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Tips for Deadheading Spent Flowers

A garden in bloom adds vibrant color to a home’s landscaping. To keep your garden and containers tidy, remove spent flowers after the blooms have withered. The process of removing spent blooms, also known as deadheading flowers, encourages plants to produce more blooms. Once a plant has been deadheaded, it’s possible with some varieties to see vibrant blooms for several weeks. Tips for Deadheading Spent Flowers

Deadheading basics

According to Dennis Patton, a horticulture County Extension Agent for Kansas State University, “Deadheading is based on the natural principle that a plant produces a flower, so that this will be pollinated and produce a seed, thereby guaranteeing the survival of the species.”

Most annuals and many perennials benefit from the deadheading process, producing new blooms and growth after the spent flowers have been removed.

How to deadhead flowers: pinching

To deadhead flowers such as marigolds, simply pinch with your fingers. Vinca, dianthus, pansies, petunias, poppies, chrysanthemum and columbine also can be pinched. Simply pinch the spent flower between your index finger and thumb, removing it from the plant.

When deadheading using the pinch method, a pair of gardening gloves, such as Westchester’s high dexterity gloves, are recommended. The gloves, made from synthetic leather, keep hands clean and protected when deadheading or performing other gardening tasks.

Deadheading with pruners or shears

Hand pruners or sharp garden shears/scissors are ideal for removing spent flowers from plants with tougher stems. Opt for hand pruners such as the Gardena comfort bypass pruners. These pruners have an ergonomic design with an extra narrow head, perfect for deadheading. Another option are these stainless steel household shears from Black & Decker. These sturdy utility scissors can snip spent flowers quickly and easily.

Use pruners or shears to deadhead asters, peonies, zinnias and more. If you snip the faded or wilted flowering spikes from plants such as the hosta, you can encourage another round of blooms. Prune geraniums all spring and summer to enjoy vibrant flowers until the first frost.

Tips and tricks

When deadheading with hand pruners or shears, snip the spent flower about one-quarter of an inch above the next closest bud. Long-stem flowers require a different treatment. Flowers such as daffodils may look odd if you just remove the withered bloom. To deadhead this type of long-stem flower, snip with pruners or shears just above the first leaf, removing the spent bloom and a portion of the stem. Lilies, which often have multiple blooms on one stem, can be deadheaded by pulling down and then pinching the withered bloom until it removes cleanly.


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