When to cut back hollyhocks?

Geoff Ward sowed seed collected from a friend’s hollyhock in 2013 from which he grew a plant that flowered well this summer. What now, he asks? Should he collect seeds from this, too, and will they make plants that will flower in 2017? Meanwhile, how far should he cut the original plant down this autumn, and what will it do next year?

Hollyhocks are short-life perennials. They don’t flower in their first year but do well in years two and three, after which they tend to either succumb to rust or generally weaken and go woody at the base, so are best replaced. If Geoff simply left his hollyhock to drop seed naturally, he would find quite a lot of seedlings popping up next spring in all sorts of (mostly) unsuitable places.

•Hollyhock confidential in Yorkshire

It’s sensible to manage hollyhocks that might sprout up everywhere Credit: Alamy

A large number of these would be demolished by snails while still tiny and most of the remainder would probably be inadvertently trodden on or weeded out. One or two sturdy survivors would grow into good plants and flower in 2017. It is no coincidence that the best hollyhocks seem to grow in gravel or in cracks at the base of walls. In such situations they tend to avoid the perils described above and also suffer less from rust (visible as orange pustules on the backs of leaves), which is spread largely by spores rain-splashed upwards from soil.

Geoff might prefer to “take control”: to collect seed and sow it next spring, pricking out a few of the best seedlings, growing them on in pots next summer before planting them out in the autumn. Anti slug/snail barriers or pellets are important. If cut down later in this autumn, Geoff’s older plant will flower next year, but he should take rust precautions: remove lower leaves as the flower stems develop and/or spray it with a systemic fungicide.

How to Cut Back a Perennial Hollyhock Flower

Hollyhocks are old and lovely plants that look great in farm and cottage gardens. They have tall stalks, reaching six to eight feet in height, covered in colorful blooms. While hollyhocks are biennials, they can be treated as perennials and will grow back for several years if they are properly cared for. Cutting back perennial hollyhocks is what helps these lovely flowers survive for more than two years.

Allow your perennial hollyhocks to bloom. If your hollyhocks do not flower in the first year, do not pull them out. Wait until the second year and they should flower.

Cut the perennial hollyhock in half after it has bloomed for the first time. This should happen sometime in the spring. Remove all the blooms from the hollyhock at this time.

Cut the hollyhock in half again after it flowers for a second time. This should happen sometime in the early the summer. Remove all the blooms from the plant.

Cut the perennial hollyhock down after it has finished flowering, leaving two to three inches of stem sticking out of the ground. This should only be done once the hollyhock’s growing season is over, in middle or late summer.

Cover the ground around the perennial hollyhock with mulch to protect it for the winter. This will allow the hollyhock to grow back the following year.

How to sow and grow hollyhocks

Hollyhocks no longer quite fit their let-them-get-on-with-it cottage garden image. But if you give them care and attention, they are worth it come July. With their open, saucer flowers, splashed all the way up their jack-and-the-bean-stalk stems, each one busy with butterflies and bumblebees, they’ll more than repay your efforts.

Sowing and growing instructions

1. Fill a tray with compost and water it well to ensure that it is consistently moist. If you water after sowing, you can wash the seeds about and bunch them together – not what you want.

2. Sow the large seeds individually, spacing about an inch apart on the compost surface, in a grid. Don’t push in the seed, as you then won’t be able to see each one. If you are distracted, it’s all too easy to forget where you’ve sown and where seeds still need to go. Left on the top, they are clearly visible. When the tray is full, cover lightly with compost.

3. Spaced widely, the seeds can germinate and grow on for a few weeks before you prick them out. This saves you time in the end, rather than simply chucking seed about willy-nilly.

4. Place the tray in a warm and cosy spot to germinate. You don’t need light at this stage. I cover seed trays with an empty compost bag – opened out – to keep in warmth and moisture and speed germination. If you do this, after about a week, check trays every morning and night for germination. Once this starts, remove the light-excluding plastic.

5. Hollyhocks take 10-14 days to germinate and then another 3-4 weeks before they’re ready for pricking out. If roots are showing at the base of the tray, they’re ready to move on.

6. To prick out, handle only the seed leaves, not the stem (which bruises very easily). Get a pencil (or stiff plant label) right under each plant and try to tease out every individual seedling, roots and all.

7. Place each seedling into its own pot of peat-free compost, firm down and water.

8. The ideal spot for growing on has maximum all-round light – ideally, plants should have warm roots but cool tops.

9. Hollyhocks will be ready for planting out in the garden by June, but won’t flower well until the following year.

10. You might get the odd plant trying to flower sooner, but snip off the flower spike. This helps the roots to get established before the demands of flowering begin – otherwise you’ll have even more trouble with rust.

Rust remedies

I always think of hollyhocks as archetypal cottage garden plants (you often see them growing beautifully in churchyards). The cleaner, sulphur-free air that we all now enjoy, however, means that fungus on roses and hollyhocks is more common. Both plants need tinkering to be at their best.

Rust fungus forms little pustules on the underside of hollyhock basal leaves and often spreads from there up the stem. As Rosanna says, if you want to grow your hollyhocks right by a path, as she does, they need to look vigorous and healthy. The only way to guarantee this is to use fungicides. Bordeaux mixture, a traditional copper sulphate-derived remedy, is not enough to hold rust at bay, you may need to use stronger fungicides… If this all feels far too much like chemical warfare, ignore any rust problems and hide the foliage of your hollyhocks by putting them nearer the back of the border.

Make more plants

Hollyhocks self-sow, so once you have introduced them they should spring up of their own volition, but they will creep to the sunny, open front of the bed. Watch out for this and dig some up and put them further back out of the limelight to get a balanced sweep. Don’t transfer them directly, though – they need a short spell of TLC. Dig up self-sown seedlings and pot them into a 3in pot. Once the roots have filled it, move them on into a slim, deep pot to accommodate the tap root. At Sleightholmedale in Yorkshire where there is a wonderful Hollyhock display, plants are grown on until they’re well established before being planted out towards the back of the border.

Hollyhock In Winter: How To Winterize Hollyhock Plants

There is no mistaking the cheery spires of hollyhock flowers. The stems soar above the rosette of leaves and may get as tall as a grown man. The plants are biennials and take two years from seed to bloom. Hollyhock in winter die back, but you still need to protect the roots in order to enjoy the impressive flower display in summer. Discover how to winterize hollyhock the first year so the plants get a chance to amaze you and attract butterflies and bees with their lovely blooms.

Preparing Hollyhock for Winter

Hollyhock plants readily reseed themselves, so once you have a nice batch, you have a lifetime supply. Hollyhocks begin as a low rosette of floppy, slightly fuzzy leaves. The growth is just vegetative in the first year but by the second year the stem begins to form and flowers appear near the beginning of summer.


huge stalks boast numerous flared blooms that last for weeks. The plants are prone to rust disease, so cleanup is important when overwintering hollyhocks. Remove old stems and leaves and dispose of them before the new spring to prevent spores from spreading.

Overwintering Hollyhocks Indoors

Most USDA plant hardiness zones will not need to do anything special for hollyhock winter care. However, zones that have hard freezes will either need to treat the plants as annuals or provide protection for hollyhock in winter. In these areas, you can plant the seeds in containers and bring them indoors where temperatures remain above freezing.

Water sparingly until spring, then increase water and gradually reintroduce the plants to the outside when temperatures warm. To do this, bring the pot outside for longer and longer periods until it can stay all day and all night.

How to Winterize Hollyhock

A haircut is the first step to preparing hollyhock for winter. Prune the leaves and stems back to 6 inches from the ground in fall. The hollyhocks then need a layer of organic material over the root zone to protect them from freezing. Use straw, compost, leaf litter or mulch. Put 4 to 6 inches over the base of the plant.

In early spring, gradually start pulling a layer away to acclimate the roots to the changing season. Once you see new growth, remove all the material to allow space for the the fresh leaves and stems to grow. Give the new growth a granular food for flowering plants. Keep the mulch nearby in case you hear of a spring freeze and cover the roots and shoots immediately to prevent their loss. Remove the mulch when all danger of frost has passed.

Cut hollyhocks – pruning after flowering?

The Content Of The Article:

  • Cutting after flowering
  • Variety selection decides
  • Cut late after flowering
  • Cutting in case of illness
  • Dispense entirely with cutting?
  • Recommended varieties

With the hollyhocks (Alcea rosea), we get a gorgeous plant from the family of mallow family in our gardens. The towering inflorescences with their wide color spectrum offer an impressive parade in all shades, ranging from black to red to violet and apricot. The long-lived plants are also ideal as cut flowers. But when and how should hollyhocks be cut? Here we give you helpful tips to cultivate the luminous beauties properly.

Cutting after flowering

As with most shrubs, the recommendation for the unusually beautiful mallow family is: cutting can, but you do not have to. As a rule, the cutting serves to maintain health and to stimulate flower growth. However, the hollyhocks are a special case in the group of perennials. Most of the mallow family are biennial, meaning they are in full force for two growing seasons. The first period is therefore immediately after sowing or planting the young plants in the garden, then comes the winter, and it follows the second growing season, according to which most of these plants die off. By cutting directly after flowering in the first year, in any case, growth is stimulated because the hollyhock does not need to use energy to develop fully ripe seeds. It can retire early into the soil and will show a rich flowering in the second growth phase. When cutting after the second flowering phase, there is a high probability that the plant will expel again in the coming year. This is especially true of the unfilled cane roses, which can flower again in the third period. If the location is optimally chosen, the gardener has good chances to enjoy the towering beauties even in the third summer.

  • Cut the plants at a height of 10 to 12 cm above the ground
  • Cutting directly after flowering limits uncontrolled growth through self-propagation

Variety selection decides

A special case with the hollyhocks are the hybrid varieties, so for example the kinds parkrondell, park peace and park avenue, which were bred from the Alcea rosea and Althea officinalis. They are clearly perennial varieties in which a cut after flowering leads to strong, healthy growth. It is also not to be feared that the plants could be damaged by the pruning, quite the contrary, the beautiful mallow plants are grateful for this attention with increased flower growth in the coming year. In addition, these varieties have proven to be extremely robust and resistant to the occasional mallow so their planting is favored by many gardeners.

  • Hollyhocks are excellent, long-lasting cut flowers for tall vases
  • be sure to use sharp knife or sharp rose scissors, do not squeeze stalks

Tip: For the vase, all Alcea varieties should be cut early in the morning, preferably in cool weather, certainly not at lunchtime. Notch the stems crosswise so they can absorb enough water. Check the water daily and change completely every two to three days.

Cut late after flowering

Those who prefer the two-year-old hollyhocks will certainly have some particularly beautiful varieties underneath, such as the Alcea rosea nigra, which is deep red, almost black, blooming. For this variety, as well as other two-year-olds, the gardener will be happy to attract the unusual beauties for more than two years. In this case, the hollyhocks should not be cut directly after flowering. They can then quietly form seedlings that are collected to attract new seedlings. The seeds usually have the same characteristics as the mother plant. In this late cut, the plant is still able to recharge its batteries during the rest period for new flowering season, however, it may well be that the flowering is limited to two vegetation phases.

  • do not cut too low on the ground
  • only collect and sow ripe seeds
  • be sure to use sharp tools, blunt scissors squeeze the stems

Tip: From the seeds can easily be pulled young plants. In the potting pot on the windowsill, they can be used early. They can also be sown directly on the spot, but care must be taken that the planting distance of around 50 cm is maintained. Do not put together more than 3 hollyhocks as a tuff. Remove excess plants and replace them if necessary.

Cutting in case of illness

Anyone who notices early in the year that the malvenrost has struck should definitely cut.It is a fungal disease that is common and needs immediate action. Mallow rust shows up in the spring due to the appearance of dark spots on the upper side of the leaves, on the underside there are white pustules, which can later turn brown. In this case, immediately cut off all affected leaves and discard in the trash. In many cases, the plants will still develop numerous flowers, so that the pruning may take place after flowering. However, care must be taken that the disease does not spread to other plants, which means that affected areas must be eliminated immediately.

  • Never place plants close together
  • never throw away leaves on the compost, from there the rust spreads again

Dispense entirely with cutting?

Since perennials do not necessarily have to be cut, it is quite possible to forego the pruning. However, you should do this for two reasons. On the one hand it does the plant good, on the other hand it is also a question of optics. Especially because the long inflorescences are so conspicuous and faded flowers form a very unpleasant sight, it is advisable to cut back the sprouted stems. If you did not cut in the fall and decide to do so in the short term, you can still cut back very early in the spring. However, this will only marginally affect the abundance of flowers.

Recommended varieties

Several years

  • Park alley, pale cream yellow with purple stamens, flowering July – October
  • Parkrondell, clear pink, half-filled, flowering June – September
  • Park peace, old rose, half-filled, flowering June – September
  • Happy light, large flowers of different colors, 150 cm, flowering July – September

two year

  • Mars Magic, bright red, unfilled, flowering June – September
  • Peniflora white, densely filled, about 180 cm, flowering June – September
  • Polaris, white with bright yellow center, unfilled, blossom June – September
  • Alcea rosea nigra, black-red, unfilled, bee pasture, 220 cm, flowering June – September
  • Alcea ficifolia, available in red, pink and yellow, ca. 170 cm, flowering June – September

If you want to do something good for your Hollyhocks, you should prune them after flowering. The only question is whether the plants are to be fortified for the next phase of growth, or whether one wants to obtain seeds from particularly beautiful varieties in order to cultivate them in the garden in the years to come. The cut directly after flowering ensures in any case for enormous abundance of flowers and healthy plants. The early pruning also ensures that the high-growth beauties do not multiply uncontrollably. Although the cutting is not absolutely necessary, especially in Hollyhocks should not be waived.

Video Board: How to prune hollyhock for next years flowers.

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Alcea rosea (Hollyhock)

A short lived, hardy perennial or biennial, that makes a big impact in the garden. This classic cottage garden favourite is available in a wide range of colours and makes a stunning backdrop for beds and borders. Single flowered varieties are loved by bees and butterflies.

Family: Malvaceae (mallow)
Botanical Name: Alcea rosea (syn. Althaea rosea)
Common Names: Hollyhock
Foliage: Simple rounded leaves. Deciduous.
Flowers: Large saucer shaped blooms, 3 to 6in (7 to 15cm) wide, opening from the bottom of the flower spike to the top. Single or double flowering varieties are available, in a range of pastel shades including red, pink, yellow and white.
Flowering Period: Early to late summer (July, August, September).
Soil: Moist but well-drained. Chalk, sand or loam. Any pH. Avoid waterlogged conditions.
Conditions: Best in full sun.
Habit: Tall upright.
Type: Can be grown as an annual, biennial or hardy perennial in the UK.
Hardiness: Fully hardy throughout the UK.

Planting and Growing Hollyhocks

These tall showy cottage garden plants are ideal for the back of the border or against a wall or fence. An ideal choice for cottage or informal gardens. They will also look best if other leafy plants are grown in front of them to cover up the lower leaves, which can look unsightly if rust disease is a problem.

Best grown in a west or south facing aspect, in either an exposed or sheltered possition. Plant out pot grown plants in the spring. Feed in early spring with a general fertilizer and water well in dry conditions.

Taking Care of Hollyhocks

Provide protection from strong winds and/or staking on exposed sites.

Pruning Hollyhocks

Cut back flower stems after flowering, unless seed is to be collected. Remove any leaves that are badly affected by rust disease.

Pests and Diseases

Susceptible to slugs and snails. The leaves are prone to fungal rust disease, especially in humid summers. Indicated by orange or brown pustules appearing on the leaves, in mid to late summer. Provide good air circulation and spray with a suitable fungicide at first sign. Remove all badly affected leaves.

If rust disease is a problem in your area, grow as a biennial or grow one of the early flowering varieties such as ‘Summer Carnival’ as an annual.

Propagating Hollyhocks

Perennial or biennial hollyhocks are easily raised from seed outside in early summer. Transplant to flowering positions in autumn or early spring. Sow the annual form under glass in February or March and plant-out in May.

Varieties of Hollyhock

Classic varieties grow from 4ft to 8ft (1.2m to 2.5m) tall. Dwarf varieties, around 3ft (1m) tall, are available for smaller gardens. Common varieties of Hollyhock (Alcea rosea) grown in English gardens include:

Alcea (Althaea) rosea
common hollyhock
Alcea rosea ‘Halo’
tall growing variety
Alcea rosea annua
dwarf variety
Alcea rosea ‘Powderpuff’
early flowering
Alcea rosea ‘Chater’s Mix’
traditional double variety
Alcea pallida
floriferous & drought tolerant

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