This description is for Alcea rosea: Alcea rosea or common hollyhock is originally from China, being brought to Europe by William Turner, a herbalist. They only live for a year or two but are good self-sowers. Its an easy to grow plant that will tolerate most types of soil. Its a tall plant, producing a single spire of flowers reaching up to eight feet in height. They come in various colours, and each colour has slightly different preferences in soil. The whites and creams like clay soils best, the deep reds thrive best in sandy soil. Slugs and snails can be a real issue with this plant, especially when it is young.