The hollyhock was first found by the Europeans when they were visiting Chinese gardens. Reminiscent of an old-English cottage garden, hollyhocks are favorites of not only the urban but the suburban and country gardener. They are attractive along walls and fences, as hollyhocks can grow 5 to 8 feet tall. Because hollyhocks are biennials that reseed themselves, they need to be winterized if you live in a cold climate to ensure that they continue to bloom for years to come.
Cut back healthy hollyhock plants to 1 to 2 inches from the ground after the first hard frost. However, if your plants have hollyhock rust, which is a fungus that you can identify by its yellow or orange spots on the top side of the leaves, the fungus will overwinter in infected plant debris. In the spring, new infectious spores will form on the infected plant, causing infection on the newly emerging leaves. In this case, it is important to cut all hollyhock stalks back to ground level in the fall and collect all leaves and other above-ground plant parts and destroy them.
Deposit any healthy dead plant material in your compost bin. Since hollyhock rust can survive on dead plant debris, if your plants did have hollyhock rust, dispose of the entire plant after cutting it back. Do not put the diseased dead plants in your compost bin.
Apply a protective mulch to the plant bed. You can use mulched leaves, which are readily available in the fall. However, leaves tend to blow around in a wind, so you may also want to consider using straw, hay or evergreen boughs.