Q: I bought a hollyhock plant last spring in Tennessee. It did nothing last year but profusely put out leaves. This spring it has grown enormously and has this weird looking thing on the end of the stalk. Is this a bud? I thought hollyhocks from my childhood bloomed along the stalk and not at the end.

I think you’re seeing a flower pod waiting to open. My bet is that as the stalk grows taller you’ll have more side leaves and more flower buds to enjoy along the stem.

Hollyhocks usually behave as a biennial. They sprout and grow several leaves in the fall of one year, overwinter, then grow tall and set their flowers the following spring and summer. That explains why yours did nothing last year but is preparing to flower thisseason.

Some hollyhock strains behave as annuals. They can sprout and bloom during the same growing season.

You might try persuading your hollyhock to behave more as a perennial. After a couple of months of bloom, plants will look ratty and there will be only a few flowers at the top of the stalk. Cut the plant back to just above its lowest leaves.

These leaves will feed new leaves which sprout around the base of the stalk. Just before frost, cut off the stalk just above the basal leaves. If the winter is not too severe the leaves will remain on the plant and it will reflower the second year.

I’ve never had one last longer than that but you are welcome to experiment to see what you can make happen in later years.

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