Hollyhock 'The Watchman'

Alcea rosea var. nigra

Family: Malvaceae (mal-VAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Alcea (al-KEE-uh) (Info)
Species: rosea var. nigra
Cultivar: The Watchman
Synonym:Althaea rosea



Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)


15-18 in. (38-45 cm)


USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)

USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun



Bloom Color:

Maroon (Purple-Brown)


Bloom Time:

Late Spring/Early Summer

Mid Summer

Late Summer/Early Fall




Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse

From seed; stratify if sowing indoors

From seed; sow indoors before last frost

From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds

Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Phoenix, Arizona

Fayetteville, Arkansas

Big Bear Lake, California

Chico, California

Richmond, California

San Diego, California

Ukiah, California

Braselton, Georgia

Norcross, Georgia

Park Ridge, Illinois

Derby, Kansas

Onekama, Michigan

Pinconning, Michigan

Carlsbad, New Mexico

Hobbs, New Mexico

Hillsborough, North Carolina

Eagle Pass, Texas

Fort Worth, Texas

Georgetown, Texas

Palmyra, Virginia

Lake Forest Park, Washington

Seattle, Washington

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Jul 23, 2014, geonnibanner from Richmond, CA wrote:

Read about my experience with this plant on my blog. Here:



On Mar 3, 2013, goldandsylvan from Ukiah, CA wrote:

I had no idea this was such an old and useful plant. I grow it with several other kinds of hollyhocks in my cutting garden, even though I don't use hollyhocks as cut flowers. They are very picturesque with the other flowers, though, and I especially enjoy the black hollyhock together with the clear pink one.


On Jun 27, 2010, grovespirit from Sunset Valley, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

This is an heirloom plant named 'Watchman'- also called 'Sereno', 'Night Watchman,' 'Black Watchman,' and 'The Watchman'. It's the first Hollyhock I ever grew. Drought and heat tolerant.
There is a legend about this historic heirloom from a Mexican historical plant grower who called it 'Malvarrosa Sereno' (Translates as Night Watchman hollyhock.).
The legend:
This historic variety was first developed by fabric dyers and weavers in Spain, from common Eurasian hollyhocks that came from China and Europe. The color was darkened over several human lifetimes, by selectively breeding for darker and darker violet-maroon flowers. Because it was developed in a Mediterranean region of Spain, it is heat tolerant and also has some drought tolerance.
The 'black' varie... read more


On Apr 30, 2008, CurtisJones from Longmont, CO wrote:

From your friends at Botanical Interests, inc.: These seductive towers of edible black satin blossoms are a wicked addition to the back of the flower border, along a fence, or as an accent in the cottage garden. From a distance, the dark color of 'The Watchman' is as black as the moonless night sky, but on closer inspection you can see its rich purplish burgundy cast. Bees and butterflies will be lured to the 3"-4" flowers that exude ample pollen. Try growing them as a backdrop for pink, red, yellow, or white flowers or anywhere with full sun where you can use something tall and exquisite.(Hardy to zone 2, but technically a biennial. Hollyhocks bloom in the second year after planting. However, they do reliably reseed themselves, making them seem more like a perennial.)


On Mar 4, 2007, berrygirl from Braselton, GA (Zone 7b) wrote:

The particular "black" hollyhock that I grow is this one- 'Watchman'. There are several 'black' cultivars out there. In my humble, non-expert opinion there isn't much difference in them at all. The only differences I have noted are the fact that there are "black" single flowered varieties and also there are double flowered ones. Irregardless of what name they go by I love them!

Grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, but mentioned even earlier by John Parkinson in 1629. He described this single hollyhock as being of a dark red like blackwood. Appears black on overcast days, but will have a hint of red in the bright sun. Plant next to a white fence for a spectacular contrast. Self-seeding biennial, 5-6' tall.