A Time to Deadhead

by Holly Boettcher

Every year I must have a lush and colorful fuchsia hanging in my backyard, of course, near my hot tub so I can enjoy watching the hummingbirds zipping in and out of the blooms as I sip my morning coffee. There is so much joy to behold as I watch them chase each other away from their territorial buffet. To keep my fuchsia blooming profusely all season, I often grab my garden scissors and my reading glasses and carefully begin to deadhead. Every time I am deadheading, I feel relaxed. It is almost a form of meditation. Suddenly any stress that is weighing on me melts away. The hurry and frenetic pace that I hold myself accountable for disappears. What happens when I deadhead certainly has benefits for me! But there must be more to this minimal garden task. 

What is Deadheading?  

After a plant has produced flowers, part of the life cycle is for them to turn to seed. When you cut, pinch, or remove the “spent” flowers, you disrupt the plants plans to make seeds. As a plant makes seeds, it expends a lot of energy in that process. When you deadhead, you are taking the energy away from the seed production, and instead funneling it toward producing more blooms. There is another benefit to deadheading. There are some plants that need to be deadheaded to prevent them from spreading or to keep them under control such as the rose of Sharon or anemone.  

Keeping Things Tidy

Deadheading helps to keep your garden looking neat and tidy. Examples of plants that really need this extra care are daylilies and hosta. The long stems which lack leaves look very unruly if not deadheaded. Once the dried-up flowers are removed, the daylily and hosta will look beautiful in your garden.

Not All Plants are Created Equal!

There are plants that need to be deadheaded, and some that do not.  

Deadhead these:

  • Fuchsia, lupine, lavender, sweet alyssum, garden phlox, columbine, bee balm, Shasta daisy, sage, cosmos, geraniums, and marigold.

  • Roses will continue to bloom if they are properly deadheaded. You will notice on the rose stems there are leaves of three and leaves of five.  Deadhead above the leaves of five because they will gather more photosynthesis from the sun, and you will enjoy roses until after a mild frost.

There are plants that just plain will not continue to bloom if you deadhead them.  Here is a list of plants where you can skip the pinching:

Do not deadhead these:

  • Joe-pye weed, baptisia, astilbe, and sedum such as Autumn Joy stonecrop. 

I hope you can experience relaxation by deadheading some of the plants in your garden this summer. Not only will you be rewarded with a neat and tidy garden, but you will encourage many more profuse blooms!