Hollyhock Flower Removal: Do Hollyhocks Need To Be Deadheaded

By: Mary Ellen Ellis

Hollyhocksare the showstoppers of the flower garden. These towering plants can grow tonine feet (2.7 m.) tall and produce stunning, large blooms. To make the most ofthese gorgeous flowers, know how best to care for them. Do hollyhocks need tobe deadheaded? Yes, if you want to keep them looking great and blooming for aslong as possible.

Should You Deadhead Hollyhocks?

Deadheading hollyhock plants isn’t necessary, but it is agood idea. It can help keep the blooms going longer throughout the season andalso keeps your plants looking nicer and tidier. Think of deadheading thisplant as a way of pruning to coax it into producing flowers right up to thefall and even the first frost. It’s also a good idea to remove dead and damagedleaves, too, for a better overall look and a healthier plant.

Keep in mind, too, that deadheadingwill prevent or minimize reseeding. Hollyhock is a biennial in most growingzones, but if you let the seed pods develop and drop, they will regrow fromyear to year. You can deadhead to prevent this, to collect and save the seeds,or to manage how and to what extent the plants reseed and spread.

How and When to Deadhead Hollyhocks

Removing spent hollyhock blooms is pretty simple: just pinchor clip off those that have faded and finished flowering, before the seed podforms. You can do this throughout the growing season. Pinch off spent bloomsand dead leaves regularly to promote more growth and flowers.

Toward the end of the growing season, when most of theblooms are finished, you can cut down the main stems of your hollyhocks. If youwant the plant to continue coming back year after year, you can leave some seedpods on the stalk. These will develop, drop and contribute to more growth inthe coming years.

Hollyhock flower removal is not something you have to do togrow this plant, but it does benefit blooming by forcing energy and nutrientsinto flower production rather than seed production. Keep deadheading to promoteflowering and to keep your plants tidy and healthy.

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Off With Their Heads: Deadheading Perennials

Photo/Illustration: Tracy DiSabato-Aust, courtesy of Timber Press

As a garden designer and speaker, I often talk about how foliage texture and form can provide the backbone to a perennial garden. But as a gardener, I have to admit that I want a lot of flowers in addition to interesting foliage. Planting long-blooming perennials is one way to keep the floral display going. Deadheading—the practice of removing spent blossoms—is another way to keep your garden in flowers.

Deadheading refreshes a plant’s appearance, controls seed dispersal, and redirects a plant’s energy from seed production to root and vegetative growth. However, I do it primarily to prolong the bloom period or encourage a second flush of blooms on some perennials. I also do it to keep other perennials tidy.

Deadheading is a maintenance practice that can be done throughout the growing season, from spring until autumn. The best time to deadhead a flower is when its appearance begins to decline. How often you’ll have to deadhead a particular plant depends on the life span of its blooms, which can range from a day to several weeks, depending on the species. Weather also greatly affects a flower’s longevity. During moist, cool summers, flowers will last much longer than they will during a season of sweltering heat. Torrential rains also take their toll on blossoms.

Choosing the exact point to make a deadheading cut can seem confusing, since perennials have different flower forms. Because deadheading, like other types of pruning, is so species specific, it can be difficult to group plants into categories. For most plants, however, all you need to remember is to prune spent flowers and stems back to a point where there’s a new lateral flower or bud. If no new flower is apparent, prune the stem back to a lateral leaf.

Many gardeners find deadheading enjoyable and relaxing. In fact, for me, it’s very meditative and centering. But if you do not fall into this camp, the best way to keep from feeling overwhelmed is to visit your garden daily and do a little at a time. I’ve found that once I get into a schedule of deadheading on a regular basis, the waves of blooms in my garden can be extended by weeks or even months.

Deadheading for rebloom

Many perennials respond to deadheading by producing more blooms. Plants like the shasta daisy (Leucanthemum × superbum cv.), that produce lateral flowers along their stems should be deadheaded according to the method illustrated here.

How to deadhead for rebloom

Alternate method

Perennials that have spikelike blossoms that bloom from bottom to top, like delphinium (Delphinium spp. and cvs.) and the other examples marked by an asterisk (*) on the list below, should also be deadheaded as shown above, but only after the stem is about 70 percent finished flowering.

The Benefits Of Deadheading Flowers

Deadheading is beneficial to both the health and aesthetic appearance of growing flowers, and there are a few reasons why you should consider doing it regularly:

Healthier Plants

Dead or spent leaves and flowers become an unnecessary burden on a plant. Such withered parts provide no real benefits to the plant. However, plants will still direct lots of valuable nutrients and energy in trying to sustain such parts.

So how does it help?

Removing dead and spent flowers will make the plant healthier as there will be less wastage of precious nutrients and energy.

Beautiful Plants

Deadheading flowers will make them look more appealing. Withered flowers look pale and shriveled and their presence can create an eyesore.

Removing the dead flowers anytime you spot them will ensure that only the healthy and beautiful flowers are left on the plant.

And that will look great.

New Blooms

As flowers mature, they begin to shed their petals and start forming seeds instead. This process takes up a lot of energy and in most cases the plant will stop forming new blooms. You might end up with particularly ugly plants that have more seeds than flowers.

And you don’t want that.

There is also the likelihood that some of these seeds will germinate and overcrowd your growing space. Deadheading will save you the pain of going through this trouble.

Hollyhock Fungal Diseases

The assertion that hollyhocks don’t require a lot of maintenance is reasonably accurate. As long as they grow in an environment that gives them the necessary sunlight, moisture, room to grow, and protection from the sizzling sun or other weather extremes, you shouldn’t encounter any problems.

Since you can’t control the weather, including the day and nighttime temperatures, the amount and frequency of rain or lack thereof, you have to deal with the meteorological hand you’re dealt, figuratively speaking.

Three major fungal diseases attack hollyhocks. Those diseases are Hollyhock Rust, Powdery Mildew, and Anthracnose. Excessive moisture — either from faulty watering practices, or torrential rainstorms that occur regularly, create an environment that is conducive to the development of many fungal diseases, including the three I’m about to discuss.

Hollyhock Rust

Rust is one of the most extensive fungal diseases that affect plants. Out of roughly 5,000 discovered species of the disease, Hollyhock Rust is caused by the Puccinia malvacearum fungus. It is easy to recognize because it begins with little orangish-brown colored flecks that cover the underside of plant leaves. As the disease spreads, which it will do quickly in moist, humid and hot conditions, the flecks get larger and turn into pustules. The tops of leaves will start to develop yellow spots.

Rust begins on the lower leaves of plants it infects. Those leaves are closer to the soil surface and are more likely to get soaked. Over the course of the summer, the disease will spread to the upper leaves. In severe cases of the disease, the yellow spots will spread, covering the entire top surface of plant leaves. The yellow leaves will start to shrivel up before they fall off.

If the disease isn’t treated, the leaves will dry up, turn brown and die. Pustules on the undersides of leaves will turn from the orangish-brown into a yellowish green before they turn into black areas.

How Hollyhock Rust Spreads

Fungal spores spread quickly and easily through the wind and through the splashing rain. It also spreads through splashing water, which is inevitable when plants aren’t watered with soaker hoses or underground irrigation systems.

The disease progresses throughout the summer, traveling up the plant stalks, causing the thick stems to turn brown before they wilt, dry up and fall off the plant altogether.

Infected plant parts can spread the disease to weeds and nearby plants. This is why it is so important to leave enough space between hollyhocks when planting them. It’s also important to keep the flower bed free from weeds. If the disease has spread to one plant, it’s very likely that more plants will be infected, even if they don’t show symptoms right away. Since Hollyhock Rust spores can survive over the winter, you should not harvest seeds from diseased plants.

The most effective ways to manage the disease are by combining prudent watering practices and using fungicidal treatments. Look for a Copper Fungicide (Liquid Copper,) Safer Brand Fungicide or 3-in-1 spray, or Garden Safe 3-in-1 spray, both of which contain sulfur as a fungicide. These products are environmentally friendly, safe for wildlife, and for children and pets.

Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is easy to recognize because it coats plants with a white powder-like substance. Other fungal species that are closely related to powdery mildew often cause this fungus to develop. It is a very common plant fungus that is found all over the United States.

Unlike Hollyhock Rust, which thrives in excessive moisture, Powdery Mildew develops in places where the hot, humid air is accompanied by low soil moisture. I realize that that description makes it sound like powdery mildew could develop in areas that are plagued by drought. Humid air and low soil moisture aren’t contradictory. Low soil moisture is either the result of no rain or lack of supplemental irrigation. Hot, humid air is common all over the South where moist air from the Gulf of Mexico infiltrates areas that are hundreds of miles away from the coast.

Powdery mildew doesn’t typically infect hollyhocks until later in the growing season. It doesn’t attack mature foliage it targets newly sprouted leaves. The white powdery stuff isn’t an early sign of the disease. It starts on young leaves, covering them with raised blemishes that are transparent. As the scars cover more of each leaf surface, they begin to curl, so the underside of the leaves are visible.

As the infection spreads, the white powdery substance starts to spread to more new leaf growth, and to developing buds. The more severe the leaf damage is, the greater the overall plant defoliation.

Since the disease-causing fungus spores spend the winter hiding in leaf buds and other plant debris, it is essential that no debris be left in the flower bed or anywhere near where hollyhocks grew. The disease also spreads through wind and water, and through insects that pick up the spores from contact, they have with infected plants.


  • Make sure that plants have plenty of airflow – in the soil and in the growing bed.
  • Stake tall plants to prevent them from leaning towards other plants.
  • Clean your gardening tools by washing them in a solution of one part bleach to four parts of water.
  • Discard diseased leaves that you find on the ground or remove them from the plant.
  • Always water plants early in the morning so that the ground can dry throughout the day .
  • Keep water away from the leaves unless you’re spraying them in the middle of the morning to interrupt the daily spore release.
  • Once your hollyhocks are infected with powdery mildew, you’ll want to start a weekly protocol of spraying plants with copper sulfur-based fungicides.


Hollyhock AnthracnoseAnthracnose is caused by fungi that belong to the genus Colletotrichum. The genus belongs to a group of common plant pathogens that are responsible for many diseases that infect many plant species.

The disease is characterized by water-soaked dark lesions that appear on all parts of hollyhocks. It is a fast-spreading disease. The surface of lesions develops a pink colored mass of spores that have a gelatinous consistency. The disease can transform a beautiful hollyhock into a pile of rotted plant debris within days after infecting a plant.

Anthracnose survives through winters and the fungal spores hide in soil, garden debris, and seeds. It thrives in moist conditions that also allow it to germinate. The cool weather combined with moisture allow the fungus to develop and spread, as do contaminated garden tools, the wind, rain, and insects.

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