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How to deadhead plants

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Difficulty: Low

This task is fairly straightforward regardless of your gardening experience.

Deadheading is a relatively quick and easy process where you remove old, dying flowers from your plants. This prevents them from setting seed and encourages the plant to continue flowering for longer. By doing this, you’ll not only keep your plants looking beautiful, but you’ll also be preventing disease by removing rotting petals.

As a general rule, plants with flowers that grow on stalks should be deadheaded by cutting back to the main stem, whilst other flowers can just be pinched out using your thumb and forefinger. However, some varieties of plants will need to be cared for in a way that’s unique to them. Here, we’ll help you find out how to deadhead some of the most popular plants growing in your garden.

How to deadhead Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas need to be deadheaded in different ways depending on which variety you’re growing.

Mopheads

For these most common types of Hydrangeas, you have the option of deadheading the flowers as soon as they begin to die off, or leaving them on the plant over winter. If you leave them on, the flowers will dry up and turn brown, but they won’t drop off. Instead, they will stay on the plant until spring, and in this way will protect the new season’s buds against frost. When spring comes and it’s time to remove the previous year’s flowers, use secateurs to cut back to the nearest bud on the stem below.

Lacecaps

You can cut this type of Hydrangea back after the flower has begun to fade to the second pair of leaves below the head.

How to deadhead Roses

The best time to deadhead Roses is when the flowers have started to wilt, but before they have begun to drop their petals, as they can damage the leaves of the plant. You’ll need to wear a good pair of gardening gloves to protect your hands against thorns, and use some sharp secateurs.

Hybrid Tea Roses

Cut the flower stem back about 15cm to an outward facing side shoot. By doing this, you’ll leave a stem that’s strong enough to support the next flowers to grow on it.

Floribunda Roses

Remove the dying flowers from just behind the head, then trim the entire cluster back by around 10-15cm.

How to deadhead spring flowering bulbs

Deadheading springtime flowers like Daffodils and Tulips won’t encourage continual flowering, but it will help the bulb grow and produce more flowers the next year. To deadhead these plants, simply pinch the flower off at the head as it begins to die, leaving the stalk in place. Once the remaining foliage has turned yellow all you need to do is cut it back to ground level and wait until they come into bloom again the following spring.

Make sure you only deadhead self-seeding flowers like Snowdrops, Crocus and Muscari if you want to stop them from spreading.

How to deadhead herbaceous perennials

Not all herbaceous perennials will produce more flowers after they’ve been deadheaded, but removing dead blooms will help keep them looking tidy. To do this, you just need to pinch off the dying flower at its base. If the plant flowers on a spike you should also remove this just below the lowest flower.

How to deadhead bedding plants

Many bedding plants, such as Lobelia and Calibrachoa, don’t actually need deadheading as they will drop dead flowers and continue to grow more throughout the season on their own. However, you can easily remove dead flowers if you want to keep your plants looking tidy.

For those that do need a little help, simply pinch out the flower head for shorter stemmed or multi-flowered plants, or use secateurs to cut stalks back to the main stem for longer stemmed varieties.

Plants you don’t need to deadhead

Some plants don’t need deadheading, particularly Fuchsias and Salvias, as they will do it themselves.

Rose Cultivars that produce flowers during the autumn don’t need to be deadheaded, and make sure you also leave Sunflowers, Elder and Dogwood, as they produce seeds and berries for birds and other wildlife.

Tools for the job


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