe that's the real reason why those old Betty Crocker recipes always recommend sifting the flour before adding it.

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  7. interesting post! Glad you mentioned the weevils. eww. That is one kind of new growth you don't want to help along.

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  8. @garden girl,

    Glad you rediscovered it, one of my favorite aspect of gardening is collecting the seeds.

    @kenneth,

    Generally if you don't have other colors around they'll stay true. Although the open nature of the bloom makes it easy for bees or the wind to accidentally pollinate the blooms. Just to be on the safe side, I say hand pollinate a couple of blooms just to keep the strain pure.

    @Walk2Write,

    I'll never look at another cookie the same.

    @Teresa,
    Glad you liked the post, watch out for those pests.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Your photos are totally gorgeous. That seed pod looks to me like it's made of yarn.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi Kerry,

    Thanks for the compliment and for stopping by.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Anonymous4:42 PM

    I'm glad I saw your blog before I opened up my seeds. I collected some from a neighbor's plant and put them in an old spice jar. I'll just pop them in the freezer for a while before opening the lid. FYI, the neighbor, not knowing what he had, pulled out the withered hollyhock plant and tossed it, seeds and all. I hope for his sake some dropped on the ground before he trashed the mother plant.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Anonymous8:47 AM

    Thankyou for the CLEAR photos on how to collect seeds from this plant. I will have to explore your blog for more seed collection from other flowers as some are not as easy as hollyhock. I have a packet of seed that I am going to plant this Autumn for the first time so it is nice to know in advance what to look for.
    Thanks.
    Bazz.
    Australia.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi Anonymous and Anonymous from Australia,

    Glad you both found this post on collecting hollyhock seeds helpful.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Those are great instructions!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Anonymous7:03 PM

    Hi Mr. Brown Thumb,
    Do you know if seed has to be brought inside to be "saved"? I just scattered my dill, rudbeckia and coneflower seeds where the plants were. I'm more used to gardening in zone 7 than here. Thanks so much for any info and thanks very much for your wonderful website!
    landkwindy

    ReplyDelete
  16. @Liza, Glad you found the seed saving instructions helpful.

    @Landkwindy, Technically if you're "saving" seeds that means you're harvesting, drying and storing them-usually indoors. Scattering the seeds where you want them to grow is perfectly acceptable, but it is more seed sowing than seed saving. Make sense? The seeds you scattered should be fine, maybe cover them with some soil now so they don't get blown away between now and spring. Thanks for the feedback on the blog. I appreciate it.

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  17. Anonymous9:07 AM

    Dear Mr. Brown Thumb,
    Please forgive the ignorant question, but what is the advantage of saving seeds over scattering seeds? (I see the advantage if you want to plant them in a different garden.) But aren't you saving seeds to plant in your garden again next spring? Thanks very much for your thoughts and advice!
    landkwindy

    ReplyDelete
  18. @landkwindy, That isn't an ignorant question at all. It is a very good question. The biggest advantage to saving your own seeds, instead of sowing them into the garden, is that you're creating a backup of the seeds. If something where to happen in the garden (construction, garden renovation, if you have to move during winter)you could lose the seeds or seedlings. Saving the seeds also gives you an opportunity to share them with other people.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous4:46 PM

      If you are looking for some seeds for
      The black hollyhocks I would be more than willing to send you some. Abbiebear911@aol.com

      Delete
  19. Anonymous7:19 AM

    Dear Mr. Brown Thumb,
    Thanks very much for the info! All great reasons to save seed. I'll have to start seed saving next year. I'm so glad you are here and on Twitter. Thanks!
    landkwindy

    ReplyDelete
  20. Anonymous8:28 AM

    Its almost the end of June here and I had seed bags that had turned brown. Is it too early to pick them? I did and am now wondering if I shouldn't have.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Anon, When they turn brown the hollyhock seeds are ready to be collected.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was just wondering the same thing! Thanks! I just stumbled on to this site and am thoroughly enjoying myself and learning so much! Thank you, Mr. Brown Thumb! :-)

      Delete
    2. I was just wondering the same thing! Thanks!

      I just stumbled onto this site and am thoroughly enjoying myself and learning so much! Thank you, Mr. Brown Thumb! :-)

      Delete
    3. Hi Cathry, Glad you found the post on saving hollyhock seed useful!

      Delete
  22. Paula Cross9:52 PM

    I planted hollyhocks last year (Houston TX) they have grown twice (I planted the seeds) however I have never had them flower. Not even once. Wondering if they ever will.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Paula,

      Did you plant annual or biennial hollyhock seeds? Hollyhocks are biennial, meaning that they grow foliage the first year (sometimes the second year too) and will bloom the second year they are planted. I don't know what your soil is like, but maybe they would benefit from being fertilized that first year with a fertilizer that encourages blooms.

      Delete
  23. @Paula, Are you growing annual hollyhocks or biennial hollyhocks? The biennial ones will flower the second year.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Anonymous9:06 PM

    Interesting as I purchased 3 holyhock plants years ago and still have them blooming. I did collect seeds one year and noticed holes in them, but didn't think that they were infested. Whenever I find those seeds, I'll pop them in the freezer. I also deadhead marigolds and drop seeds around the blooming plant. Sometimes they sprout immediately and sometimes they come up the next year. You just never know.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Anonymous1:46 PM

    Good Information thankyou! :-))

    ReplyDelete
  26. We had one whole side of our house blooming with Hollyhocks! Last year I harvested the seed pods and collected them in a ziploc baggie... then we moved! So glad I saved some of the seed! Interested to replant them and see what grows?!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's awesome that you saved your hollyhock seeds to grow in your new home. Hope they put on a spectacular flower show there.

      Delete
  27. Do you by chance have any pictures of seedlings? This is my first year trying to grow from seed but I'm not sure what they look like.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sister A,

      Sorry, I don't have pictures of hollyhock seedlings, but to me they look pretty similar to the weed, burdock.

      Delete
  28. I have a tall biennial double stalk hollyhock growing in a 30" pot outside my patio. It has full sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon. Up until 2 weeks ago, I did not know what this plant was until I showed a picture of it to a friend who had a neighbor that grew them. My plants were low and leafy the fist year, died off after the frost, ad then re-sprouted red flowers and the stalk is approximately 12 feet high based on the fact I'm 6'-4" and can reach 8'-0", the plant is a good 4"-0" over my hand. This plant just took off after all the rain we have had here in the northeast. I have to download my photos. Lots of nice comments from passerbys on the nearby sidewalk. The bees seem to like the flowers. The plant seems to drop off flowers (looks like a folded up badminton bird).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your hollyhocks sound awesome. Keep doing what you're doing to make them grow like that.

      Delete
  29. Anonymous9:57 AM

    Hi,
    I have the double holly hocks and the blooms are beautiful,but the sad part it that they don't last long! Then theres the rust,what can you do for that?
    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. See my comment below about dealing with hollyhock rust.

      Delete
  30. I too have the double holly hocks, some are red and some are yellow and they have the 'rust'. My question is how can we stop the rust or what can we do prevent it?
    Thanks
    Joyce - UK

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Joyce,

      There is no real way to completely prevent against rust. Especially if you live in a humid and wet environment. But since rust is a fungal plant disease you can do things to minimize it. Things like only watering at the base of the plant, and never water the leaves. maybe thinning out the plant and plants around it to provide better air circulation would help too.

      Delete
  31. I think I might have a problem with my Hollyhock plant, It had little yellow flowers as it grew all the way up, about 5 feet so far, and I see these enormous flower buds that I'm guessing will open later, but some of them are starting to turn black and I'm worried. The first one on the bottom is completely black, the one next to it is one-quarter black, and the next one up has its tips starting to turn black, its only those three so far but is that normal???

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sergio,

      No that's not normal. And I don't really know what's making your buds turn black and die. You should see about taking one of the buds or taking pictures and see if someone from a local independent garden center in your area could offer you an explanation. You could also try calling/emailing your local Extension office and see if they are familiar with the problem.

      Delete
  32. Anonymous8:54 AM

    I collected some seeds in Monterrey Mexico, but remember people, dont put the seeds in plastic containers (plastic bags) because they are gonna get spoiled, put them in paper bags, and store them in dry places lol

    ReplyDelete
  33. Anonymous6:45 AM

    Hi, Thanks for the great info. I have beautiful pink and yellow hollyhocks which have grown to 8 or 9 feet. The problem is that they have been very windswept over the last couple of weeks and are looking quite tatty. They are still flowering towards the top of the stem but the leaves are looking very dog eared. I have removed the worst offenders but I was wondering if I could harvest the green seed pods early and dry them out on the windowsill? - JB

    ReplyDelete
  34. Anonymous11:35 AM

    I have hollyhocks growing in my yard here in Seattle. Based on your instructions, I have been waiting for the pods to turn brown so I can collect the seeds. Its almost the end of September here and the pods haven't turned brown yet; we have rain in the morning and sun in the afternoon. Frost isn't until mid Nov so I can leave the pods alone and hope they turn brown or try and something else like bringing the plants inside. Any suggestions or tips?

    ReplyDelete

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