Deadheading

by Irene Ecklund

Deadheading means to remove the spent flowers from ornamental plants. Usually there is deadheading to be done from spring to frost. You will enjoy the process more and will be less likely to feel overwhelmed if you keep up with it.

There are many reasons for deadheading. Deadheading can prolong the bloom period for plants on which the flowers open over a period of several weeks and it can initiate a second flush of smaller, sometimes shorter and less numerous blooms on plants that have a single heavy bloom. It can improve the overall appearance of the plant, giving a fresh new look to an otherwise finished or even distracting item. It can prevent self-seeding. Seed production can drain a plant’s energy and, in certain perennials, it can cause foliage to deteriorate.

Deadheading can promote vegetative and root growth rather than seed production and help retain the plant’s healthy appearance.

The age of the plant influences its deadheading needs. New plants give the gardener a grace period by requiring less frequent deadheading in their first year in the garden. Weather greatly affects deadheading from season to season. Cool, moist weather extends the bloom life; heat and pelting rain decrease it. How to deadhead depends on the particular growth habit of the plant. You may need to remove individual dead flowers one at a time, remove whole clusters of dead flowers, or cut off the entire flowering stalk.

Irene Ecklund is a Master Gardener from Omaha, Nebraska.

See all articles by Irene Ecklund