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How to deadhead plants

How to deadhead plants
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Nothing makes a garden look prettier than plenty of flowers in full bloom. But with so many varieties of plants only flowering for a while (before going into seed production) how do you make your displays of colour last a bit longer? Well, it’s actually a lot easier than you might think, and it doesn’t take much effort on your part.

All you have to do is deadhead the plants regularly. What this means is removing the flower heads as they start to fade in colour or wilt. By doing this it prevents the flowers from creating seedpods. It also makes the current display of flowers look a lot nicer.

How you go about deadheading depends on the kind of flowers in your garden and the time of year. Here are some tips on what to remove when and where:

How to deadhead plants


Long flower stalks:
Plants that produce one flower head at the end of a stalk-like Pelargoniums, should have the fading flower removed along with the stalk – by snapping it off cleanly from the stem. Bulbs, like daffodils and tulips, are the exception. These should have the flower cut off leaving the stalk intact.

Short flower stalks:
Plants that produce flowers on short stalks like Fuchsias, should have the fading bloom removed by pinching off the stalk behind each fading flower – you can use your finger and thumb for this.

Masses of flowers:
Life’s too short to worry about plants like Alyssum (that produce tons of tiny flowers). But if you want to tidy up a few pots on the patio try using an old pair of scissors to make the job easier

Flower spikes:
Many border flowers that bloom on tall spikes, like Foxgloves, Delphiniums, Antirrhinum, and Hollyhock can be encouraged to produce a second round of smaller spikes later in the year if they are deadheaded. To do this, simply cut the whole spike back using a pair of secateurs when the flowers begin to fade (make sure you cut just above the highest sideshoot on the stem).

Repeat flowering:

Many repeat-flowering plants, like bush roses, will flower better and for much longer if regularly deadheaded throughout the flowering season. Floribunda roses (cluster-flowered) should have each fading bloom cut from the cluster until the last one remains.

With large-flowered, hybrid-tea roses, cut each faded bloom back to just above a leaf joint, about nine inches below the flower. By cutting back into thicker stems like this, stronger flowering shoots and a greater number of flowers will be produced.

Top tip:

Feed roses with a rose fertiliser after the first crop of flowers have been deadheaded to encourage more blooms.

Flowering shrubs worth deadheading:

  • Hybrid-tea roses
  • Floribunda roses
  • Fuchsia
  • Choisya
  • Perovskia
  • Hypericum

Other ways to get longer-lasting flowers:

Eternal youth:
Some plants produce their best displays of flowers and foliage when young and vigorous Herbaceous plants like Achillea produce their best displays if kept growing strongly. To make sure this happens simply lift the plants (out of the ground) every couple of years and divided the clumps – they’ll reward you with bigger and better displays.

Shrubs like Red-stemmed Dogwoods, produce brighter and more colourful bark on new growth. So by pruning them back hard each spring, you can get the best displays possible. This technique also works on many other varieties of the shrub.

Herbaceous plants to divide regularly:

  • Achillea
  • Aconitum
  • Aster
  • Geum
  • Heuchera
  • Solidago

Fresh foliage:
Some flowering perennials like hardy Geraniums can start to look a bit worse for wear in the middle of the summer as drought and pests take their toll. You can improve the overall appearance of the plants and, if you are lucky, get another flush of blooms in late summer by cutting all the old foliage right back almost to ground level using a pair of shears.

Top tip:

Don’t forget to water plants thoroughly after cutting back and give them a boost by applying a high-potash fertiliser – this will improve their growth.

Plants to cut right back:

  • Centaurea montana
  • Lamium
  • Nepeta
  • Hardy geranium
  • Geum
  • Viola