Before we begin, let me disclose that although this article is titled as “a guide to deadheading” and that this seems like a gothic topic, that deadheading has nothing to do with dark themes, metal music or afterlife elements. Deadheading, in gardening terms, refers to the action of removing a flower, or head, from the plant once it has died.
This simple process is a common method practiced in gardening, and all flower gardeners should be highly encouraged to study and learn how to effectively deadhead their plants. Although this work may seem tedious and boring, it’s very useful for many different reasons. If you’d like to boost your garden into a healthy plant wonderland, read on.
Why do we use the deadheading method? This has existed for many years, and became popular after farmers, gardeners, and florists learned about its many beneficial properties.
If you look at this standard practice from an aesthetic perspective, for example, the reason seems quite obvious. Everyone knows that a living flower is much prettier to look at than a dead one. So, by removing the dead flower, people’s eyes will be pulled towards the plant’s overall beauty instead.
Secondly, as a flower dies, the plants’ growth power transfers from the overall plant maintenance to seed production. Therefore, by removing the seeds, the plant refocuses its power to personal maintenance and growth. This allows it to not only keep growing and stay healthy, but also to grow bigger and faster as well as stronger and healthier. It’s more resistant to bad weather, harmful pests and crippling diseases as well.
In addition, a dead flower can quickly accumulate illness and rot which, may injure the rest of the healthy plant. Another deadheading benefit is that by removing the seeds, you’re preventing them from falling off the flowers. Or potentially lodging themselves into your garden’s soil.
One good thing about seed production and collection in general, is that you can preserve the seeds to reproduce more plants. However, by controlling where to plant the seeds you can better manage the layout of your garden to make sure that each seed will be planted properly in the right conditions.
This is important, as improper planting could lead to a new plant’s downfall. This includes a weak root system, and poor immunity against pests, weather and diseases. In addition, it can suffer from stunted growth in insufficient soil types, moisture levels, and sunlight exposure. You’ll also avoid misplaced plants competing with other plants in your garden for nutrients if they’re placed too close together.
There are spacing recommendations on seed packages for a reason, after all.
How to Deadhead a Plant
Although the term “deadheading” seems daunting, it really isn’t. The deadheading process is very simple and quick, and an important technique for a healthy garden.
Step 1. Select Your Flower
As a gardener, it’s important to check up on your plants constantly and consistently. When you check on your plants daily, make sure to notice their moisture levels, growth and development, soil conditions, leaf health, flower health, fruit health, and sunlight exposure. Check for damage if there is any, as well as possible problems like pests and diseases.
These daily rendezvous allow you to keep a close eye on your plants’ overall health. It also allows you to understand their road to maturity. If you see a wilted flower, get ready to deadhead it.
Step 2. Your Tools.
Once you’ve noticed the dead flower, record its position on the plant. This is so you’ll be able to find it or mark it off from the rest of the plant. After this, prepare your tools. For the process of deadheading, any object with a sharp edge will do the job effectively. A knife or a pair of scissors will do just fine.
Step 3. Deadheading your Flower
Now you have your tools and your plant. To begin, firmly grab the dead flower head and move it away from the rest of the living plant. Next, take your scissors and cut off the dead flower. The cut should be between the dead flower and the stem’s first set of still-healthy leaves.
Step 4. The Aftermath
Congratulations! You have successfully deadheaded your plant! After you’ve cut off the dead flower, move the living plant back to its original position to ensure continuous growth. As a final step, discard the dead flower head far away from your garden. This avoids its seeds scattering and establishing themselves into your soil. On the other hand, you can collect the seeds from the dead flowerhead and save them for future planting.
When not to Deadhead
Wait, you just sold me with the explanations and descriptions on the many benefits of deadheading. Now you’re telling me that I shouldn’t be doing this practice instead? Why?
Well, this is true for my attentive readers. Let’s state it for the sake of clarity that not all flowers need to be deadheaded. Some—like sunflowers, for example—are quite prized for their seed production. Therefore, if the deadheading process is used on these flower species, it would actually diminish their overall value.
In addition, certain flowers such as fuchsias, salvias, and lobelias don’t require you to manually practice deadheading on them. This is due to the fact that they produce minimal to no seeds after reaching maturity. They often deadhead themselves, dropping blossoms shortly after blooming.
Similarly, some flowers might be too weak to survive the deadheading. process. Also, plants whose flowers turn into fruit, such as strawberries, zucchini, tomatoes, and pumpkins shouldn’t be deadheaded either. This process might damage the individual fruits as well as the overall crop yield. If you’re unsure about which plants should and should not be deadheaded you can just follow the rule: ‘When in doubt, leave it out’.
Tips on Deadheading Before You Start Cutting:
Before you grab your shears and start whacking away at your dead flowers, there are just a few more suggestions.
To start off with, different techniques need to be used for different flowers. Let’s take roses or peonies as an example. They have many petals, and can benefit more from deadheading just the dead petals rather than removing the whole flower head. Additionally, deadheading should only be done with a sharp object that can make clean cuts.
Don’t use your fingers or fingernails as some amateur gardens do as a mistake. This is because when you use a blunt-tipped object to make a cut, you’ll leave a messy tear on a damaged stem. This could prevent future blooms if that plant is a perennial species.
Also, you don’t automatically have to throw away the discarded flower head after you’ve removed it! There are many ways in which you could use dead flowers, such as harvesting the seeds to plant more, feeding birds with the seeds (or eating them yourself if they are edible).
You can turn the flower into compost to feed your garden, preserve the leaves to make potpourri to freshen up your home, or even press the flowers between heavy objects for beautiful artwork or stationery. Be creative and have fun!
When to Deadhead your Plant.
When beginner gardeners learn about deadheading, it’s common for some anxiety and dread to rise up. A common question about this topic asked by first-time gardeners is: “how will I know when it’s time to deadhead my plant?” This inquiry often arises from nervousness about accidentally cutting off a still-living flower head before it’s reached the end of its natural maturation cycle.
You worked so hard to grow your beautiful plant, and probably also got really excited when it developed its first bud. That delight undoubtedly grew when it blossomed into a gorgeous flower with colourful petals. Sadly, however, it’s a fact that nothing can last forever… and this includes your flowers.
You don’t want your hard work to go to waste though. You definitely don’t want to harm your plant or kill its beauty before its time. So how do you know when it’s time to bring out the sharp objects?
Get it just right
Luckily, as you progress as a gardener with time and practice, you’ll develop a deep understanding of your plants’ needs. You’ll be able to gain a sense of comfort in knowing when your flower needs to be deadheaded. Until you reach that pivotal milestone, try not to worry! As a general rule of thumb, a flower should be deadheaded once its petals start to fall off onto the soil carpet below.
There you have it: A full and complete guide to deadheading. Although it’s no gardeners favourite chore, it needs to be done constantly. Deadheading is an important activity that all florists should do in order to have a beautiful, healthy, and long-lasting garden. We hope that you found this article useful and we wish you the best on your current growing season.