Lush Gardens covered with blossoming, colorful flowers all year round is a dream that every gardener has their heart set on. Regardless of how much energy you devote to taking care of your plants, the sight of one brooding flower is an eyesore. To reap the benefit of a basket full of flowers to look fresh throughout all seasons, one must not leave at just planting flowers. They should take up the elementary practice in gardening, known as deadheading.
What is Deadheading?
Deadheading, in simple words, means snipping off the spent flowers of a plant. Like trimming off split ends from the hair helps in better growth, deadheading plants streamlines the nutrients and energy to healthier parts of the plant. Apart from increased flowering, deadheading perennial and annual flowers improve the garden’s look by reducing the number of shriveled and sparse flowers at a bare minimum cost.
Pros of Deadheading
Considered as a type of pruning, the maintenance operation of deadhead gardening has multiple benefits that lead to the re-blooming of flowers several times throughout their growing season.
1. A Rise In Blooms
As the dutiful pollinators fertilize the reproductive organs of the plant, seeds will generate. This process causes a shift in the energy spent on blooming to seed, leaving the gardener with nothing but unappealing faded and dead flowers. Deadhead gardening will redirect the energy back to the flowers, starting the reproductive circle again causing more re-blooms.
2. Controlled Seed Generation
Deadheading plants, before completing their cycle and turning into seeds, will aid in avoiding the situation of overcrowding. An abundance of germinating seeds leads to a cluttered garden, making it look poorly maintained. Hence, deadheading is an effective way of dealing with it.
3. Organized Garden
When deadheading is not practised in a garden, it will end up looking ugly and ignored. Deadheading is a cost-effective way to make your garden look spic and span without compromising on the dense beauty of the greenery it radiates.
4. Excellent Outdoor Activity
Apart from these benefits, deadheading can be a very great outdoor activity for an individual. It’s a great way to keep up a garden while also being in touch with nature. It’s a non-strenuous activity, making it perfect for anyone to take it up as long as they know the correct technique.
A non-tedious task, deadheading is a very relaxing pastime if one enjoys it. On a pleasant evening, this ominous-sounding but non-dramatic activity can be the right way to get a good chore done while also resolving one’s thoughts, hence, hitting two birds with one stone.
Cons of Deadheading
While there are many benefits to deadheading, like most processes, there are cons as well. Most of the downsides arise when the practice is overdone or when the proper technique is not followed. So, always ask yourself why deadheading is important and whether it is crucial before using the process for your plants.
1. Onlooker Obsession
Stating the obvious first, most garden owners pick up the exercise of deadheading only for the aesthetic aspect of it. The technicalities or other plant benefits are always a second thought because who doesn’t like the idea of owning the most beautiful and perfect garden? This notion may end up in over-trimming of flowers or may take away the beauty of landscapes during certain seasons like fall.
People often forget that the withered flowers that are unnecessary for the plant’s health and longevity are still an essential part of a garden’s ecosystem. While too much of the dead flowers can certainly be a menace, eradicating all of them would lead to environmental disturbance, especially for the insects, birds, and other small animals that depend on it for shelter and food.
3. Obstructing Seed Generation
As we know, deadheading can help extensively in re-blooming. However, there is also the possibility of many plants not re-blooming. Not every plant will want to grow more flowers. Some can only produce more seeds naturally, and a gardener must use it to their advantage. Instead of nipping flowers left and right, use the excess seeds for the next season.
4. No Room for Happy Accidents
Prolific seeders are troublesome because of their extensive seed production. Cutting every single one of them from the garden layout may not be a great idea, especially if you are looking to discover some new flowers or plants to crop up because of nature’s wonders. Removing seed heads before they ripen or stopping their creation will not leave any chance for self-seeding, preventing new flowers from blooming.
5. Lack of Proper Knowledge
One of the most critical cons is that people don’t take help from professionals when they are beginning deadheading. Reading up on deadheading, the suitable plants, the right season for deadheading, the correct sterilized tools, and the right parts of the plant are all part of the technique that needs to be learned well. Otherwise, deadheading will have consequences detrimental to the plant’s life, causing it to rot or even die.
When to Deadhead a Plant?
Often the straightforward and the best way to perform deadheading to a plant is when its flowers began to fade or wilt. Snip only the dead flower while also removing the seed pods that may have formed behind it. After the flower is removed, cut the stem to its base or bud. You may also disbud the small buds or deadhead a plant before it sets seeds or fruits to ensure that the strength and energy from the other parts of the plant are not spent on the seed production and are concentrated on the remaining flowers. Avoid deadheading if you want to produce seeds or seedheads.
How to Deadhead Flowers?
As laborious as the process of deadheading sounds, it is effortless once you learn it. Focus on the yard one section at a time and choose the correct technique. For this purpose, consider the size of the garden, type, the number of plants and flowers.
1. Flower Selection
Keeping a close eye on the flowers in the garden and checking up on the health of the whole plant, the environmental, weather, and developmental conditions is the key to understanding the garden landscape. It would help to know about the plants, making you choose the right plant and time for deadheading.
2. Right Tools and Techniques
Marking the deadheading position of the chosen flower is essential to separate it from the rest of the healthy plant. The position varies for each plant, but the rule is to deadhead 1/4th inch above the next new bud or leaf for healthy growth. You can deadhead with any sharp object, but here are some popular methods:
Pinching: For soft-stemmed plants like coleus, pinch it off between two fingers.
Pruning: For thicker stalks like lilies or coneflowers, use hand pruners to deadhead.
Shearing: For a bunch of tiny flowers, wait for a bigger bunch to wilt and shear the entire plant.
3. The Actual Deadheading
Grab the withered flower and cut it off right between the spent floor and the lateral new leaf. Make sure that the cut is clean and quick to avoid damaging the plant.
4. The Cleanup Process
After deadheading, move back the plant to its position and collect the cut flowers for disposal or compost. Preserve collected seeds for future use. For continued healthy blooming, fertilize the plant well if needed.
How Often Should You Do Deadheading?
The flowers in the garden need to be monitored throughout the growing season for deadheading to get the maximum benefits. While you can be less stringent with the timing, deadheading should be performed from spring to fall as and when the flowers curl. The plants, the weather, intended output, and several others should be factored in to decide how often you need to deadhead. You may also come across annual flowers that don’t need deadheading at all. For example, Perennials are cut in summer for denser growth. Some perennials are not cut until spring, while others are cut before winter.
Similarly, some plants are left to seed going into fall, while certain plants with attractive seed heads are left to frost for winter. Some flowers are not deadheaded as they provide shelter and food to the garden’s wildlife, and some are not deadheaded until they bloom entirely.
Common Plants That Require Deadheading
The plants that bloom all season with colorful sweet flowers after deadheading are the ones that respond well to deadheading. Also, it’s good to keep in mind that the first rule of deadheading is that not all plants need deadheading. The typical deadheading flowers list comprises:
- Sweet peas
- Blanket flowers
- Marguerite daisy
- Hardy geraniums
- Purple coneflowers
Plants You don’t Need To Deadhead
Almost all plants that wither and turn brown benefit from deadheading. But, some plants create more flowers by nature and, in some, dead flowers fall off, requiring no trimming or shearing of any kind. Thus, you should be aware of when you should not deadhead a plant to ensure the proper health of all your plants. Some of the plants that do not need beheading include:
- Most ground-covers
- Million Bells
- Most flowering vines
Do’s and Don’ts of Deadheading
There are certain do’s and don’ts in the practice of deadheading which, when followed correctly, will make the plants thrive for the longest time possible.
1. Do Snip at the Right Spot
Pinch and cut the flower stalk next to a fresh leaf or bud and right below the dried flower and nowhere else to ensure fuller foliage.
2. Do Discontinue Deadheading During Winter
If you care the least about the existing flora and fauna, suspend deadheading in winter to help wildlife get their food and shelter. The seeds and seedpods are essential sources of nourishment for wildlife in cold weather. Let your garden rest.
3. Do Monitor Your Plants
Paying attention to your plants all around the growing season is essential to find out spent flowers and timely deadhead them. You will find this is highly necessary if you grow plants like marigolds and roses. Also, beware of “jumpers” or “volunteers” from accidentally scattered seeds in the upcoming season.
4. Don’t Forget To Do Your Research
A little learning goes a long way in this process to save your plants from wrong deadheading. Read up about plants that require deadheading and also the when. Perennials like foxgloves must reseed, whereas geraniums will flower-full season. Getting through with this can prevent several plants from passing.
5. Don’t Fall for the Aesthetics
There is no standard technique that applies to all gardens. Remember, to each their own. So, always practice what’s best for your garden and what suits you. If you want to cut a whole stem or don’t feel like trimming a pretty-looking seedpod, it’s always alright to do it that way.
6. Don’t Take the Pressure
Deadheading should be more of a pleasurable activity rather than a chore. It’s not immediately going to affect your plant’s health. Hence missing a few spots or taking a break will not ruin your garden overnight.
Following good practices like deadheading and caring for your plants is always worth the effort when you get to experience the results. Take this as your cue to get better blooms and start snipping the spent flowers. Happy deadheading!