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The Importance of Dead-Heading

Dead Heading flowers

Dead-heading is the removal of flowers from plants when they are fading or dead and you do it to keep plants looking attractive and to encourage more bloom in beds, borders, containers and hanging baskets. Just dead-head when they look scruffy – you’ll know that moment.

Why dead-head?

Most flowers lose their attraction as they fade, spoiling the overall appearance of beds, borders and containers, and are best removed. However, there are other reasons:

·         Regular deadheading directs energy into stronger growth and more flowers. Once the flowers are pollinated; seed heads, pods or capsules form at the expense of further growth and flower development

·         It can prevent plants with numerous petals like peonies and rose scattering petals untidily around the garden

How & what to dead-head

There are two ways and it really is determined by the ease with which you can do it. 

With finger and thumb

The simplest method is to just pinch off the faded blooms with finger and thumb and try to remove the flower with its stalk to ensure the plant looks tidy.

With secateurs, scissors or a knife

To deadhead plants with tough or stringy stems, use secateurs, scissors or a knife. This includes dahlias, calendulas, marigolds and shrubs like lilac. 

Irises (apart from Iris foetidissima, grown for its colourful seed heads) can be dead-headed. These won't provide a second flush of flowers but the plant will put its energy into beefing up the rhizome for next year.

Dead-head hybrid tea and floribunda roses by snapping off the spent flower at the natural break point on the stem, usually 1in to 2in (2.5cm to 5cm) below the flower. This will promote slightly earlier repeat flowering

Cutting rather than dead-heading

Some hardy geraniums, delphiniums and lupins produce a second flush of flowers if cut back close to ground level after their first flowers have gone. Others like lady’s mantle and oriental poppies can still be cut back near ground level but, usually, only produce fresh foliage.

With plants such as phlox or anthemis, cut down to the first or second set of strong foliage. This will encourage a second flush of flowers. At the same time, feed the plant to give it a boost, preferably with a rose fertiliser 

What not to dead-head

Things like fuchsias and salvias neatly deadhead themselves, plants that produce seed that birds love like rudbeckia, cornflowers and sunflowers should be left and roses that bear hips or other plants that have autumn berries.

Posted by Charlie Groves

Charlie is the manager at Groves Nurseries.  He is the 6th generation of C.W. Groves to run the garden centre. 

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