Do you want to know the secret to keeping your flowers looking fresh all summer long? It’s a straightforward word: deadheading.
If you learn this one skill, you can prolong the life of your plants, encourage healthier plants, and also encourage more growth in your flower garden.
You’d ponder for such a secret it would be a complicated task, but it isn’t. I’m going to fill you in on everything you need to know to boost the health of your flower garden with deadheading.
Here is what you’ll need to know to see results this summer:
What does Deadheading Flowers mean?
Deadheading sounds like a funny name, but it's an actual term. When you deadhead a plant, you cut off the flowers of the plant which are dying or have already died.
You’ll realize a flower of a plant is dying or dead because the bloom will wilt and the colors will fade. At times, the petals will even begin to fall off the plant.
If you see any of these signs on your plants, you’ll know deadheading should be in your near future.
Benefits of Deadheading Flowers
When I first began gardening many years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. I started raising flowers in window boxes for curb appeal.
However, I have to be honest here. When I was growing up, I lived in the deep south where summers were sweltering.
Because of this, my mother wouldn’t use real flowers in her window boxes, but instead artificial flowers. I learned how to add curb appeal to a house, but I didn’t learn how to garden with this method.
Which is why when I first started growing real flowers, I knew nothing of deadheading. I was disappointed when I noticed the blooms on my petunias began to wilt after only a month.
I had done everything right by watering adequately and choosing quality soil, but I didn’t understand. My mother-in-law (who had an incredible green thumb) introduced me to the world of deadheading.
She went through my flowers and pinched the dead blooms off. Much to my amazement, my flowers came back to life and looked beautiful.
With all this being said, here is why you should be introduced to deadheading too:
1. Encourages Continued Blooming
When you remove dead flowers from your plants, it sends a message to your flowers which says, “Hey! You’re still young. Keep producing.”
Which is a good thing because your flowers will take this message and run. Flowers continually blooming is our goal in gardening, and this is one option for achieving this.
2. Makes Your Flowers Look Good
If we didn’t all like fresh, vibrant colors over fading colors, both men and women around the world wouldn’t color their hair to cover the gray as they get older.
Well, the same principle applies to your flowers. When you pull off the discolored and wilted flowers and allow the plant to produce new vibrant blooms, your flowers look better.
3. Stops Flowers from Going to Seed
When you’re raising vegetables, and they go to seed, the plants begin to bolt. This is the process where the vegetable produces seed for future plants to come to fruition.
Flowers don’t bolt. Instead, they wilt and drop their petals to produce more seed for future plants. Certain varieties of plants will easily crowd themselves out, such as chives, if left to reproduce quickly. In those cases, it’s ideal to deadhead and stop too much seed from forming.
4. Keeps Plants Healthy
You can deadhead certain varieties of annual and perennial flowers. This doesn’t mean every flower variety will give you a second bloom, though.
However, deadheading perennial plants which won’t give the second bloom is still a good thing. Those plants will focus the energy you saved them from deadheading into producing quality root systems and rich foliage.
5. You Get Longer Blooms
When you deadhead a plant, you are setting your plants up to bloom longer the second time. In most cases, the second bloom lasts longer than the first.
But I encourage you to keep in mind; not all plants produce a second bloom. Do your homework on your plant variety to keep yourself from being disappointed.
Should Every Plant be Deadheaded?
I know I’ve made deadheading sound like the bees-knees of gardening. Truthfully, it’s a great skill to have as a gardener.
But with this being said, not every plant should be deadheaded nor will every plant benefit from it.
First, I want to share common flower varieties which are known for producing gorgeous second blooms. They are:
However, you should avoid deadheading plants which produce for long periods of time. If you have a perennial in your garden which produces for months and doesn’t self-seed, you should leave this plant alone.
When they finally do begin to die at the end of the season, it’s because they are going dormant for the winter. You don’t want to deadhead them and potentially risk the plant trying to flower longer. This could damage the plant.
How to Deadhead Your Garden
There are three different methods to deadheading your garden. Here are your options:
My favorite option for deadheading is pinching. I do this with my petunias each year because it’s simple to walk by and complete the task on my way by them.
When you deadhead a flower, you put your index and thumb together with the dead bloom between those two fingers.
From there, you gently pluck the flower away from the stem. It should release from the flower easily.
After all, the flower was going to do this on its own anyway. You helped speed up the process by plucking the flower.
Your next option for deadheading flowers is to prune them. You’ll use your pruning shears to cut the dead blooms from a plant.
When you cut the dead bloom, you’ll need to be sure to cut below the dead flower on the stem.
However, if you can see a new bloom coming forth from the flower, you’ll need to be sure to avoid getting this with your pruning shears.
This method is faster if you are working on a plant, such as a mum. I use this method when I’m cutting the dead from them each year because trying to hand pick each dead bloom on a mum can be a torcher no matter how ‘on top of things’ you try to be.
3. Cut Back
Your final option for deadheading flowers is to cut them back. What do I mean?
Well, at times, you’ll have flowers which will produce a bunch of dead blooms at once. You could go through and prune each dead bloom or pinch each dead bloom off.
Again, this might be similar to torture in some instances because of how tedious and time consuming it can be.
In these cases, it’s a good idea to use your loppers and cut the whole plant back to the stems. From there, new blooms will produce together.
But be careful to avoid any new blooms which may be growing in the midst of all the dead. If you see new flowers you may have to choose a different method.
I want to leave you with a few final tips about deadheading. Here are a few ideas to make your life easier when it comes to deadheading:
1. Start Early and Deadhead Regularly
The first is perhaps the essential aspect to deadheading your flowers.
When deadheading, you should be sure to perform this task regularly. You should begin deadheading your plants in the late spring.
From there, make it a point to deadhead your flowers every day or at least every other day.
However, if you choose to wait until fall to begin deadheading, understand you will have a mess on your hands.
By this point, most flowers are beginning to die off on their own. This is their usual time to start wanting to sow seed for a future generation and prepare to die off.
This equates to a ton of work for you with many dead blooms coming on at one time.
Which is why it’s important to deadhead regularly and early on in the growing season to avoid an overwhelming amount of work.
2. Know Your Flowers
There are many different flower varieties which have different specifications. Some could be annuals (meaning they only grow for one year and die off.)
Other types could be perennials (meaning they come back year after year in most climates.) Each flower variety will bloom differently and have different needs.
It’s important to read the packaging (if you purchase your flowers) or research via the internet (if you grow your flowers from seed) to understand if your flowers will give you a second bloom if deadheaded and to know if deadheading could be harmful to them (mainly with perennials.)
Once you know this information, you can safely deadhead the plants which need it and have healthier, prettier plants because of your extra effort.
Well, you now know all you should about deadheading your flowers. It’s a simple task, and if by some chance you deadhead a flower you shouldn’t or cut too deep on a plant, you’ll learn and know what not to do next time.
After all, this is how gardening works. We learn by doing. Some mistakes happen, and it’s okay.
But now I want to hear from you. Do you deadhead your flowers? Do you have specific flowers in your garden which particularly prosper because of it? Any which don’t?
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