Gardens look beautiful when the flowers are in full bloom and there¹s a
profusion of color, but alert gardeners know this is the time to get the
It¹s time to deadhead once the new has worn off and the flowers are passed
their prime and starting to dry up. This important garden maintenance
activity simply refers to removing the spent flowers.
Deadheading flowering plants extends the bloom period, removes the seed
source of species that could become weedy and maintains the health of
flowering garden plants. It also improves the appearance of the plant by
cleaning up the dead flower heads.
Many plants re-bloom if existing flowers are removed. This is because in the
life cycle of the plants, the ultimate goal is to produce seed for the next
generation. If we interrupt that process, the plants will continue to try to
complete their genetic programming.
Flowering plants are capable of producing a large seed bank containing
hundreds or even thousands of seeds each year. If these seeds are allowed to
germinate, you may find yourself with some unexpected consequences.
Many seedlings do not match the original plant because it took complex
breeding to produce the mother plant. Also, these seedlings could crowd out
the mother plant. Deadhead these species before the seeds are produced will
alleviate unwanted seedling germination.
Plants other than those that bloom can benefit from deadheading. Remove the
non-showy flowers from plants like Coleus to allow the colorful foliage to
be the focus.
You can increase the overall health of your flowering plants through
deadheading. Seed production requires a tremendous amount of energy from the
plant, so much so that the plant will sacrifice all vegetative growth to
produce the next generation. By removing the spent flower heads, you can
maintain it in a vegetative growth stage so the stems, leaves and root
system will continue to grow.
How you should deadhead depends on the flowering characteristics of the
For plants having single flowers, such as Coreopsis or Echinacea, simply
remove the spent flower stalk. You can increase bloom size by removing side
flowers buds from lateral growth so more energy is sent to the main flower.
This also reduces seed production pressure later in the season or next year.
Use a different approach for flowering garden plants with clusters of
flowers, such as Achillea and Verbena. These can be troublesome as all of
the flowers do not mature at the same time and seeds are produced over a
prolonged period. For these plants, remove flowers as they start to fade and
allow the plant to produce new clusters.
Some plants like Petunia produce flowers over the entire plant. Removing
individual flowers would discourage even the most dedicated gardener, so
simply shear the plant using snips or an electric trimmer. Be careful to
remove just the faded flower heads.
There¹s not a lot of finesse needed for this task, so get out there and
deadhead. And if it helps to listen to a little Jerry Garcia, go for it.
The flower show for the rest of the summer and into the fall will be worth
the effort you put into deadheading your blooms.