Being an epitome of the elegance of cottage garden plants, hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) are tall-growing biennials or short-lived perennials. They boast showy flowers which appear in shades of pink, red, purple, or white and have a papery texture. Their spires can grow up to 8 feet (2.43 m), making them one of the tallest flowering plants in the garden.
To keep tall hollyhocks upright, stake them together, tie them to a trellis system, or plant them alongside a support structure like a fence. Heavy or large pots can also help to keep your hollyhocks steady. You can also fill the pot with river pebbles or gravel to add extra weight.
Read on as I take a closer look at each of these methods and offer some extra tips on how to get the best results. By the end of this post, you should have all the information you need to keep your tall hollyhocks upright and looking their best.
1. Stake Hollyhocks Using Heavy-Duty Twine or Garden Wire
One of the best and most effective ways to keep tall hollyhocks upright is to stake them. This will provide extra support to the plants they need to grow tall and stay steady. Staking also helps keep the plant off the ground, which can help to prevent damage from pests or diseases.
You will need some heavy-duty twine or garden wire, wooden or metal stakes, and a hammer to do this. The idea is to drive the stakes into the ground around the hollyhocks and then tie the twine or wire to the stakes and around the plant stems.
Follow these steps:
Drive Wooden or Metal Stakes Into the Ground
First, you must drive your stakes into the ground, beside and around the hollyhocks. You will need one stake for every 2 to 3 feet (0.60 – 0.91 m), depending on the height of your hollyhocks. Ensure the stakes are tall enough to extend a few inches above the height of the hollyhocks.
This will make it easier to tie the twine or wire to the stakes. When using wooden stakes, pretreat them with a wood preservative to help prevent rot and insect attack.
Wrap Twine or Wire Around the Stakes and Plant Stems
Once the stakes are in place, it’s time to wrap the twine or wire around them and the hollyhock stems. Start at the base of the plant and wind the twine or wire around the stem, then around the stake, and back around the stem.
You can group several stems together and wrap them as one to avoid having to tie each stem individually. Do this until you reach the top of the plant, then tie the twine or wire off securely. Avoid tightening the twine or wire too much, as this could damage the plant. A snug fit is all that’s needed.
Repeat the Process for Each Hollyhock Plant
Repeat the process for each bunch of hollyhocks that you want to stake. Work in small sections, so the twine or wire doesn’t become too loose or tangled. Regularly check the stakes and twine or wire to ensure they are still secure and haven’t come loose.
2. Tie Hollyhocks to a Trellis System
A trellis system is another excellent way to keep your hollyhocks upright, allowing them to exude an aura of casual elegance in the garden. Trellises improve sunlight exposure, airflow, and drainage around the plants, which can all help encourage healthy growth.
Its space-saving design also helps keep the garden tidy and organized as you can train the hollyhocks to grow up and around the trellis. Additionally, you can use the trellis to support zucchini and other plants.
Trellises are available in several designs, so you can choose one that best suits your garden’s needs.
Alternatively, you can DIY a trellis using some basic materials like:
- Wood or metal stakes
- Chicken wire
- Mallet/ hammer
- Nails/ staples
- Fabric strips
You will also need to choose the right size trellis for your hollyhocks. For example, if your hollyhocks are 2 to 3 feet (0.60 – 0.91 m) tall, you will need a trellis at least 4 feet (1.21 m) tall. This will provide adequate support and allow the plants to grow freely.
Here’s how to tie hollyhocks to a trellis system:
Hammer the Stakes Into the Ground
Using a mallet or hammer, drive the wooden or metal stakes into the ground a few inches from the base of each hollyhock plant. Drive the stakes about 1 foot (0.30 m) into the ground and space them 4-6 feet (1.21 – 1.82 m) apart. This will stabilize the trellis and stop it from toppling in strong winds.
Attach the Chicken Wire
Next, you need to attach the chicken wire to the stakes. Cut the chicken wire to size using wire cutters, then the nails or staples to secure it. Ensure the chicken wire is taut and level, so it doesn’t sag in the middle.
Tie the Hollyhocks to the Trellis
Once the chicken wire is in place, you can start tying the hollyhocks to the trellis. Start at the bottom of the plant and tie the stem to the chicken wire using fabric strips or twine. Space the ties about 6 inches (15.24 cm) apart as you work your way up the stem. Let the fabric strips or twine fit snugly around the stem to avoid damaging it. Repeat the process for each hollyhock plant.
Train the Plants To Grow Up the Trellis
As the hollyhocks grow, train them to grow up and around the trellis. Gently bend the stems in the desired direction and secure them with ties. This will take some time and patience, but it’s worth it for the beautiful results.
Check the Trellis Regularly
Once the hollyhocks are tied to the trellis, check it regularly to ensure the chicken wire is still secure and the plants grow as desired. If any of the ties come loose, simply re-secure them. Additionally, you may need to add more ties as the plants grow.
3. Use Heavy or Large Pots To Keep Them Steady
Undersized pots are one of the main reasons why hollyhocks flop over. When the pots are too small, they can’t provide adequate support to the roots, causing the plants to become top-heavy and topple over. This is especially true for larger hollyhock varieties that can grow up to 8 feet (2.43 m) tall.
To avoid this problem, use heavy or large pots at least 18 inches (45.72 cm) wide and deep. This will provide adequate room for the roots to grow and help keep the plants steady. Ensure you add some drainage holes to the bottom of the pots to prevent waterlogging.
You can add river pebbles or stones to the bottom of the pot for extra weight and stability. The extra weight will help keep the pot from toppling in strong winds. Additionally, it will help anchor the pot in place, so it doesn’t get blown away. Colored river pebbles also add a decorative touch to your potted hollyhocks.
4. Plant Them Alongside a Fence or Wall
Planting hollyhocks alongside a fence or wall can provide them with much-needed support. The fence/ wall will act as a natural trellis, allowing the hollyhocks to grow vertically. This is an excellent option if you don’t have the space for a freestanding trellis.
When planting hollyhocks alongside a fence or wall, ensure you space them 12 -18 inches (30 – 45 cm) apart. This will give them enough room to grow without crowding. Additionally, ensure the fence is tall enough to provide adequate support. A 6-foot (1.8 m) tall fence should be sufficient for most hollyhock varieties.
You can attach chicken wire or lattice to the fence for extra support. This will provide a more stable surface for the hollyhocks to grow on. Simply nail or staple the chicken wire or lattice to the fence, then train the hollyhocks to grow up and around it.
5. Use Fertilizer Sparingly
While fertilizer is beneficial for hollyhocks, too much of it can cause the plants to become top-heavy and flop over. Fertilizer contains high levels of nitrogen which encourage leaf growth. This can cause the plants to become leggy and weak, making them more susceptible to falling over.
Apply a balanced fertilizer to your hollyhocks sparingly, following the manufacturer’s instructions. This will give them the necessary nutrients without encouraging too much leafy growth. Avoid applying fertilizer on the leaves and stems, as this can cause them to burn. Instead, spread it at the base of the plant and water it deeply to ensure it reaches the roots.
Hollyhocks are a beautiful addition to any garden, but their tall, slender stems can make them susceptible to falling over. This predisposes them to damage from wind, rain, and heavy loads of flowers.
Luckily, you can keep them upright by using stakes, trellis systems, and planting them in heavy pots. Additionally, you can plant them alongside a fence or wall for added support. By following these tips, you can keep your hollyhocks looking their best all season long.