You, too, can advance confidently into the garden armed with sharp tools and knowledge about keeping your plants neat-looking and blooming all season long.
Let's face it. Even the name is scary.
But deadheading, despite the ominous sound, is nothing more than trimming off spent flowers, keeping plants tidy, and ensuring maximum bloom time. Some gardeners worry that if done imperfectly, it might harm the plant. But unless you really whack away at it, it's tough to kill or badly deform a plant by deadheading.
First and foremost, deadheading keeps your garden attractive. Nearly all flowering plants benefit from at least a little deadheading. When blooms start to fade, brown, curl, or otherwise look unattractive, that's the time to trim them off, allowing the other flowers to shine.
Use hand pruners or a pair of sharp scissors to deadhead flowers that feature tougher, almost woody stems. The key is to cut off the spent flower a quarter-inch above the next bud, as seen with this phlox (pictured). Other flowers to snip include peony, aster, coneflower (Echinacea spp.), coreopsis, hosta, zinnia, lily, and Rudbeckia. Cut off the faded spikes of these flowers to encourage a second flush of bloom: delphinium, floxglove, veronica, salvia, yarrow, geranium, and rose.
Breaking off the flower where the stem meets the stalk is the way to sucessfully dehead long-stem flowers, such as this daylily, that grow in a sucession of blooms on a single stalk. Pull down gently on the spent flower until it cleanly snaps off. Breaking off faded daylilies will add to the plant's appearance if not the overall flower productivity. Other flowers to break off incude iris, Gladiola, and hollyhock.
You don't need scissors to deadhead more herbaceous flowers, such as this chrysanthemum. Just use your thumb and forefinger to pinch off old blooms, especially on compact plants that feature many flowers. Pinch off faded flowers about a quarter-inch above new buds. Pinch impatiens, marigold, pansy, petunia, viola, dianthus, poppy, cosmos, and columbine.
You can often get a clue about which plants to deadhead and which to leave alone simply by watching them. If the flowers stay on the plant and become brown and unattractive, it's time to deadhead.
These include Coreopsis, feverfew, golden marguerites, Lobelia, sweet alyssum, smaller mums, Potentilla, flax, Aster, Gaillardia, and Ageratum. Trimming one flower at a time would be too time consuming, so instead, shear off with grass shears. Get as much of the flower stalk as possible. Avoid buds, but don't worry about taking a little foliage off with the blooms -- it'll grow back.
These include large marigolds, summer phlox, Astilbe, peonies, purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, daisies, annual and perennial Salvia, petunias, and zinnias. With hand pruning shears (also known as secateurs or pruning snips), cut off each flower individually, getting enough of the stalk so it doesn't protrude awkwardly. It's OK (and in the case of leggy plants, such as petunias, desirable) to take off a bit of the foliage, too.
Not to be confused with pruning, deadheading roses means taking out only the minimum amount of stem to remove the flower. Make the cut at a 45-degree angle that slopes down toward the center of the rosebush. The cut should be located on a spot 1) that occurs after the first pair of leaves and 2) is directly above an outward-facing stem, that is, a stem that points away from the plant's center.
These include daylilies, larkspur, foxgloves, hostas, tulips, daffodils, Oriental poppies, and irises. Simply cut back each flower with hand pruning shears as close as possible to the spot where the stalk meets the leaves.
Deadheading is just one way to stretch the bloom season. Try these other ways to make color last.
Set potted annuals in the garden and move them around to areas that need an instant color lift.
Plant late-summer and autumn-flowering bulbs in early to midsummer for lovely late-season bloomers.
Apply organic mulch (bark chips or shredded leaves) to stifle weeds and retain soil moisture. Organic mulches break down and improve soil, too.
Water deeply every three to four days while young plants are establishing themselves, then cut back to weekly waterings. Later in the season, water as needed when soil is dry.
Feed perennials monthly (spring through summer) with a fertilizer that's low in nitrogen but high in phosphorus. Feed annuals every three weeks with a balanced (5-10-5) organic fertilizer.
Weed out any unwanted plants so flowers won't have to compete for nutrients.
Remove rose suckers -- the stems that grow below where the plant is grafted to the roots -- right at the rose's base as soon as you see them.
Propagate existing plants by dividing them or collecting seeds from one or two faded blooms that you don't deadhead -- the more the merrier!
Here are some plants that respond especially well to deadheading and some that don't generally need it.
Hi, I'm Justin. Here in the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden today, talk about ways to keep your garden looking as great as it can. One of the easiest things you can do is deadhead. While the term may not sound very friendly, simply put, is removing the dead flowers off your plants. There are lots of reasons to deadhead your plants. One of my favorites is that you can get extra blooms from them. On this white flax for example, if you cut the stalk right here, this little side shoot will grow into a whole new stalk that blooms so you can enjoy it for several weeks. We deadheaded this flax a couple of weeks ago and you can see why it's such a great thing to re-bloom. We took the stalk off right here, and already, those clusters are producing the flowers. Should you pick up your dead flowers and throw 'em on compost pit or just let them drop on the ground? It's really up to you. If you're a neat and tidy gardener, you'll probably wanna throw them in the compost, but if you don't mind and decomposing right in your garden and adding to your soil structure there, it's fine to leave it fall. Another great reason to deadhead is you'll stop your plants from dropping seeds all over your garden. Some, like this black-eyed Susan, are notorious for that. If you don't cut off the dead flowers, you'll end up with a million unwanted seedlings all over your beds and borders next year. This stem of Russian sage was mostly done. So, we can cut off right here. It'll make the garden look better, but it also does another thing, the plant won't produce seeds, and if it doesn't put its energy into making seeds, the energy goes back into the root system. So, next year, we'll have a stronger, more flowering plant. The important part about deadheading is removing the faded flowers. It doesn't really matter where you do it on the plant; however, it'll look best in your garden if you cut it all the way back to the junction of a stem and a stalk. This will also give you the best chance to re-bloom because the new bloom shoots come out of that junction between the stem and a stalk. So, cut it all the way back, it'll look great and you probably get some re-bloom out of it too. So, spent a few minutes deadheading in your garden every week, you'll be amazed with the results.