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Deadheading Secrets

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April 30, 2019

There are more reasons for deadheading than removing faded flowers today on Southern Gardening. 

Today I’d like to share some deadheading tips I’ve learned over the years. The most obvious reason for deadheading is prolonging or even getting a second bloom period. Producing seed requires a lot of energy and is essential for the next generation of plants. Removing flowers before setting seeds signals the plant to make more flowers. Some of our flowering perennials produce a lot of seed each year. Deadheading can keep many plants from becoming weedy nuisances and can actually save the perennial from overrun by the seedlings. There are different ways to deadhead successfully. Individual flowers can begin to look ratty as the flowers fade especially on plants like hollyhocks. Snip each flower as they fade and when the entire stem is finished cut it off near the base of the plant. Perennials that produce lots of blooms over the entire plant require a lot of time to remove each. So go ahead and shear these back as soon as the majority of flowers fade. My tool of choice are scissors which will quickly dispatch the seed heads. There may be a mound of nice foliage underneath the fading flowers. Go ahead and leave it, removing only the spent flowers

You don't have to use scissors — hedge shears or a string trimmer will be OK for perennials you're cutting to the ground. The plant will be back with a neat mound of foliage and maybe even a smattering of late flowers in just a few weeks. No matter why or how you remove the ripening seedpods, the appearance of the plant will improve. Now don't be afraid. Go ahead and start snipping! I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening. 

Department: Coastal Research & Extension Center

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