Vibrant magenta hollyhock flowers.
image by Destiny Cole: Morguefile
Hollyhocks tower above most other flowers in any traditional cottage garden. Some varieties can reach as tall as 8 feet. Hollyhocks have a tall center stalk that resembles a spike, with multiple flowers staggered up the stem. The stalk contains knobby green buds that will eventually burst into bloom with more flowers. Hollyhocks require very little care and preparation for the winter. However, there are a few things you can do to winterize your hollyhocks to help them thrive in your garden.
Evaluate the condition of your hollyhock plant while the plant contains blooms and vibrant leaves. Look for rust spots on the leaves or dead areas that require pruning.
Clip back any spotted leaves to reduce the incidence of a fungal infection during the growing season.
Allow foliage to wither and drop to the ground as temperatures cool. As with many perennials, it's best to simply leave the foliage attached to the plant until spring. The only exception involves leaves infected with rust spots on fungus. Even dead leaves should be removed from the garden and discarded to prevent a recurrence.
Place a 4-inch layer of mulch over the hollyhock for additional protection during the winter. In some areas, ground freeze can cause the plant to shift. This can cause root exposure that kills the plant. A layer of mulch helps insulate the soil and limits the chances of cold weather damage.