Deadheading is a phrase you hear a lot when speaking with gardeners, but do you actually know what it really means? Deadheading is not some form of medieval torture. It is simply the removal of spent or fading flowers. The goal of deadheading is to remove these old flowers in order to encourage new flowers to emerge. This directs the plant's energy away from forming seeds and helps your planters and flower beds look their best.

Removing spent flowers will not only make your plants look neater, but it can also actually revitalize them. While many gardeners associate the process of deadheading with annual flowers, perennials can benefit from this task as well. Some gardeners think the best time to deadhead is in the cool of the evening. Walking around for a little while and snipping faded blooms can be relaxing and it also allows you to check for other issues your garden faces such as pests and diseases.

Five Reasons to Deadhead:


Your Plants Will Bloom More Prolifically and for a Longer Period of Time – The main goal of a plant is to reproduce. A flower serves as bait to attract pollinators. Once the flower starts to fade, the plant puts all of its energy into turning a spent bloom into seed. Deadheading “tricks” the plant into producing additional flowers and as a result the process keeps the plant blooming for a longer period of time.

Your Garden Looks Neater And More Orderly – Once the flower starts to fade, it causes the plant to not look its best. Removing the faded growth and encouraging new flowers helps revitalize and brighten your garden. 

Keep Your More Aggressive Plants In-Line – Deadheading allows you to keep plants that grow rapidly, in check. Pruning flower heads before they go to seed also prevents prolific self-seeding plants such as Poppies and Forget-Me-Nots from re-seeding and overwhelming your garden.

Prevent Damage To Leaves – There are some plants, like Geraniums and Petunias, where the dead flower petals fall on the leaves. If they are not removed the spent blooms get stuck on the leaves which can leave unattractive brown spots or even promote diseases and cause the stems to rot.

Return Energy To The Bulb – For flowers that develop from bulbs, such as Lilies, there is a need to re-energize the bulb after blooming. Once the flowers fade, they need to be deadheaded to encourage the plant to direct its energy toward the bulb and not seed production. 

Deadheading Tips:


Remove The Entire Flower Head, Not Just the Dead Petals – Once the petals are gone, the plant will put all of its energy into creating a seed head. You need to snip off the entire flower to stop that process. Before removing the dead bloom be sure to look for other flower buds. You want to snip off the dead flower, not the new ones to come.

Have Good Clippers – While there are some flowers that are easy to remove by hand, it is always good to have your clippers handy in case you encounter a plant with a stronger stem. Plus, using a clipper will make a clean cut and lessen the chance of the plant getting a disease.

Let A Few Flowers Go To Seed – You may be tempted to deadhead every spent bloom that you see. Why not leave a few of the dead blossoms to ripen and actually go to seed? Doing this will allow you to collect the seeds of your favorite flowers so you can plant them again next spring.

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