Tips For Deadheading Flowers: Roses, Petunias, Geraniums And Why You Should

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Have you ever heard of the term “deadhead”? No, we’re not talking about the diehard fans of the band “The Grateful Dead.” So what is deadheading then?

Deadheading flowers is a gardening task that keeps your garden tidy and promotes more abundant blooms.

deadheading flowers on rose bushes with Felco prunersPin

To deadhead a plant, you simply remove spent flowers by pinching them off or trimming them using hand pruners or scissors. The Felco #2 pruners are our favorite, I’ve been using them for over 35 years!

After blooming, plants naturally begin to put energy into producing seeds. By deadheading plants, they will direct this energy into creating new flowers instead of seeds.

Regular deadheading flowers on annuals and perennials extend the blooming season and can help prevent disease and pest infestation.

If nothing else, deadheading flower stalks and buds keep your garden looking pretty longer.

In this article, we will discuss deadheading spent blooms in general and provide some tips to help you perform this task correctly with a variety of plants.

Hand with pruning shears trimming a rose bush with text about deadheading spent blooms to extend blooming season.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @gardenersworldmag

This information can be applied to and help with:

  • How to prune geraniums
  • How to deadhead daisies
  • How to deadhead a rose bush
  • How to deadhead marigolds
  • How to deadhead roses
  • How do you deadhead petunias
  • General information on What does deadheading mean
  • and much more…

Read on to learn more.

How To Deadhead Flowers

Although the concept of deadheading is the same from plant to plant, the technique differs from one type of plant to the next.

Wilted and fresh pink roses with a caption about deadheading to extend blooming season.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @littlebirdiescookies

For example, if you have a plant with clusters of very small flowers, wait until the whole cluster dies back before snipping it off.

When removing the cluster, use very sharp scissors or pruners to cut the stem off cleanly, about one-fourth inch from the base of the stem.

Deadhead flowers (individual) of plants such as the purple coneflower,  spent marigold flowers or gerber daisies that produce single flowers.

Again, cut the dead flower off near the base of the stem close to the main plant stem.

Cut stems back entirely to the base on larger stem variety plants, which produce several individual blossoms once flowers begin to fade.

Should You Pinch Or Snip?

Your method of deadheading usually depends upon the plant. For plants such as roses, scissors or hand pruners are more practical and a better choice in terms of the health of the plant.

When deadheading roses, use very sharp pruning shears and cut the spent blossoms away at a 45-degree angle.

A hand holding wilted flowers with text "Why Deadheading? Cutting Back Spent Blooms and Extending Blooming Season" over a blurred garden background.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @maryt100

Using your thumb and forefinger, pinch back the non-ornamental flowers on plants like the coleus unless you plan on growing coleus from seeds.

This preferred method of pinching off the small flowers of a foliage plant such as coleus encourages the plant to produce more abundant leaves.

How Often Should You Deadhead?

Hands pruning a plant a Key To Extending The Blooming SeasonPin
Photo Credit: Instagram @gardenersworldmag

As a general rule of thumb, weekly deadheading is a good idea. This small task produces tremendous rewards, helping your garden look much more vibrant overall.

When deadheading on a regular basis you can enjoy an extended blooming season and healthier, more abundant plant growth.

How To Deadhead Roses – Two Simple Steps

  1. Use a sharp pruning tool like these classics to cut off faded flowers.
  2. Position the cut directly below the bloom and above the first set of leaves. Cut at the abscission layer, the small, swollen section of the stem just below the bloom. The location where you’ll normally find the first leaflet and where the rose hip is shed. As noted above, make a clean cut at a 45-degree angle.

That’s it! You may find lots of articles that give you an incredible amount of complicated and confusing instructions involving counting leaves and breaking out the Crazy Glue, but all of that is fairly unnecessary.

This simple two-step method is effective for all large-flowered roses.

NOTE: Knockout rose bushes do not require deadheading of flowers.

Using this method helps retain the maximum amount of foliage, and the most recent studies have made it clear that more foliage encourages more flower growth.

You should note that if you like the appearance of rosehips and/or you use rosehips in herbal concoctions, you will not want to deadhead your roses.

Tips On How To Deadhead Petunias

Deadheading petunias stops them from producing seeds and helps them to look their best throughout the blooming and growing season. To deadhead your petunias effectively, follow these steps:

  1. Examine your petunias weekly, looking for dropping and wilting flowers and for flowers beginning to form seedpods.
  2. Pinch the stem just below the wilted flower or seed head (approximately a quarter to a half inch below) pinch the seed pod or spent flower off sharply and toss it into your compost pile.
  3. Around the middle of the flowering season, consider cutting back the whole plant – even the blossoms that are not spent. It’s also a good time to prune back your petunia to prevent it from looking overgrown and leggy. Trim back the entire plant by 3″ to 5″ inches. This may seem a bit dramatic, but it encourages new growth, and your petunia plant will reward you by returning to full bloom in just a couple of weeks.

Learn more on How To Deadhead Petunias

Tips On Deadheading Geraniums

  1. Geranium flowers grow in clusters; wait until the entire cluster begins wilting and deadhead flowers all at once. However, you can pick off individual spent flowers to keep your plant looking more attractive.
  2. When the entire flower cluster is spent, locate the thin stem holding the flower head and follow it to its base.
  3. With your fingertips, snap the thin flower stem off from the thicker plant stem. Just push the thin stem’s base downward to break it away. If you prefer, use very sharp scissors or pruners to snip the thin stem a quarter inch above the thick plant stem.
  4. Completely remove the spent geranium flowers and stems from the parent plant. Don’t allow them to lie around on the ground at the base of the plant because this will tend to encourage fungal growth. Dispose of them properly in your trash or compost bin.

Encourage Vibrant Blooms With Regular Deadheading

How can you keep your garden and plant life attractive and healthy?

Cultivate a weekly habit of removing spent flowers and tidying up your flowerbeds, containers, and potted plants.

Make deadheading flowers a part of your regular plant care. Invest in a quality pair of pruners like the Felco #2 pruner and you’ll enjoy the many benefits with this simple bit of maintenance.

Follow the advice presented here for beautiful, healthy flowering plants.

Sources: 1 | 2 | 3

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