The Hollyhock—Holy hawk flower—is a holy flower with spiritual meanings of the circle of life, fertility, abundance, ambition, rebirth, strength, and resilience.
What Does Hollyhock Mean?
Hollyhocks—sometimes called mallow blossoms—are herbaceous perennial or biennial members of the Malvaceae (Mallow) family in the genus Alcea and sixty other species.
It’s believed the name Hollyhock comes from holi and hoc. Translated from Old English, it means holy mallow and refers to the flower’s many medicinal qualities.
Other legends say the flower got its name because it’s native to the Holy Land. Crusaders would use a salve made from hollyhocks to treat injured horse hocks (hind legs). So Hollyhock became Holy (Holy Land) and hind legs (hock).
The most significant meaning of the Holy hock flower is ambition, due to the ambitious way that they grow taller than other flowers and the blooms last longer.
A close second symbolic meaning of hollyhock is fertility. Each year, the hollyhock reseeds, producing new plants that continue for multiple seasons. Again, this abundance of children is suggestive of a growing family.
History of Hollyhock Flowers
The Hollyhock flower is native to Asia and Europe, originating in China. From there, they entered trade routes to Syria.
Then Crusaders brought seeds back to Europe from their travels. Once introduced here, they spread across the globe.
Hollyhocks were grown to both hide and identify the location of outhouses in Victorian gardens, preventing ladies from having to ask for directions (an embarrassment in public at the time).
Significance of the Hollyhock Flower
The Hollyhock flower has many different meanings, including ambition, fruitfulness, strength, resilience, fecundity, and liberality. It also has many cultural significances.
An Ancient Symbol of the Circle of Life
A significant archeological find occurred in the Shanidar Cave, located in the Zagros Mountains – northern Iraq occurred during excavation from 1957 to 1961.
The discovery of nine Neanderthal skeletons dating back 65,000 to 35,000 years is the first finding that human ancestors’ extinct forms had burial rituals.
Evidence of pollen from Hollyhock was found, leading to the assumption that these flowers were then used for their medical qualities – representing the passage of time and the circle of life.
An Emblem of Holy Men and Saints
Another name for Hollyhocks is St. Joseph’s staff, referring to how the flowers form on all sides of the stalk. The flower is a common motif representing the saint in many Southern European works of art.
In Spanish, it’s “Las Varas de San Jose” and is symbolic of how the flower adapts to be resilient to various growing conditions. This strength in the face of adversity became known as a sign of God’s mercy.
Hollyhock became a symbol of holy men and saints due to two former botanical names – Caulis Santi and Malva Benedita. This association links to the commemoration of the death of St. John the Baptist. On August 29 of each year, churches decorate with yellow hollyhocks.
A Symbol of Status and Nobility
The hollyhock is also the floral motif in the family crest of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Known as one of 3 “Great Unifiers,” Ieyasu was the first Japanese Tokugawa shogunate shogun. His motif went on lacquerware and kimonos, representing honor, high status, and nobility.
A Flower of Healing and Divine Beauty
Althea – another name for the Hollyhock – is Greek for a healer. According to Greek legend, Althea – the gorgeous daughter of Eurythmics and King Theseus – was the goddess of compassion, healing, protection, marriage, and family.
A Symbol of the Magical Powers of the Fairies
One English story goes that on every midsummer – June 21 – an island appears at the joining of the Severn and Wye rivers. The ethereal beauty of the fauna and flora of the outlandish island surround a fairy castle.
Humans can cross into the fairy realm during midsummer by following a tunnel underneath the river. The people cannot see the fairies, but the fairies entertain with food, drink, and some enchanting music.
But humans had to follow one rule. Nothing was allowed to come out of the fairyland. But a girl visited during midsummer and hid one flower in her pocket.
The fairies found out and turned her into a pink hollyhock and closed the invisible bridge linking the two worlds.
Western tradition also says the flowers were Hollyhock fairy skirts. And the cheese wheel shape of the seedpods is referred to as fairy cheese.
The Use of Hollyhocks Medicinally
Hollyhock was widely used medicinally between the 13th and 16th centuries. This flower worked as a laxative, diuretic, emollient, and anti-inflammatory.
It can also reduce high fevers, treat IBS, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nasal congestion, sore throat, prevent kidney disease, improve blood circulation, treat burns, and relieve troubling labor pains. In addition, the roots can help regulate digestion and boost metabolism.
A potion made by seeping the flowers in wine was once used as a traditional medication that prevented miscarriages.
Roots and flowers are used in Tibet to treat inflammation occurring in the urinary and reproductive systems.
Hollyhock Symbolism in Witchcraft, Wicca, and Folklore
Hollyhock is a significant ingredient in many magical potions. One ancient recipe dating back to 1660 claims that mixing hollyhocks with other ingredients and seeds allows you to see the fairy realms.
Wiccan and pagan beliefs link Hollyhock to Lammas and are often required in ritual requests for abundance. Growing Hollyhocks close to the home promotes abundance (wealth and power) and fertility.
Hollyhock Symbolism and Meaning in Funeral Practices
The excavation of the Neanderthal remains in Iraq is the world’s oldest record that early humans had intricate funeral arrangements that included medicinal flowers like Hollyhock.
The flowers have also been identified in wreaths placed in the tombs of mummified ancient Egyptians. For example, ancient Pharaoh Tutankhamun had hollyhocks in his coffin. These wreaths were symbolic of leading the dead into a new life, completing the circle of life.
Hollyhock Colors and Their Meaning
Hollyhocks produce single to double – full – flowers lined bottom up on tall, slender spires that can reach heights between 3 and 8′. These bell-shaped flowers have delicate crêpe-paper-thin petals in various blue, red, and purple hues. There are even a few variants so dark they almost look black. Each of the Hollyhocks colors has a unique meaning.
A red hollyhock represents a woman’s passionate love for her partner. But it’s also symbolic of her love for her children. (See: 67 Types of Red Flowers)
Purple means nobility, integrity, and spirituality. You should reserve purple Hollyhocks for a very special person in your life. It can also symbolize grace, charm, standing, and tradition. (See: 60 Types of Purple Flowers)
White hollyhocks represent a woman’s purity, fertility, honesty, and innocence. Or it can mean ambitions achieved by benevolent and rightful means. (See: 65 Types of White Flowers)
Yellow is symbolic of friendship and happiness. You can also use these to imply a platonic, non-romantic love. It’s also representative of regeneration and recovery. And it’s the ability to re-balance and heal after a trying time. (See: 30 Types of Yellow Flowers)
Pink hollyhocks symbolize femininity – both the gender and the inner soul. Other attributes include sympathy, beauty, receptivity, sensitivity, thoughtfulness, love, and strength. (See: 45 Types of Pink Flowers)
Black hollyhocks are symbolic of achievements, fruitful ambitions, and abundance. They can also represent prosperity, abundance, and multitude.
Characteristics and Interesting Facts of the Hollyhock Flower
Hollyhocks need a structure for support to grow tall. And they need a warm, sheltered place that keeps them safe from the wind.
Hollyhock Flower Traits
- Hairy heart-shaped leaves
- Single, semi-double, or double petal 3″ to 6″ flowers
- Heights can range from 24″ up to 10-feet.
- Widths can range from 12″ to 36.”
- Seedpods shaped like a cheese wheel
- Showy Hollyhock flower colors in pink, white, yellow, red, purple, chocolate, maroon, black (richly dark maroon), apricot, and raspberry
- Hollyhocks should be part of a floral arrangement or bouquet to celebrate a 13th wedding anniversary.
- In Taos, New Mexico, hollyhock is the unofficial city flower.
- Hollyhocks are in the same family as hibiscus, cotton, and okra.
- Aoi Matsuri is an annual Hollyhock festival held in Kyoto, Japan, on May 15, dates to the seventh century. During this spiritual festival, visitors undergo spiritual purification to cleanse their sins. And priests make offerings and receive blessings to the gods.
- The Guinness Book of Records has the tallest hollyhock listed at 19-feet 7-inches tall.
- Hollyhocks are among a few rare plants that produce nearly black flowers.
Best Time to Gift Someone a Hollyhock
Because hollyhocks are symbolic of positive emotions and celebrating life, you can use them for anniversaries or birthdays.
And they also represent motherly love and fertility, making them great floral gifts for new parents to congratulate on the arrival of a new baby.
Giving Hollyhocks to someone is saying, “You mean a lot to me.” Or “I care about you deeply.” Use it for someone whom you respect and want to protect.
Purple hollyhocks can be a wise gift to a spiritual guide, teacher, or mentor. Or black flowers are suitable for a housewarming. White or pink can be used to celebrate a young woman’s success – graduation, college, a new job.
Hollyhock Tattoo Meaning
A Hollyhock tattoo is often for those who have experienced a loss related to pregnancy or fertility struggles. A Hollyhock flower means resilience, strength, hope, and a desire to start over and move on with living.
A Hollyhock Poem
A famous poem about Hollyhocks comes from Edgar Albert Guest. This lovely piece of literature talks about the resilience and faithful reemergence of Hollyhocks each year.
And how his mother used these flowers to teach important life lessons. Finally, he says a hollyhock will be his mother’s smile.
This poem describes the flower’s growth habits and paints a vivid picture of the flower’s many symbolisms to a mother’s love.
Before you go, check out these frequently asked questions about Hollyhocks.
What does the name hollyhock mean?
Hollyhock translates to holy mallow, referring to this mallow flower’s healing abilities.
What do pink hollyhocks mean?
Pink hollyhocks typically mean femininity.
What flower symbolizes ambition?
Hollyhock flower symbolism includes ambition.
Is there any True Black Flower?
A flower can’t become truly black. It can only appear black due to a deeply saturated shade of purple, red, or maroon, such as the Black magic hollyhock.
What Does a Red Hollyhock Flower Mean?
Red hollyhocks symbolize a female’s love for her partner and children. The meaning comes from the Greek myth Althea and her desire to protect her son – Meleager – after the Fates (Moirai) predicted his death.
What Does a Purple Hollyhock Flower Mean?
Purple represents royalty and nobility, standing, grace, spirituality, integrity, and tradition.
The Holy flower – Hollyhock – is as beautiful as beneficial and historical. Evidence of these flowers has gone as far back as 60,000 years. With many significant meanings of ambition, strength, resilience, and fertility, this flower is common for mothers and females.