How and When to Deadhead Hollyhocks

My grandma would make dolls out of the hollyhocks that grew in her front yard, turning the large blossoms into skirts for her new companions.

She taught us to do the same thing when my sister and I were young, so my mom never had to worry about deadheading her hollyhocks. We’d always gotten to them first.

A close up vertical image of red and pink hollyhock flowers growing in the garden. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white printed text.

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I no longer make hollyhock dolls, which means I had to figure out if I should be deadheading the flowers as I do with so many other plants. Turns out, the answer isn’t totally straightforward.

It depends on your goals. Coming up, we’re going to discuss when and why you should deadhead and if it’s necessary at all. Here’s what we’ll discuss:

Hollyhocks are biennials, which means they only live for two years. But if you’ve ever had them in your garden before, then you know they’ll keep coming back year after year. How does that happen?

A close up horizontal image of hollyhocks growing in a flowerbed with a wooden fence in the background.

These plants are happy to self-seed all over the place. While I wouldn’t call them invasive, they are certainly quick to reproduce if given the right conditions. Read our guide to growing hollyhocks learn more about this (and more!).

When you decide whether or not to deadhead, self-sowing is something you need to keep in mind. So let’s discuss.

Is Deadheading Necessary?

In a word, no. Deadheading your hollyhocks isn’t strictly necessary. Your plants will bloom for a good long while from midsummer to fall without any encouragement from you.

When they’re done blooming, they’ll send out seeds and then die back to the ground for the winter.

However, if you deadhead, you encourage the plant to send up another flush of blossoms in the late summer. Additionally, if you remove the spent heads, you prevent self-seeding. That can be a bad thing or a good thing, depending on your goals.

A close up horizontal image of the seed pods forming on a hollyhock plant pictured on a soft focus background.

If you want to see your plants return year after year, deadheading too soon can be a bad thing.

So while deadheading isn’t essential, it can certainly be helpful if you time it right.

When to Deadhead

There’s no set time on when you should be deadheading. Every plant and every climate is different.

The trick is to simply watch your flowers. Once they start to look spent and they turn brown, cut the flower stalk down to the base.

However! If you want your plants to self-seed, don’t remove them until all of the flowers have turned brown and have dropped their seeds. Otherwise, you’ll prevent them from reproducing.

A close up image of the inside of a hollyhock seed head pictured on a soft focus background.

To figure out if the seeds have dropped, look at the little brown pods that are left after the blossoms have fallen. They have a cupped center that will either have a bunch of black seeds inside, or it will be empty.

If you can see the seeds but the rest of the pod is totally dry and brown, you can provide a little assistance and remove the pod and sprinkle the seeds on the ground, or save them for planting elsewhere.

How to Deadhead Hollyhocks

Deadheading hollyhocks is a little different than doing the same chore on a different species that only produces one flower per stalk, such as peonies. Each flower stalk has many flower heads and the buds don’t all open at the same time.

You can pinch off the spent flowers, which usually start at the bottom of the stalk, if you want to maintain a tidy appearance while you wait for the upper flowers to open.

However, this isn’t necessary and, in my experience, has never encouraged the plant to send out a second flush of flowers. It simply looks nice.

A close up horizontal image of spent and dried hollyhock flowers growing in a border with a red fence in the background.

To encourage a second round of blossoms, you need to cut the entire flowering stalk off at the base, and you should do this when a majority of the blossoms are spent.

When a quarter or so of the flowers are left at the top and the rest are looking pretty sad, that’s the right time.

Just use a pair of scissors or pruners and make a clean cut at the base.

Soon, you should start to see a few new flowering stalks form. They won’t grow as big or tall as the original ones did, but you should still see some new flowers bloom.

This method will prevent seeds from dispersing, though you may get some from the second set of blooms if you don’t deadhead them.

Cleaning Up for the Winter

Cleaning up for the winter is different than deadheading. You won’t see a second round of blossoms.

If you want your plants to self-seed, then you need to refrain from deadheading them. I know, it can be unsightly to leave those dying flower stalks alone, but it will pay off in the long run.

A close up horizontal image of spent and dried hollyhock flowers pictured on a soft focus background.

Once the stalks look pretty ragged and the seed pods are all (or mostly) empty, use a clean pair of pruners and cut the stalk off at the base. You can do this before or after the foliage has died back.

Happy Hollyhocks Are a Sight to See

When you’re looking up at those impressive stalks packed full of vibrant blossoms, it’s pretty hard not to be impressed. These cottage garden classics are incredibly beautiful when they’re in full bloom.

But when they fade? Not so much. Now you know how to decide when and how to gussy them up a bit.

A close up horizontal image of a bed of beautiful hollyhock flowers with a residence in soft focus in the background.

What cultivar of hollyhocks are you growing? Do you let them self-seed? Let us know in the comments section below!

Want to learn more about some marvelous hollyhock relatives in the Malvaceae (or mallow) family? Consider checking out these guides next:

Photo of author
Kristine Lofgren is a writer, photographer, reader, and gardening lover from outside Portland, Oregon. She was raised in the Utah desert, and made her way to the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two dogs in 2018. Her passion is focused these days on growing ornamental edibles, and foraging for food in the urban and suburban landscape.

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billy bob
billy bob (@guest_45550)
27 days ago

My problem is that the hollyhocks grow too tall and fall over in Oregon. I guess I can support them somehow.
BTW. , I saved all my coneflower heads and yielded hundreds of seeds. The sprouting mixture of 49% sand/49% peat and 1% perlite seemed to do the tricks with the sprouting but now the mystery is all of the different cultivars are mixed up, and are going to be a huge surprise when they begin blooming. So much fun!