To Deadhead Or Not to Deadhead – That is a Sticky Question

OK, you have a flower garden. You want showy color all summer because you love the look of all those blossoms swaying gently in the breeze. Your plants, on the other hand, are interested in growing as fast as they can and setting seeds so they can perpetuate the species. Interrupt evolution by deadheading your flower garden!

Deadheading removes faded blooms from your annual flowers, but it does so much more: Removing extra stems and growth encourages new, robust growth and re-flowering. It also opens the plant up to air circulation, reducing bug problems and dampness that may cause rot or viral infections. Help your flowers out by cutting off those “split ends” when the flowers start to fade!

  1. Don’t wait to deadhead, please. Why have a flower garden if you don’t enjoy its beauty every day? If you get busy, go into your garden at least weekly both to enjoy it and to take care of it. If you wait to cut off the faded blooms, your plants may not feel like blooming again, so your garden doesn’t reach its full potential.
  2. Always use a sharp, clean shears or scissors to deadhead. Some of us have sharp fingernails… some of us miss a clean cut with the fingernails sometimes. Your shears should be sharp, and rinse them off after every use. Dry thoroughly before putting them away.
  3. If only one of your flowers is faded, just cut that one off. Snip! All done.
  4. If your plants flower in clusters, shear off the whole faded cluster about one-third of the way from the root. In other words, if your snapdragons are trailing about 16 inches long, snip off everything past about 6 inches from the root. If your daisies are 30 inches tall, cut them down to about 10 inches tall. And so on.
  5. Haircuts are healthy! Your annual flowers appreciate losing all that extra weight and they will come back. Be patient because it takes a week or two, but your plants will reward you.
  6. Give your annuals a shot of nutrition (balanced fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro) when you give them a haircut.
  7. Go down to the Goodwill store, invest 50 cents in a bud vase, and enjoy long stemmed flowers before they fade. One perfect daisy on the dining room table is wonderful. Float smaller or shorter stemmed flowers in a plain glass bowl. They will last for several days–if you can keep the cats out of them!
  8. Pay attention to this advice: You must deadhead down into the plant, not just by snipping off the flower. Reach in and find the bottom of the flower’s stem, whether it’s a node, a branch, or even further in toward the root. Cut the faded bloom off there so it will re-bloom faster.

You are unlikely to kill your plants by deadheading, though they might look scraggly for a few days. Err on the cautious side until you gain experience. Late season deadheading only makes your garden neat and prepares for winter… you won’t get another bloom if it’s too late in your growing season.

For perennial growers, here are a couple of lists of plants that can benefit from deadheading or don’t really need it. Most of these plants are perennial in Minnesota. Some perennials will bloom again… some won’t, but you should still care for them as needed.

Plants That Benefit From Deadheading, Pinching and Reshaping

  • Aster
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Buddleia (also known as Butterfly Bush)
  • Calendula (also known as Marigold)
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Coleus
  • Coral Bells
  • Coreopsis
  • Cosmos
  • Daisies
  • Day Lilies
  • Delphinium
  • Foxglove
  • Gaillardia (also known as Blanket Flower)
  • Hollyhock
  • Jacob’s Ladder
  • Lavender
  • Lupine
  • Pansies
  • Petunias
  • Roses
  • Salvia
  • Snapdragons
  • Violas
  • Zinnias

Plants That Don’t Require Deadheading, but will look nicer if you take care of them

  • Astilbe
  • Bee Balm
  • Bougainvillea
  • Clematis
  • Dianthus
  • Euryopsis
  • Fuchsia
  • Hibiscus
  • Hydrangea
  • Impatiens
  • Jasmine
  • Lantana
  • Lilac
  • Morning Glory
  • Nasturtium
  • Salvia
  • Trumpet Vine
  • Verbena
  • Vinca
  • Wisteria

I hope this article helps you take care of your flowers so you can get the most out of your gardening efforts.