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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 and fresh blooms.

Deadheading flowers is one way to improve plant health and the overall look in your summer garden.

What is Deadheading Flowers?

Deadheading flowers means removing old growth and seed heads to encourage healthy new growth and more blooms.

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deadheading 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.

deadheading flowers
After these knockout roses are done flowering, deadheading will encourage more blooms.

Why Should We Deadhead Flowers?

In general, when flowers fade, plants lose their beauty.

Depending on the plant type, removing dead flower heads can greatly improve flowering performance.

deadheading flowers
These dahlias have seen better days. Removing the dead flowers will encourage more blooms. (Before)

On some plant varieties, if dead blooms remain, the plant focuses too much energy on them which thereby reduces flower production.

When plants complete flowering, plants form seeds.

deadheading flowers
Grab a set of pruners and cut the flower back just above a set of leaf nodes.

Which 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.

deadheading flowers

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.

After deadheading flowers
After removing spent flowers.

Should I Deadhead All Plants As Flowers Fade?

The answer is no and 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 spent flowers.

deadheading flowers

But others like columbine, hollyhocks, 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.

deadheading flowers with Garrett Wade Pruners

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.

Deadheading Flowers on Midnight Salvia

Midnight salvia is an amazing spring blooming perennial that will produce a second set of blooms if you deadhead spent flowers.

Here’s how to do it:

deadheading flowers on midnight salvia
Before deadheading flowers on this midnight salvia.
deadheading flowers on midnight salvia
When deadheading salvias to get a second set of blooms, cut just above these leaf nodes.
deadheading flowers
See where the new blooms will emerge? Cut just above that spot.
deadheading flowers
I prefer to use pruners when I’m deadheading because it’s faster and more precise.
deadheading flowers
After deadheading flowers from midnight salvia.

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.

Before deadheading flowers on marigolds
Before deadheading, these marigolds look dingy and untidy.
deadheading flowers
Simply cut off the flower heads with pruners to deadhead flowers.
After deadheading flowers on marigolds
After deadheading flowers, the plant will put more energy into producing flowers and look more tidy all cleaned up.

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How to Deadhead Flowers

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  1. Very helpful, Stacy. I’ve Pinned so I can refer back. There’s a lot of deadheading to do in my garden this weekend. And, I wasn’t sure how to deal with the foxglove, but now I do. There may be new pruners in my (near) future! xo

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