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Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners Schoolhouse. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.


I was showing a gardening friend around my garden one day when she asked me, “How do you continue your flowers blooming all summer? Mine bloom and and then dice. What’s your secret?” I replied that I deadhead them, and she asked what that meant.

What Does Deadheading Mean?

Deadheading is a term that predates the Grateful Dead and their fans. I learned it as child from my female parent who was a not bad gardener. She said that removing dead or dying flowers from a plant made it bloom more. For years I thought that was the horticultural equivalent of an urban legend. When I took the Master Gardener course I discovered that it is grounded in science. Removing expressionless or dying flowers from almanac plants actually does strength the plants to flower more.

To deadhead a plant ways removing the dead or dying flowers from it before they produce seed. Also making the plants look neater, it forces them to produce more than flowers and then that the plants tin make seeds and reproduce.

Marigolds, an annual flower which only lives for one growing season

Marigolds, an annual flower which only lives for one growing season

Why Should You Deadhead Your Flowers?

To understand why, yous need to know a niggling about herbaceous (non-woody) plants. They come in three varieties: annuals, perennials and biennials. Annuals are plants that accept a lifespan of ane season. They grow, flower, gear up seed and dice within i growing season. Good examples are marigolds and zinnias. A biennial is a plant whose lifecycle lasts 2 seasons. The starting time season, it grows and establishes its foliage. The second year, it blooms, makes seeds and so dies. Foxgloves are pop biennials. A perennial is a plant that lasts many years, usually five to 9. It reproduces both by seed and by shoots (new plants that grow from the mother plant) or runners (a blazon of stem that grows along the ground and produces new plants forth its length). Delphiniums and Shasta daisies are perennials.

Foxgloves, biennial plants which live for two growing seasons before dying

Foxgloves, biennial plants which alive for two growing seasons before dying

Deadheading only works well on annuals. That’s because when they bloom, if yous remove the dead flower before information technology makes seeds, the found will endeavor to make seeds once more by creating another bloom. Remember, their mission in life is to make seeds and dice in one year. Removing spent flowers prevents them from doing that. They will continue to make flowers until you allow them to go to seed or the frost kills them.

Deadheading biennials doesn’t piece of work. If you remove the dead or dying flowers during the second yr, the plants don’t take the energy to produce more flowers nor exercise they take enough time to produce more flowers earlier the atmospheric condition becomes either too hot for them if they are jump flowers similar foxgloves or too cold for them in the fall if they are summertime flowers like hollyhocks.

Shasta Daisies are perennial plants which live 5 to 9 years but only bloom for a few weeks each summer.

Shasta Daisies are perennial plants which live v to 9 years but merely bloom for a few weeks each summer.

Perennials just blossom one time a yr for a few weeks during the growing flavor. Deadheading them will not prolong the brief bloomtime. They volition not bloom again until the following twelvemonth. This is why most gardeners adopt annuals which will bloom all summertime if they are deadheaded regularly. Recently, plant breeders have produced what they telephone call “re-bloomers”, perennial plants that will bloom a 2d time during the summer. Be warned that at best, the 2d affluent of flowers volition not exist equally full as the showtime burst of flowers. Sometimes you lot will simply get a few flowers the second time.

How to Save Seed Using Deadheading

I grow most of my annuals from seed, then I similar to save seeds from my flowers each twelvemonth for planting the following year. I deadhead them all summer and end afterwards Labor Day (I’m in NJ, zone 6) allowing them to go to seed which I then collect for adjacent yr or allow to fall naturally into the garden where they will germinate in the jump. Seed saving is an unabridged topic by itself, so all that I will say about it here is that seed saving only works on OP or open up pollinated plants, not the popular hybrids that you buy from the nursery. That’s because when a plant is hybridized, it is a cross of two varieties. If you recall your high school biology, you will know that the resulting plants will have a mix of genetic material from the parents that has been scrambled. The plants that you become from seeds collected from hybrid plants will look null like the plants from which y’all collected the seeds thanks to the scrambled DNA. Some hybrids even produce sterile seeds so collecting that seed is a waste. It will never germinate.

To ensure that the annuals you buy from the nursery bloom all summer, take some time every few days to remove all of the dead and dying flowers from them. You will be rewarded with months of colour.

Questions & Answers

How do you deadhead an annual?

Super like shooting fish in a barrel! Equally presently as the flower starts to die, cut it off. You can use your fingers, but I prefer to use pruners for a neater cut. I cut the bloom and part of the stem down to the second set of leaves. This hides the cutting so that y’all don’t see the ugly chocolate-brown end of the stem. The plants look much neater.

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How do you collect seeds from petunias. They are and so tiny. Any tricks?

The trick is to collect the pods earlier they are fully ripe. Then allow them to finish drying in a bag that has ventilation slits cut in it until they are ready to release their seeds. I use white envelopes instead of brown bags so that I can meet the seeds.

How to “deadhead” my flowers?

As soon as the flower starts to die, cut it off. You lot can employ your fingers, only I adopt to use pruners for a neater cut. I cut the flower and part of the stalk down to the second set of leaves. This hides the cut and then that you don’t see the ugly brown terminate of the stem. The plants await much neater.

© 2012 Caren White

Martha Young
on May 28, 2019:

I was deadheading only wasn’t sure if I was doing it right. So thank you for the info

Caren White (writer)
on Baronial 05, 2015:

Thanks for the vote and happy deadheading.!

Kristen Howe
from Northeast Ohio on July fourteen, 2015:

Great tips on how to deadhead your annuals all summer long. My flowers haven’t blossomed or bloomed yet, since I still see their buds. Maybe by August! Voted up for useful!

Caren White (writer)
on September 03, 2012:

Thanks, Leader for reading and commenting. Glad you found it useful.

from Back Home in Indiana on September 03, 2012:

I myself take explained deadheading flowers. I learned it from growing up on the subcontract and doing information technology there. Great information that I did not know also. Will be using coming this leap.

Caren White (writer)
on September 02, 2012:

I express mirth when I see articles on no-work gardens. Gardening is transmission labor merely I honey information technology. Thanks for voting and commenting.

on September 02, 2012:

It’due south surprising how few people know about basic garden maintenance. Plants sort of abound themselves, but their priorities aren’t the same as ours. We want beautiful flowers or abundant leaves all summertime. They want to grow enough to reproduce and then call information technology quits. Thanks for the great advice on making flowers last. Voted upward and useful!

Caren White (author)
on September 02, 2012:

Thanks, Kim.

Sasha Kim
on September 02, 2012:

Another fabulous hub! Wonderful explanation Roses, voted upward!


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