The Basics of Deadheading Flowers
(This post was written in collaboration with Garrett Wade but all thoughts and opinions are my own.) Are you growing a garden but not sure when and how to start deadheading flowers? Here are some deadheading basics for beginners.
With the transition of spring to summer in the garden, spring flowers begin to fade and plants start looking washed out.
But there are ways to revitalize plants to promote more growth with prolific, fresh blooms. Deadheading flowers is one way to improve plant health and the overall look in your summer garden.
Here’s what you need to know.
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What is Deadheading Flowers?
If you’ve never deadheaded flowers before, you are in for a treat because it might sound like a lot of work, but it is quite therapeutic.
Deadheading flowers means removing old growth and seed heads to encourage healthy new growth and more blooms.
When plants focus on seed production, they don’t put out as many flowers. So It’s important to remove those seed heads so that you get more flowers.
When is the Best Time to Deadhead Flowers?
When the appearance of a plant starts to deteriorate, that is the best time to deadhead spent flowers.
How often a particular plant needs to be deadheaded will depend on how long the flowers last. This can range from one day to several weeks depending on the plant type and variety.
A great example plant for deadheading flowers is the rose. While there are varieties that bloom once and they are done, there are others that will actually bloom more if you keep deadheading them.
And you can tell just by looking at these blooms, there are several flowers that are begging to be deadheaded off the plant.
Why Should We Deadhead Flowers?
In general, when flowers fade, plants lose their beauty. The flowers brown out and look a bit unsightly, am I right?
But removing spent blooms doesn’t just make the plant look better. Depending on the plant type, removing dead flower heads can greatly improve flowering performance.
On some plant varieties, if dead blooms remain, the plant produces seeds. If the plant focuses too much energy on seed production, there will be much less flower production.
Thus, when plants complete flowering, they form seed heads.
This means the focus is on seed production as opposed to flowering. Thus, deadheading flowers as soon as blooms start fading help promote a second bloom.
The deadheading process redirects a plant’s energy from seed production to root and vegetative growth. Therefore, deadheading flowers is important to do because it keeps plants healthy and blooming.
As an aside, deadheading flowers isn’t just beneficial to plants. It is also beneficial to the gardener, because removing spent flowers can be a very relaxing and therapeutic process.
Should I Deadhead All Plants As Flowers Fade?
The answer is no. And it largely depends on the type of flowers you are growing. Certain varieties benefit from deadheading, while others do not.
For example, salvias and catmint benefit from deadheading. They can get a second set of blooms if you remove the spent flowers.
But others like columbine, hollyhock, foxglove, and forget-me-nots like to self-sow and benefit from leaving them be in the garden.
So it is important for the gardener to evaluate whether a plant requires deadheading or not before removing spent blooms. Because not all plants should be treated alike.
About Garrett Wade Pruners
When I deadhead spent flowers, I find it quicker and easier to work with pruners. I started working with these AWESOME pruners from Garrett Wade and really love working with them.
They are solid, really well made and the bright turquoise color makes them easy to find when I put them down on the ground.
Moreover, they are really comfortable to prune plants with, make precise cuts, and are easy to use.
I not only used these pruners to deadhead flowers, but also used them to prune my roses, forsythia, and a few other shrubs that were getting a little out of control.
How to Deadhead Flowers?
Deadheading flowers is a relatively easy process. I love to deadhead with pruners because it’s a faster and more precise process.
When I pinch with my fingers, I always wind up somehow damaging the plant, so pruners work best for me.
- As blooms fade, cut off the flower stems below the spent flowers and just above the first set of full, healthy leaves.
- Check plants carefully to ensure no flower buds are hiding among the faded blooms before you shear off the top of the plant. You don’t want to accidentally cut off any blooms!
Here are some examples of how to deadhead.
Deadheading Flowers on Midnight Salvia
Salvias are an amazing spring-blooming perennial that will produce a second set of blooms if you deadhead spent flowers.
While you don’t have to deadhead them if you choose not to, the plant can produce more blooms.
Here’s how to do it:
When deadheading salvias to get a second set of blooms, cut just above these leaf nodes. Follow the pictures below to see where the cuts are made.
Removing Dead Flowers on Marigolds
Marigolds are a gorgeous annual that blooms from spring through fall. The more you deadhead it, the more blooms you’ll get.
So it’s worth getting out there every day or at least weekly to remove spent blooms.
And marigolds are one of my favorite plants to deadhead because they always look so much better when you are done.
Follow the photos below to see where the cuts are made. But sometimes, I’ll just go out and pinch them off with my fingers.
What Flowers Should Be Deadheaded?
While this list is not exhaustive, it represents a good example of plants that will benefit from deadheading and produce more flowers.
- Sweet Peas
What Happens if I Don’t Deadhead My Flowers?
I promise you the world will not end if you don’t deadhead your flowers. There may be less production of blooms, but your plants will still do their thing!
As a side note, there are varieties of plants that will continuously bloom whether you deadhead them or not.
Growers have perfected their plants by making these types of varieties, so read the labels and see whether the plant you purchase was bred as a continuous bloomer.
Looking for More Ways to Grow a Beautiful and Healthy Garden?
If you want to grow a garden that is gorgeous, healthy, and full of plants and flowers, it starts with good healthy soil.
Remove weeds when you see them and keep up on them.
In addition to managing weeds, it is so important to improve your garden soil both when you start a new garden, as well as over time.
One of the best ways to improve your soil, is to make compost. It’s very easy to do and I’ve got a great recipe for it.
Plus, it’s much less expensive to make your own than to purchase from the garden nursery.
In addition to making your own compost, gather all those leaves in fall and early spring to make leaf mold to improve the health of your garden soil too.
Garden Supplies I Use
I’m often asked about the garden supplies and tools that I use most. From pruners to deer repellents, here are some of my favorites in no particular order.
- I use good-quality garden soil, compost, and perlite when planting.
- I have used this deer repellent with great success. But now, I’m all about this deer repellent that is systemic instead of topical. This means the plant takes it in as opposed to it just smelling bad.
- Hands down this is my favorite hand-weeding tool. You can use to get underneath roots, loosen soil, and it cuts down on the weeding time because you work much faster.
- But I also love this long, stand-up weeding tool to really get around roses from afar.
- I like to use THIS ORGANIC FERTILIZER for roses because the blooms are more prolific and it’s organic.
- Where pest and disease problems are concerned, I generally use this insecticidal soap or neem oil to help control infestations depending on the issue.
- This is my favorite set-and-forget slow-release fertilizer for houseplants, annuals, and container gardens.
- Whenever I stake my peonies or other plants, I generally use these grow through garden supports because they work really well and keep the blooms upright.
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