There’s nothing better than a plant that is bursting with full, healthy, colorful blooms. However, those blooms only last for so long. Eventually, they die off, and when they do, they wither, become brown, and can totally detract from the aesthetic appeal of a plant.
Not only will dead blooms detract from the beauty of any flowers that are in full-bloom, but they can also increase the risk of pest infestations, as many insects and critters like to feed on dead flowers.
Fortunately, there’s a way that you can get rid of those faded blooms and keep your flowers looking beautiful and healthy. How? By deadheading, of course!
There’s no doubt that you have heard the term “deadheading” before, but if you’re new to gardening, you may be wondering what it means; or, you may know what it means, but you aren’t sure why it’s important and how to go about doing it.
To learn all you need to know about deadheading so that you can keep your plants and gardens looking beautiful, keep on reading.
What does deadheading mean?
Deadheading is a term that describes removing old growth, seed heats, and spent flowers from a plant. For many varieties of plants, removing old growth encourages more flower growth during the growing season. Of course, removing ugly, browned, shriveled-up growth will help to keep enhance the aesthetic appeal of you plants – and your landscape, overall.
Furthermore, deadheading also helps to prevent seeds from dropping into your flowerbeds, and thus, prevents the growth of unwanted seedlings and plants. Lastly, deadheading can help to reduce the risk of pest infestations, as some species of insects and animals love to munch on dead and decaying plant matter, so by removing spent growth will make your plants less appealing.
When is the best time to deadhead?
The best time to deadhead spent flowers is when the appearance of a plant begins to deteriorate as a result of the presence of too many dried, shriveled-up blooms. There isn’t a particular time during a growing season when deadheading is recommended, and the frequency that spent flowers should be removed depends on several factors, including the species of plant and how long the blooms last; it can vary from one day to several weeks.
The best advice to help you determine when it’s time to deadhead a plant: Just keep an eye on your flowers. As soon as you see dried-up, shriveled, brown blooms, you’ll want to do some deadheading.
How do you deadhead a plant?
The methods used to deadhead a plant depend on the type of plant. For example, if the plant is soft, it can be deadheaded by hand (do note, however, long fingernails will definitely make deadheading by hand easier).
To deadhead your soft plants by hand, simply pinch the stem underneath the spent flower between your forefinger and thumb, use your fingernails to cut through the stem, and pop off the dead growth. For plants that have tougher stems, you will want to use pruners or scissors to cut through the material. Cut off the spent flower head by snipping through the stem underneath it.
Whether you’re deadheading by hand or with tools, make sure that you are removing the entire spent flower. A lot of beginners make the mistake of only removing the petals; they miss the part of the bloom where the seeds form, which defeats one of the primary reasons why deadheading is an important chore.
Of course, failure to remove the entire dead bloom won’t offer the full cosmetic benefits that deadheading provides.
If you’re new to this plant care chore, you may have heard the terms “deadhead” and “pinch”, and you’re probably wondering what the difference is.
While they’re similar terms and some gardeners do use them interchangeably, other gardeners make the distinction between the two by insisting that you should “pinch back” a plant before it flowers, as doing so will promote more robust, fuller vegetation, while “deadheading” a plant is removing spent blooms after they have finished flowering.
What types of plants should be deadheaded?
You don’t have to deadhead all plants; however, generally speaking, it’s a wise idea to remove the spent blooms from all of your annual flowers if you want to keep them looking great all growing season long. Deadheading provides annuals with the chance to continue blooming throughout the spring, summer, and in many cases, even right through the winter.
Some types of plants will beg you to deadhead them; in other words, you can easily tell when their spent blooms have to be removed. For instance, after a downpour, the delicate blooms of the petunia plant often shrivel up. To promote new growth, removing those shriveled-up flowers is a must.
A lot of perennials benefits from deadheading, too. For instance, rose bushes that produce flowers on a constant basis, such as floribunda and hybrid tea roses, are two types of flowering shrubs that would benefit from deadheading. Removing the spent flowers will promote new blossoms so that you can get more enjoyment out of your shrubs during the growing season.
If you fail to deadhead, some annual pants will fade away before they should, which will not only reduce the aesthetic appeal of your landscape, as it will eliminate the color and interest, but it will also prove to be a waste of money and time.
You invest a lot of time and money on your annuals, and it goes without saying that you want them to look as good as possible for as long as possible. If you aren’t removing the spend blooms, their beauty will be reduced, and the entire plant may expire before it should.
The following are examples of plants that would definitely benefit from deadheading:
- Bee balm
- Butterfly weed
- Garden phlox
- Garden cosmos
- Italian bugloss
- Mountain bluet
- Rose campion
- Shasta daisies
- Perennial salvia
- Tickseed (coreopsis)
- Wild violets
Plants that don’t need to be or shouldn’t be deadheaded
The list of plants that don’t need to be or that shouldn’t be deadheaded is a little harder to devise. Why? Well, because there are three main factors that need to be taken into consideration to determine whether or not they simply don’t need to be or cannot be deadheaded. These factors include the following:
- Some types of perennial flowers just won’t produce more blooms, whether or not their spent blooms are removed.
- Some types of perennials don’t look sloppy and their aesthetic appeal isn’t minimized when their flowers are spent, so they really don’t have to be cleaned up.
- With some types of plants, not only will they not produce more blooms once the spent blooms are removed, but you don’t want to remove the spent blooms, as you want to keep the seed heads in place so that they will generate new flowers next season.
The following is a list of plants that don’t need to be or that shouldn’t be deadheaded. Those that fall into the third factor mentioned above are marked with an asterisk.
- Autumn Joy stonecrop
- Joe-Pye weed
- Siberian bugloss
- False indigo
- Summer snapdragon
- False spirea
- Million bells
- Firecracker plant
- Globe amaranth
- Star flowers
- Coral bells
- Dead nettle
- Shrub verbena
How deadheading promotes re-blooming
As mentioned above, one of the primary benefits of deadheading is to encourage a plant to produce more flowers. How does this work?
Every plant wants to set seeds their seeds to ensure future generations of the plant. Removing the spent flowers before they go to seed forces the plant to generate more blooms, as they will sense that it has not gone to seed.
Therefore, in order ensure future generations of the plant, it will automatically produce new blooms. For some plants, if the flowers are allowed to go to seed, they will stop blooming completely, and in some cases, they may even die off because their life cycle has been completed.
It’s important to note that deadheading doesn’t always force a plant to generate more blooms, as they only flower one time, and when that flower dies, the plant is done producing new flowers for the growing season.
To further explain how deadheading helps to promote new blooms, removing the dead flowers directs the energy of the plant away from the production of seeds and directs that energy into producing more flowers. In other words, deadheading a plant tricks it into generating new flowers so that it will finally produce seeds that it generated the flowers to produce in the first place before the bloom was deadheaded.
The goal of a plant is reproduction, and in order to reproduce, a plant has to create seeds. This natural process interrupts your ability to enjoy the flowers that a plant produces for as long as you possibly can.
Essentially, by deadheading, you are tricking the plant into generating new flowers that will eventually go to seed so that it can reproduce new plants, and you’ll be able to enjoy more flowers. Feel guilty about subverting the natural process? Don’t! Deadheading doesn’t harm the plant, and it actually benefits both you and the plant, as you’ll get to enjoy more flowers, and the plant will eventually have the opportunity to reproduce.