By Richard Flowers, ACCNP-Green Thumb Nursery-Ventura
If you are like me, I tend to work in one small section of the garden at a time. That way the task of deadheading a large area will not seem as overwhelming therefore I find the process enjoyable and peaceful. Whenever I have a few extra minutes, I head out to the garden to perform a bit of deadheading. While in the garden, I bring with me small bucket to put the clippings in. When the container is full it gets emptied into my compost bin. Just the other day while gardening at home, I was tidying up a beautiful container full of Zonal Geraniums. The Zonals are a mixture of oranges and pinks, and it looks so beautiful when they are in bloom. But these flowers came to their age. There was a lot of faded blooms. They were brown, black, and ugly looking. Because they flower in clusters, I like to wait until about 75% of the individual flowers are faded then deadhead. I took my thumb and four finger pinched off the old flowers all the way down to where the next set of leaves are( aka a bud). What was once an unsightly looking container, now it’s a nice, healthy looking Geranium with no dead flowers and neatly trimmed. Looks almost like a brand new plant. In a few weeks, new flower buds will occur and be in bloom, glorious, and beautiful. While I was at it, any yellow or brown leaves, I took away just to enhance the appearance. Today I want to share with you how to transform unsightly, faded or old flowers and make them beautiful again. This hack can be done to virtually all plants whether it be a seasonal growing plant like Petunias, Dianthus, Marigolds, Pansies, Snapdragons, Stocks, Ivy Geraniums, Salvia, Lavender, even Roses, and a whole myriad of different plants.
All plants flower. All flowering plants go through a phase where they bloom beautifully, the color starts to fade, they turn off color. Though this may be unsightly, but it is a normal cycle of growth. When a plant grows, it will put on lots of green growth. This is called vegetative growth, which is when the plant does not flower but soon enough when the time is right, and the conditions favor blooms, blossoms will occur during this time. This is known as the flowering cycle. During the flowering cycle the plant puts on flowers buds. These are usually different from growing buds or vegetative buds. These buds are usually thicker and more swollen looking and when the conditions are right, these buds will open up showing off all the glory. The main reason why plants flower is to send messages and signals for insects and other pollinators to find them so they can take their delicious nectar and pollen, so they can pollinate, produce fruit or seed for the next generation of the plant. But the flowers don’t last forever, they go through their normal cycle of drying up and turning brown or black. During this cycle, the plant is putting all the energy into seed production. During this time the plant may look a little tired, kind of stressed and weaker. Some plants like annual seasonal growing plants may die after first flowering and seed production. The reason why it does that is so it can reproduce and produce more plants from seed . But oftentimes when we manually take off these ugly faded flowers you can stimulate and encourage another flower production by cutting off or pinching back the parts so the plant can go through another flowering cycle. Many times, deep within the canopy of a plant small little flower buds may appear but usually they will not open until the old ones are taken off. Essentially, your diverting the energy from the old flowers so no seed production occurs instead you want future beautiful flower production.
When plants like Petunias and Roses stop blooming in early summer, it’s time to deadhead. Deadheading re-invigorates your sweet plant and encourage it to flower again. And so the process of deadheading begins. It usually just takes a few minutes to go through the plant and snip off these ugly faded blooms. You are doing this to make the plant more attractive and for future flowers.
Deadheading involves pruning all growth of spent flowers and seed heads to encourage re-flowering. Deadheading is very simple, as blooms fade, pinch or cut off faded flowers to just above the first set of growth where a growing bud is. When deadheading, it is wise to look very carefully inside the plant, if you see any flower buds leave them there, instead pinch to just above that point. The best time to deadhead is when you start to see the flowers fade.
Deadheading or removing spent flowers has multiple benefits. Not only does it clean up a plant’s appearance, but it also controls the spread of seeds and encourages your flowers and plants to continue to grow thicker and fuller than before. If performed on a regular basis, this basic garden task doesn’t require much time or thought. Most of the time when I am puttering in the garden, If I see a faded flower I remove it, which is a force of habit, it comes naturally to me. While talking on the phone or watering I like to deadhead plants. I find it to be a relaxing and rewarding experience because when I’m done the end result is a crisp, clean, tapered, and tailored garden which is more than worth the time in the sun and puts a smile on my face.
When the faded blossoms are left clinging on the plant, not only does it look unsightly, it strips out the nutrition and strength from the core of the plant and robs them of energy to produce new and colorful blooms. When you deadhead it redirects plant energy from seed production to flower and vegetative growth.
To me deadheading provides a since of accomplishment and is rewarding because in a few weeks more glorious and beautiful blooms will occur on the Zonal Geraniums I just deadheaded. Deadheading encourages me to be in contact with my garden, nature, and just a few minutes each time provides a world of difference. Plants benefit from being deadheaded as the pruning encourages growth, makes plants more compact, not floppy, and thus improving the overall image of your favorite plant.
Other plants that have multiple blooms on a stem include: Delphinium, Begonias, some Roses and Salvia it is wise to wait until 75 % of the blooms are faded then deadhead. If you are unclear as to how far to deadhead a plant, remember this rule of thumb, deadhead your spent flowers and stems back to ¼ inch above a new lateral flower, lateral leaf or bud. In the case of Roses, always at the section of the stem with 5 leaflets. This encourages new growth and healthy foliage.
Although some plants can simply be pinched with you thumb and fore finger you can also use small pruning shears or pruning scissors to deadhead. Using scissors makes clean, tidy cuts with minimal damage to the plant. Larger, woody stems, such as Roses, may require a stronger tool. For these plants or others, you may need to use a 1/2”’or 3/4’’ or larger pruners depending on the caliper of the stem. Larger stems should be cut at a 45-degree angle.
Not all flowers require deadheading, plants like Periwinkle, Impatiens, flowering vines, and flowering plants that grow from bulbs. Other plants respond very well to deadheading and will oftentimes re-bloom which include seasonal annuals like Zinnia, Cosmos, Marigolds, Hollyhocks, and perennials like Delphiniums and Marguerite daisy. A few mounding perennials, such as Coreopsis and Perennial Salvia, start declining in appearance no matter how often you deadhead. A hard pruning, also known as cutting back, can give the plants a fresh start and keep your garden looking clean and tidy. With this type of pruning, it is best to wait until after the majority of the blooms have faded to cut back these mounding perennials. The easiest way to cut back such perennials is to use a hand shears and cut the entire plant about 2 inches above the ground. Sometimes you may need to pinch back certain fall-blooming perennials during the growing season. This will will encourage lush and full growth. Perennials that benefit from pinching back include: Yarrow, Cardinal Flower, and Goldenrod.
With this important garden hack, you should be able to have a beautiful, healthy, and robust garden. Please don’t hesitate to ask any of our helpful nursery or garden experts at your favorite Green Thumb Nursery about any plant related questions you may have. We will be glad to help you succeed in your garden.
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