A Guide to Deadheading

In the spring, we were thrilled to see blossoms appearing throughout our gardens. However, now that we’re in the middle of the summer, most of those spring blossoms are dying and going to seed. That is, unless you deadhead your garden.

Sure, the term “deadhead” might sound rather macabre, but the truth is that it’s a common gardening practice to keep your plants looking and performing better.

Deadheading Gives You a Second Wave of Blossoms

A flower’s goal is to produce seeds and reproduce before it dies. However, as it transitions to producing seeds, the flower wilts and the plant can look rather sad and dilapidated. If, instead, you cut off the dead or dying flower, the plant will produce more flowers in order to create the seeds it wants before winter hits.

Here in Utah, now is the perfect time for deadheading in order to get a beautiful second round of blossoming throughout late summer and early autumn.

How to Deadhead

The specific instructions for deadheading will, in part, depend on what kinds of flowers you’re dealing with. As a general rule, though, you’ll want to pinch or snip off the dead flower at the stem below the flower and above the topmost leaves. Some gardeners like to snip just above the leaves so that the leaves themselves hide the appearance of the snipped-off stem.

Now, when you’re working with a plant that has numerous small flowers (like, say, geraniums) it might feel overwhelming or impractical to cut each flower individually. In this case, it might be best to take a hedge shear and cut back the whole plant.

Deadheading is a Habit, Like Weeding

If you plan to deadhead your entire garden at once, you might quickly be overwhelmed by the task. It can feel as tedious and interminable as weeding to some of us. After all, it’s not something that you can usually take care of in one day. New blossoms are constantly dying and needing to be trimmed back in order to keep up the appearance of your yard and to encourage new growth.

So, in order to keep your garden looking its best, start early and deadhead regularly. There will be a few days that are the most labor-intensive. However, as you progress, it’ll become a shorter and shorter daily task and in a couple weeks, the bulk of the work will be done.

If you’d like to save your energy for just those flowers that will give you the most bang for your buck (i.e. a breathtaking second bloom) then concentrate your efforts on these:

  • salvia
  • phlox
  • lupine
  • veronica
  • daisies
  • yarrow
  • daylilies

Would You Rather Have Seeds?

On the other hand, there are some advantages to letting your flowers seed in the natural way. For one thing, many self-seeding species will give you beautiful baby plants either later in the season, or next year. This is especially true with good seeders, like columbine or echinacea. Letting your flowers seed and drop can also feed wildlife in your yard and draw birds. After all, a more natural-flowering garden can be really appealing in some spaces.

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