Dead-heading is the removal of blossoms that have finished blooming.  Some plants do it themselves, while others with many blooms will take awhile to do. There are some plants I donít deadhead as I want the seed pods for a winter bouquet, or I want to have the seeds mature so I can plant them next year or later in the  year, or I want the plant to re-seed itself.

          A plants purpose in blooming is to ensure another generation. After the plant blooms, then develops seeds and they are mature enough, some plants die to ground as their life cycle is over and they leave a blank space.  Therefore, one of the reasons we dead-head is to get new blooms rather than seeds and a dead plant. With the immature seeds gone, some plants will then use the energy to try to bloom again and you will have a new crop of flowers.  They may be a little smaller bloom, but in many cases more of them, as the lower braches now divide and produce more blooms. 

          Lilies and Peonies are among those that will not re-bloom, but it is still better to dead-head so the Lily bulbs will receive the food from leaf production and not the seeds. Cut only as little of the stem as possible as the green stem also produces food for the roots. I also dead-head these plants so I wonít have to look at the first crop of browning flowers.

          Some of the biennials such as Dames Rocket (Matronalis) can be made to return for another year if you dead-head before the seeds mature.  If I want to move my entire bed, I let them go to seed then cut the heads off or pull the entire plant and scatter the seeds in their new home.  In a very short time there is a colony up and will mature enough to bloom the next Spring.

          If you like your plants to reseed themselves but not all over, save just a few of the seed heads, cut them off when ripe, and shake in the area you want them to be.  In the fall I cut my plants down and carry them to the chipper for compost, so I may have a trail of surprises the next Spring.  Cleomes, Coreopsis, Black-eyed Susan, and Perilla are likely to be found anywhere in my garden.

          Sometimes the parent plant becomes scraggly after blooming.  In this case you may want to cut them all the way to the ground and they will grow a small tidy plant.  Painted Daisies, Pincushion Flowers, some Dianthus, and perennial Geraniums will do this. In an early Spring they may send up new flowering stems. 

          Dill is another prolific plant that grows thick and tall smothering out any less vigorous plants. So to keep it in one area those blooming heads need to come off. I had a patch by the front fence so that any pickle makers could come and cut the heads as they needed. Phlox is a heavy seeder that usually reverts back to lavender if you let it go to seed. I do like that color so let a few of the new clumps exist here and there.  The dark Perilla is probably the most vigorous seeder I have.  The new, many colored Perilla needs a longer season so I take cuttings in the fall.  Many people mistake it for a Coleus.

          Another reason for dead-heading, if you are dealing with hybrid plants, is that their seedlings will probably not look like your original plants. The second generation of hybrids contains a mixture of genes from their special cross and you will be in for surprises of appearance of blooms or plants.

          There are different ways of deadheading.  One is to remove each flower as it finishes to encourage the lower flowers to bloom on the side branches. When they are finished, the stalk can be cut to the ground to improve the appearance of the entire plant. Or if you have clusters as in some smaller flowers, one can take a pair of scissors and holding the stem, remove all the flower stems at once down close to the leaf structures. Lavender, from which you will keep the flowers and the stems, are an example of this.  Coral Bells can be treated this way, but you will have some long stems to toss as they bloom quite a little above the plant.  I find Spiderwort (Tradescantia sp.) to be very aggressive, so cut them all the way back and new plants will almost jump up.  Otherwise they tend to spread over the yard.

          Most of our plants can be dead-headed by cutting the stems back to a side shoot which will take over and give new blooms. Butterfly Bush (Buddlia sp.) is a good example as there are many, many side branches waiting to take over.  The blooms will not be quite as long as the first ones. 

          Jupiters Beard (Centranthus ruber), a heavy seeder can be cut down to a few inches to secure a second blooming. Columbine is a short lived perennial so you probably want to save seed heads to ensure new plants for the next year. But you can get new blooms by cutting off the main stem to encourage the side stems. They will have enough time here in Lincoln and Central Nebraska to mature seeds for the next year.

Copyright 2010


Always remember the number one rule in gardening:

        Read the label, and

        Follow the manufactures recommendations!!!!

This applies to any fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, miticides, soil amendments, planting instructions such as depth, distance apart, etc., site location instructions such as sun, shade, partial shade, how much water is needed, etc.