Regular deadheading ensures the blooms keep coming all season long
Have you ever been frustrated by a beautiful plant that suddenly stops blooming? It’s time for a haircut. Regular deadheading is an essential practice in the life of a garden. Not only does it keep plants looking neat, but it encourages more blooms over a longer period of time. And, there’s nothing quite like getting a plant to re-flower that looks like it’s called it quits for the season.
WHAT IS DEADHEADING?
Simply put, deadheading is the practice of removing faded (dead) flower heads from a plant. Not only does it keep a plant looking attractive, it also encourages it to keep on blooming.
Dried poppy seed heads
WHY DOES IT WORK?
The life cycle of all plants is to grow, produce flowers, set seeds and die. No sooner have the blooms started to fade, and a plant turns its energy to setting seed. By removing spent blooms, you prevent the plant from producing seed, which in turn keeps it focused on producing more flowers. The result is a healthier, more vigorous plant that blooms for a longer period of time.
HOW TO DEADHEAD
Although deadheading benefits all blooming plants, the world of flowers is diverse and has different requirements. That is to say, many species require their own specific methods. Here are tips on how to deadhead 6 popular varieties of flowering plants:
1. Clusters of flowers with leaves on their stems
Purple garden phlox
For tall, leggy plants like phlox, yarrow, daisies (or plants that have leaves on the lower stem), the best strategy is to cut off the spent flowers just before they die back completely.
A good rule of thumb is to reach into the plant and prune the spent flowers back to the first or second set of leaves. This not only helps hide the cut, but it also encourages the plant to bush out as it produces new blooms. I vary the lengths at which I cut to keep the plant shapely.
2. Flowers with no leaves on their stems
Long-stemmed orange daylily
For flowers like daylilies and hostas that have no leaves on their stems, cut the entire stalk back to the base of the plant once it has finished flowering.
Multiple flower spikes of salvia make pruning tedious
Once the initial flush of flower spikes start to brown, salvias often appear to be done for the season. With proper deadheading, however, you can encourage them to keep on blooming.
By taking a look at the plant, you’ll see that there are actually three flower stalks growing together – a central one surrounded by two, smaller ones on the side. As soon as the central stalk starts to brown, remove it. This will encourage the side shoots to grow. Then, once the side shoots lose their color, cut them off too.
Deadheading salvias in this way can encourage the plant to re-bloom at least twice and sometimes three times during the season, especially if you feed it mid way through the summer. Try one of these stunners for great summer color: Salvia patens Cambridge Blue, bright red Salvia Jezebel, or the traditional purple/blue favorite Salvia x sylvestris May Night.
4. Bushy plants with small flowers
Bushy perennials like coreopsis can be encouraged to produce a second round of blooms past their standard flowering time.
Since it can be tedious to deadhead so many tiny flowers, I grab big chunks of the stems with spent blooms in one hand and shear them back with a pair of long-blade shears in the other. This not only encourages the plant to re-bloom a week or so later, it keeps thinks looking tidy. Try soft yellow Coreopsis Moonbeam for reliable blooms all summer.
With roses, the number to know is ‘5’
Most of us know that roses need to be deadheaded to flourish. Remove withered blooms by pruning back to above a five-leaflet leaf, cutting on an angle.
Geraniums need consistent deadheading to look their best
All annuals need to be deadheaded regularly to thrive (with the possible exception of begonias, in which case you should prune the leaves.) Popular annuals like geraniums and petunias must be constantly snipped, pinched or cut back to keep flowers looking neat and to encourage blooming. For a more in-depth tutorial on how to prune these annuals, click here for my blog post ‘How To Keep Your Potted Plants In Shape All Summer.’
Butterfly weed is a prolific self-seeder
Some flowers, like columbine, echinacea and butterfly weed are prolific self-seeders. If you’re looking to produce lots of new baby plants, leave the seed heads on and they’ll quickly spread around your garden.
DEADHEADING WON’T DAMAGE THE PLANT
It’s rare to damage a plant by cutting it. Use common sense while removing spent flowers, taking care to hide your cuts under existing foliage. You will be rewarded with a flush of new blooms!