Five Uses for Hollyhocks

Five Uses for Hollyhocks

Many people don’t realize that the common garden flower, Hollyhock, is completely edible – root, leaves and blossoms – and useful for more than just its charming looks. It’s a direct relation to Marshmallow and can be used interchangeably for that herb; the primary exception being that Hollyhocks have woodier and tougher roots, and are less palatable for eating purposes than Marshmallow’s softer roots.

One thing to remember about this plant is that high heat and alcohol can denature some of the healing properties, so, for the most part, avoid those two methods of preparing or preserving Hollyhock.

 

Here are my favorite five uses for Hollyhocks:

 

  • 1. A cold infusion:

Taken internally, Hollyhock is soothing to the gastrointestinal, respiratory and urinary tracts in the human body. It promotes urination, soothes ulcers and can help relieve a dry cough. When you have a very sore throat and it’s hard to swallow, try a cold infusion of Hollyhock.

To make, simply gather a handful of fresh flowers or leaves (you can use dried also) and fill the center of a square of cheesecloth. Wrap the sides up to form a crude tea bag of sorts and tie with a string. (I use unwaxed dental floss.) Drape the string over the edge and use the lid to hold it in place. You want to keep it submerged near the top of the water. Leave in place overnight then remove your makeshift bag, refrigerate your infusion, and use within a day or so.

 

  • 2. A poultice:

Hollyhock can be used externally as a poultice for chapped skin, splinters, areas of painful inflammation and swellings. Because of the thickness of the leaves, it is most useful to lightly steam them first to make them more flexible. Apply to the area while still very warm, following with a towel for insulation then strips of cloth to hold the poultice in place.

 

  • 3. An Old Fashioned Hollyhock Doll:

This is not an herbal use, but a fun thing to show the kids! To make, find a small bud and carefully peel away the green underside. You will reveal a tiny “face” with eyes; this will be the head of your doll. Take a fully opened flower, turn upside down and secure the head to it with a toothpick. Now your doll has a beautiful dress with a full ruffled skirt! Add additional toothpick halves for the arms. This simple dolly is completely non-toxic so can even be used to decorate food and drink, as long as you are sure the child is old enough to be careful with the toothpicks.

 

  • 4. A Soap!

(You probably knew this one was coming!) I turn every beneficial thing growing around here into a soap, Hollyhock being no exception! I used an infusion of Hollyhock for the water part of my recipe and added a tiny pinch of rose clay for color – an easy way to personalize your favorite basic soap recipe. Click here for the recipe!

 

  • 5. In the Garden:

Hollyhocks are so easy to grow and so pretty to look at, why not try your hand at growing (and using!) some this year? Mine were handed down to me by my mother, but a great place for pure, untreated, heirloom seeds is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

They’re very drought resistant and do well in poor, hard soils – which is a bonus for me, because as a general rule, the dirt around here is pretty much red clay. Not only do my Hollyhocks come back year after year, they have thrived in a section of my yard that contains such hard dirt, I have to enlist the help of my husband’s muscles just to dig in the area. These are fun for kids to grow too; an especial bonus being that Hollyhocks are a preferred host for Painted Lady Butterflies.

 

I hope this post has not just opened your eyes to some lesser known uses of Hollyhock, but also will encourage you to look around and find the hidden treasures in everything growing around you. A little research and a bit of experimentation and you never know what amazing thing you will find out next!

 

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66 Responses to Five Uses for Hollyhocks

  1. Deana says:

    Wow I had no idea Hollyhocks were so useful……thanks for the info…..I found your wonderful blog via the Homestead Revival party….I’d like to invite you to mine @ CountryMommaCooks…….have a blessed week : )

    • Jan says:

      Hi there Deana! Thanks for the kind words! Your blog looks great! I just liked your facebook page and am looking forward to following along! :) Jan

  2. ILOve them and hope you send friend request to me too ! says:

    Love to follow you farm girl !

  3. indio says:

    Jan, I totally agree with you that hollyhocks are a lovely and useful addition to any cottage garden. My favorites are the double black ones. I have to remember to reseed them so I can enjoy them annually.

  4. Jane says:

    No, I am not surprised you made a hollyhock soap – so cool! I don’t think I have ever seen a hollyhock, but you have the COOLEST ideas!

  5. Quinn says:

    Always glad to have another excuse to grow flowers :) Great information!

  6. Jill says:

    Visiting from Frugally Sustainable’s link up.

    Girlfriend, you have officially rocked my world with this one!

  7. I love the little doll! OK, I love the other uses for it too, but the doll is so cute!
    Thanks for sharing with my Super Link Party! :-)

    • Jan says:

      The doll is my favorite too! :) I still have one in my fridge that I made days ago… they last quite a while, floating in a little bowl of water!

  8. I’ve always loved hollyhocks but never knew they were so useful! Thanks for sharing on Wildcrafting Wednesday! :)

  9. I never knew they were edible!

  10. Buttons says:

    Oh I have so many Holly hocks thank you this is very interesting. B

  11. Carol says:

    Wow! Never knew this ~ Have always loved Hollyhocks ~ love them even more now ~ thanks for the very creative and informative post ~ ^_^ (A Creative Harbor)

  12. Candy C. says:

    What a fun post! I have hollyhocks growing for the first time this year and did not know that they were edible or medicinal and I love, love the little dolly! :)

  13. Nancy says:

    Ours are doing fantastically this year! I love the one you have featured — such a beautiful shade of pink.
    Thank you for sharing at Rural Thursdays this week. xoxo

  14. Lisa Sall says:

    Who knew the hollyhock was so useful? Thanks for the great ideas! My grand-daughter and I are going to go looking for some hollyhocks for dolly makin’!! Thanks for sharing this post with Farm Fresh Friday! Have a great weekend!!

  15. Robyn says:

    Jan

    Neat ideas for Hollyhocks. Just the other day I had a friend telling me about Hollyhock dolls.

    Thank You for stopping in at my blog and leaving a nice comment. I appreciate it!

  16. Wow! I had no idea these flowers were so useful! I love learning about edible flowers and weeds :) Thanks so much for sharing this at Tiny Tip Tuesday! I’m pinning this :)

  17. Ilene says:

    Did you know chickens love the leaves, as well?

    Thanks for posting about the doll. We did this as children but so long since I was a child, couldn’t remember how to make the head!

    Does the infusion color your soap at all or is that color entirely from the clay you added?

    I always have hollyhocks, and I love the old singles. Purples, pinks, white and red. They will grow almost anywhere. I even have one right now, growing between the crack where the bottom concrete step meets the concrete sidewalk. It’s blooming.

    When my hollyhocks are done, I harvest the seed and then cut the stalk up with my loppers, into pieces about one to two inches long. Then they go into the compost.

    • Jan says:

      I didn’t realize chickens like the leaves also! My little puppy follows me around when I gather herbs and flowers sometimes and she tries to chew on the lower leaves of hollyhocks (and mint) all the time!

      The pink color is from the clay; the soap would be an off white otherwise. It only took a tiny pinch; in fact, I’d put even less next time. I was going for just a tiny hint of pink…

      I love the looks of the old fashioned singles too – I want to grow more varieties around here! :)

  18. Jan says:

    I didn’t realize chickens like the leaves also! My little puppy follows me around when I gather herbs and flowers sometimes and she tries to chew on the lower leaves of hollyhocks (and mint) all the time!

    The pink color is from the clay; the soap would be an off white otherwise. It only took a tiny pinch; in fact, I’d put even less next time. I was going for just a tiny hint of pink…

    I love the looks of the old fashioned singles too – I want to grow more varieties around here! :)

    • Michelle says:

      Oh, my chickens DEVOUR my Hollyhocks! lol And so do the deer- which is why I was so certain they could be eaten, I just didnt want to try it out on myself and couldnt find any info on them actually being ingested.

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  21. Portia McC says:

    Got your website from the Little House in the Suburbs folks. I love your creativity with hollyhocks. They’re a beautiful, old-fashioned flower I’d forgotten. Please tell me the name of the beautiful pinks you show in your photos. I must have some!

    • Jan says:

      Thank you! :) I wish I knew the name – I dug up some plants from my mom’s house (mostly red hollyhocks) replanted them in my front flower beds, and then the next year these came up along with some single pink ones! I suppose some of the random color seed was mixed in her soil. I’ve yet to get a red blossom again! These pink ones are so lovely though. If I ever find out the name, I will reply with an update! :)

  22. KimH says:

    Oh my… Do you know that you’ve catapulted me into my long ago childhood in the ’60s. My great grandmother used to make Hollyhock dolls for me and I havent thought about it since. Thank you so much for bringing back those memories & my love of them.. I cant tell you how much it means to me.
    You’ve got a new fan.. I came from Little House’s blog & link too! Have a wonderful day!

    • Jan says:

      Thank you Kim! I’m so glad to have stirred a happy memory for you! :) My mother used to take me on nature walks and show us things her father taught her to do with leaves and flowers… I’ll never forget her showing us how to make a perfect drinking cup from a leaf. Such wonderful memories. :)

  23. Michelle says:

    Thank you for posting this! I just KNEW Hollyhocks had to be good for something! I have raised them for many years, using seeds from my mother, who got them from her grandmother- I love the beauty and heritage in my Hollyhocks, but didnt know if I could eat them. Now I’m going to try using the leaves like grape leaves to make little rolls! :D (it really helps that they will grow well anywhere and with very little or no care)

    • Jan says:

      Hi Michelle, I’m happy you stopped by! What a wonderful heritage of hollyhocks. I keep saving my seeds each year, though they reseed so nicely too. I love the flowers! :)

  24. Robert says:

    I was at the market local to my job earlier today and it caters primarily to our Iranian community. I am always on the lookout for new vegetables to try, especially leafy greens. the one stall was selling hollyhock leaves. this was completely new to me. the stallholder said that they were best cooked by sauteeing in oil with some garlic and served with lemon juice added at the end of cooking. something to try. I love your Hollyhock dolls!

    • Jan says:

      We’ve had such a mild winter, that my hollyhocks have put out a ton of small green leaves. I was just looking at them the other day, thinking that I should make good use of them! I will have to try that way out!

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  26. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for your article! We are on the cusp of soap-making here and your recipe is received with thanks. I ‘ll be sure to pass it on to my soap making friends!

    • Jan says:

      I’m glad that you like it! I’m right in the middle of revamping the recipe to make it palm free, so that change should be reflected on here soon. So, you might want to check back in a week or so and get the other version as well. :) Happy soap making!! :)

  27. Carsten says:

    Wow!
    Thanks for inspiring information – and pictures…
    Not all hollylock I see looks as nice as yours – which variety is this?

    • Jan says:

      Hi Carsten, Thanks! I’m not sure of the variety since I got them from my Mom’s flower beds and she’s had them for years. I’ve been on the lookout though & hope to find out the name one day! :)

      • Carsten says:

        Just came back to take a second look at this page. And those hollyhocks still seem exceptional…or maybe just the photographer….. Anyway – if you have spare seeds don’t hesitate to let me know how they can be acquired…. :-)

  28. Patricia says:

    Thanks for this useful information about a flower I already adored. Now there is so much more to love ABOUT them! What has really been fun for me is that my vegetable garden area has been volunteering several hollyhocks each year. I believe I have some bird friends to thank for that!

  29. Kippy says:

    I grew up in Northern Virginia, where my Grandmothers and Mother and Aunts all grew Hollyhocks. I’ve loved them since I was I child.
    I had lots of them when I was still North, but I have moved to Coastal South Carolina, and I cannot get them to grow here! Help! Is it the heat, the sand, any ideas??

    • Jan says:

      Hi Kippy! They do well for me here (I live in Virginia too), but this past summer was a lot rainier than normal and they suffered. They didn’t bloom anywhere near as long as usual and developed rust quickly. From my recollections of visiting South Carolina in my younger years, I remember it being very humid. If that’s the climate where you live, perhaps that’s a factor? The heat could be an issue as well, but I’m not positive about their requirements. I’m so sorry they won’t grow for you there – maybe if you researched through several online seed suppliers and asked them for recommendations, they could help?

  30. Stephanie says:

    I had an uncle who farmed and he didn’t like hollyhocks because he associated them with the outhouse. Evidently his mother planted them near the outhouse as camouflage.
    And, for some reason, they grew beautifully. :-)

  31. Bennett says:

    I am doing a research project on Alcea setosa, the Bristly Hollyhock. Are there any special uses for this specific type of hollyhock, as the bristles, i imagine, would irritate the skin just as much as what it is supposed to suppress, and would likely hurt the mouth upon biting down on them?
    so, any uses for it?

  32. Myrna says:

    I Love Holly Hocks!! My Grandmother was from England and always had what I thought was a Beautiful Old English Flower garden. She and my Mother used to cook, make teas, use for medicinal purposes, and many other things, but most of all I remember the fun Dolls she made from the Holly Hocks for all us grand kids!! Thanks for sharing this and regenerating the memories! I am going to do it for my Grandchildren!! <3 ^_^

    • Jan says:

      What a wonderful memory! I love old English flower gardens – I bet it was beautiful! I hope your grandchildren enjoy making the flower dolls as well! :)

  33. Jan says:

    I have really enjoyed looking through your website. Found it through Hobby Farms. I now have saved in my favourites. So many recipes nature…can’t wait to try a few of them. Thanks for posting all your recipes and info.

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