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The benefits of "deadheading"

What should you do about "spent" flowers? In this post, we'll talk about how to remove them without hurting the rest of the plant.

From time to time, customers ask what they should do about "spent" flowers on their plants--blooms that have begun to wilt and fade. Since they aren't so pretty to look at, they wonder, does it hurt the plant to remove them? The short answer is yes, they can be--and in this post we'll discuss how to do it without hurting the rest of the plant.

What is deadheading?

Removing spent flowers is called "deadheading," and many plants actually benefit from the process, including these popular springtime species:

  • Pansies

  • Black Eyed Susans

  • Purple Coneflowers

  • Geraniums

  • Wave Petunias

Besides shaping and improving the overall beauty of the plant, deadheading diverts the plant's energy, strength, and nutrients away from seed production on the "dying" bloom and toward the remaining flowers and newly forming buds. Properly deadheading your plants, then, can actually lead to more colorful flowers--and more of them!

Deadheading procedure

  1. Locate spent flowers. Generally, you can deadhead blooms once they begin to fade. You don't have to wait for them to completely die off.

  2. Trim carefully. You want to make your cut approximately one-quarter inch (bloom side) from the next leaf or bud on the stem. This prevents foliar damage without leaving a long, unattractive dry stem where the spent bloom once was. A sharp pair of pruning scissors is ideal for making a clean cut, though some flowers are easily pinched off without any tools at all. For larger stems, cut at a 45-degree angle to reduce the potential for disease developing at the cut.

  3. Fertilize. If you aren't already regularly fertilizing your plants, deadheading offers a good time for using a product like Nelson Color Star plant food to ensure that the plant has plenty of nutrients available to divert to other blooms.

To deadhead or not?

It's important to state, too, that not all species require deadheading to thrive. Some (like Vinca, Impatiens, Lantana, and Million Bells) naturally "drop" spent flowers as needed. And then there are a number of species that produce beautiful seed pods that add a different kind of color and beauty to your garden after the bloom is spent. So deadheading isn't a must-do task, and leaving spent flowers on the branches won't detract from the overall health of the plants, either. In fact, the seeds they produce become a food source for birds and other wildlife heading into the winter. This means that the choice of whether and when to deadhead really depends more on your own personal tastes and gardening goals.

Whether you choose to prune those spent flowers or not, we remain your premier destination for premium plant supplies and expert advice. Call or stop by today, and we'll be happy to take care of you!


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