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How and What to Deadhead to Prolong Bloom

Many gardeners find deadhead a boring, mundane job but I always like it. It gives me the opportunity to enjoy plant plants close up, touch them, smell them, and inspect them for diseases or pests. If I do a little everyday, the job is never too overwhelming and the garden is deadheaded about once a week. The prospect of more flowers keeps me pretty faithful about deadheading and I am always spurred on when I see the plants putting out more and more flowers.

The most important reason for me to deadhead is to push my plants to produce more flowers rather than the seeds that they normally would produce. There are other reasons to deadhead of course and not all plants respond to deadheading no matter how much anyone tries. Lilacs, iris, and peonies absolutely refuse to rebloom but I deadhead them anyway in order to improve their appearance and the overall appearance of the garden. When I deadhead my roses I consider shaping the bushes at the same time because they can get very leggy and ugly by the end of the season. Plants like spiderwort have a tendency to self seed in my garden so deadheading them does double duty; promotes rebloom and cuts down the self seeding. Of course there are some plants I want to rebloom AND self seed so I drop the flowers that I deadhead in an area of the garden where I would like to see them grow. You really can’t go wrong with deadheading so give it a try and see if you can get more flowers.

Here is a list of perennials that respond to deadheading with prolonged blooming.

    Baby’s breath (Gysophilia paniculata)
    Balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus)
    Bellflower-peachleaf (Campanulata persicifolia)
    Blanket flower (Garllardia x grandiflora)
    Blazing star (Liatris spicata)
    Bleeding heart-fernleaf and ringed (Dicentra spp. and Dicentra Formosa)
    Cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis)
    Columbine (Aquilegia spp.)
    Coralbells (Heuchera hybrids)
    Delphinium (Delphiniium elatum)
    Foamflower (tiarella spp) not all
    Foxglove (Digitalis spp)
    Garden phlos (Phlox paniculata)
    Gaura (Gaura lidheimeri)
    Glove thistle (Echinops ritro)
    Goldenrod (Solidago spp)
    Hollyhock (Acea rosea)
    Jupiter’s beard (Centranthus rubber)
    Lavender (Lavender spp)
    Lupine (Lupinus hybrids)
    Mountain bluet (Centaurea montana)
    Mullein (Verbascum spp)
    Painted daisy (Tanacetum coccineum)
    Pincushion plant (Scabiosa columbaria)
    Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea
    Rose (Rosa spp)
    Salvia (Salvia nemerosa)
    Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum)
    Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale)
    Speedwell (Veronica spicata)
    Spiderwort (Tradescantia Andersoniana)
    Stokes aster (Stokesia laevis)
    Tickseed (Coreopsis grandiflora)

Once you decide that you will deadhead you have to decide how you will do so. Each plant is different but here are some guidelines.

1. Avoid cutting off developing flower buds. Sounds easy but sometimes the buds are hidden or the flowers are on very short stems and snipping a bud is easy to do accidentally. Coreopsis ‘Moonbean’ has this problem.

2. Cut flowers that are borne singly on a stem, like a Shasta daisy, to the first branch or branch bud.

3. Cut off large individual flowers borne in clusters or on spikes, like spiderwort or hollyhocks, as they wilt and die and then cut off the whole spike, or cluster when no flowers or buds remain.

4. Cut off whole spikes or clusters of small flowers, like speedwell or goldenrod, when the whole spike or cluster is wilted or dead.

Items 3 and 4 are a matter of flower size; it is unreasonable to cut off every flower of baby’s breath or speedwell as it dies because the flowers are so small you would have to do it with manicure scissors and a whole lot of patience. Cutting off the whole stem of flowers once they have all faded will do the job nicely.

Deadheading is a pretty easy job. I have a pair of very sharp strong scissors that I always carry in the pocket of my gardening pants so I can use them any time I see a wilting flower. I always welcome an excuse to wander in my garden among my plants and snip here and there, enjoying the rebloom of some plant that has already responded to my sharp little scissors.

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