Deadheading - A Simple Guide

Deadheading - A Simple Guide

Deadheading, the removal of spent blooms that are past their best, is one of those jobs a gardener can be doing several times a week but it is also one of the most rewarding. The results can be seen immediately, which is rare in gardening, and it really keeps the garden looking at its best. The more often you do it, the less time each session takes. It is also a perfect excuse to nip out for a few minutes of quiet mindfulness ‘me-time’ on a regular basis over the summer.

Why Should I Deadhead Flowering Plants?
Removing dead flower heads also prevents plants from setting seed and instead channels that energy to producing more flowers. When a plant sets seed it also releases hormones which naturally reduces flowering, because its biological drive to reproduce has been successfully completed. So, it’s good to remove the spent flower heads as soon as possible to encourage lots more blooms and to greatly increase the length of the flowering season.
Some plants are known as ‘self-cleaning’ which basically means that new flowers grow over the old ones, hiding them from view. However, whether they need a regular tidy up or not, all flowering plants will still benefit from removal of dead heads to save the energy required to make seeds.

When Not To Deadhead
If fruit is to set or ornamental seed heads are required, then of plants should not be deadheaded. Also, in the autumn at the tail end of the flowering season, blooms can be allowed to self-sow or left to provide winter interest and feed seed eating wild birds like Finches.

Tools for Deadheading
It is a good idea to buy a pair of good quality, sharp snips to use solely for deadheading. I recommend the compact flower snips with long slender blades and a sprung handle, something like a cross between scissors and secateurs. They make deadheading a pleasure as they are easy to get in amongst the stems and razor sharp to make sure of an important, good clean cut every time. There are even ‘Cut and Hold’ flower snips that will grip the cut flower head until you release it over your trug or bucket, making the whole process a super-efficient, one-handed operation.
Keeping your flower snips in a kitchen drawer means they are always at hand and easy to find when you have a few spare minutes to pop out for a bit of therapeutic deadheading. Keeping them in the kitchen also means they are more likely to get washed after every use. This is a really good habit to get into to prevent spreading any diseases from plant to plant.

How to Deadhead?
The best way to deadhead a flower head is to cut the stem a little bit above the next leaf or pair of leaves. It’s hard to go wrong here and you can trust your judgement on this, if you keep in mind the shape or desired shape of the plant as you cut, then you can help to shape the plant as you go about deadheading. If deadheading a whole plant at once, like lavender for example, then it is a good idea to remove some of the fresh leafy growth beneath the flowers too. This will help to keep the plants neat and prevent them getting woody and misshapen.


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