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How to Deadhead Flowers in Your Garden

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Apr 23, 2020 • 2 min read

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Ron Finley Teaches Gardening

Deadheading is a technique to encourage flowering plants to produce new blooms all throughout the growing season.

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Ron Finley Teaches GardeningRon Finley Teaches Gardening

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What Is Deadheading?

Deadheading is the removal of spent flowers from plants to encourage renewed growth. In most cases, you can deadhead flowers using a simple pair of garden pruners. If you trim away dead flower heads all throughout the blooming season, you'll promote the development of new flower buds and keep your garden beautiful for months on end.

Why Do Gardeners Deadhead Flowers?

Gardeners deadhead flowers to encourage new blooms. In an ordinary bloom cycle, when a flower withers and begins to form a seed head, the plant devotes energy to producing seeds rather than flowers. When you deadhead flowers, you refocus the flowering plant's energy; instead of turning spent blooms into seed heads, the plant will instead return to flower production.

Which Flowers Can You Deadhead?

Deadheading flowers works on a wide array of both annual and perennial flowering plants, including geraniums, zinnias, yarrow, marigolds, coreopsis, petunias, foxglove, columbine, and begonias. Other flowering plants like peonies may not produce more blooms in response to deadheading because they only flower for a short time once per year. Deadheading flowers like these is still worthwhile, as it encourages the plants to devote more energy to the growth of roots and foliage.

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How to Deadhead Flowers in Your Garden

Deadheading flowers is easy to do and typically requires no more than a pair of pruning shears.

  1. Identify spent flowers. Look out for faded blooms or fallen petals around the base of the plant. These signs of spent flowers indicate that it’s time for deadheading.
  2. Find a leaf or node on the flower stem. When removing a spent flower from a plant, select a cutting location that is a quarter of an inch above a leaf or node (the bump on a stem that produces new leaves or branches).
  3. Cut or pinch the stem. You can deadhead a flower either by snipping it with pruners or by pinching the flower stem. Some plants like roses, rosemary, and well-established sage have woody stems. These may require more powerful pruners or even a lopper.
  4. Fertilize. A deadheaded plant will produce new flowers, roots, or foliage. You can accelerate that process by adding fertilizer to the base of the plant. Most plants can be deadheaded and fertilized every one to three weeks.

Keep your plants routinely deadheaded and fertilized. If you stay on top of things, you can expect a beautiful, verdant garden all throughout the blooming season.

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