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What is Deadheading?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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Deadheading is a simple garden task that will keep your blooming plants happier and healthier. It refers to removing dead flowers, either by pinching with the fingers or by trimming back with scissors or pruners. The process of deadheading allows plants to put energy towards creating more blooms, rather than seeds. Deadheading your plants regularly will extend their blooming season and may help to prevent infestation and disease. It will also greatly improve the appearance of your garden.

Deadheading is performed differently depending on the type of plant. For foliage with tiny clusters of flowers, it is easiest to wait for the entire cluster to die. Cut the stem cleanly about one-quarter of an inch (6.4 mm) above the next group of leaves or the next cluster.

Plants that generate one flower per stem, like daisies and marigolds, can be kept looking healthy by deadheading at the base of the stem. If the plant generates several flowers to a stem that bloom at different times, trim off each bloom as it dies. When the entire stem is through blooming, cut it back to the base. Some plants, like petunias and pansies, tend to thin out if not deadheaded regularly. Trim back leggy growth and allow the plant to regenerate.

Pruners should be used when deadheading roses. Traditionally, dead blooms were removed by making a 45-degree cut just above the first outward-facing five-leaflet spray. However, the current trend is to trim the bud itself and nothing more, snipping at the base of the peduncle. Some experts believe that leaving more foliage helps the plant remain stronger and encourages faster rebloom.

Plants such as coleus that are kept for their beautifully colored leaves rather than their blooms also benefit from deadheading. In this case, the tiny-stemmed flowers are only taking energy away from the foliage and can be pinched off with the thumb and forefinger. Deadheading these types of plants will encourage bushier growth.

Deadheading should take place about once a week. Although it takes a few minutes, you will likely be surprised at how much healthier your garden looks. Plants will soon respond to the extra care, rewarding you with an extended blooming season and better growth, making debudding well worth the trouble.

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Discussion Comments

By anon64920 — On Feb 10, 2010

Truckers told me that "deadheading" is the return trip of a roundtrip with no load. Let me know if this isn't true.

By Claire — On May 20, 2009

The knockout roses fall off after blooming. Should you cut the small stem back or just leave center of rose and stem there?

By sputnik — On Mar 27, 2008

My geraniums need constant removal of dried leaves and flowers. Deadheading though makes them stronger and healthier.

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