Anybody who has ever seen a gardening programme on TV will be familiar with the concept of dead-heading as the way to prolong the flowering season, and generally help to ensure that you get the very best out of your plants.
Plants flower to attract pollinators such as bees, and they need pollination to create seeds for the next generation. Once pollinated, the flowers’ task is complete and they fade away – the plant has achieved its aim and starts to set seed, putting all of its energy into seed development. Even the foliage can start to wilt and the plant certainly won’t be looking at its best.
Removing fading flowers by dead-heading encourages your plants to continue flowering to attract pollinators – which means that you can continue to enjoy more beautiful flowers and great looking plants.
While dead-heading isn’t complicated – as you’ll see below – it is important to use the right technique for the type of plant you’re working on and the right tools for the job, which include fingers, horticultural scissors and secateurs.
Annuals such as petunias can provide a wonderful long-lasting floral display in borders, containers and hanging baskets.
Their faded blooms do look untidy though, so they benefit from regular dead-heading – here’s how…
Look for faded blooms on your plant – follow the stem of each of these blooms to the point where they join the main stem – pinch out the flowering stems at this point with your finger and thumb, or use horticultural scissors if you find this difficult or have large hands.
It is important to dead-head petunias in this way to avoid leaving a lot of unsightly ‘pencils’ – green stems that serve no purpose.
Dead-heading Geraniums (Pelargoniums)
Also providing a great floral display in borders, containers and hanging baskets, geraniums require a very different approach to dead-heading.
Compared to the vibrant beauty of healthy blooms, those that have faded are easily identified!
Follow the flowering stem down to the node where it joins the plant’s main stem.
Put your thumb behind the flowering stem and gently lever it away from the main stem until it just snaps off cleanly.
Dead-heading double-flowering Begonias
Double-flowering begonias often produce single flowers too – these single flowers not only look less impressive than their double siblings, they also compete with them for the plant’s attention and energy. Removing the single flower blooms – not strictly dead-heading, but very beneficial – is easy and ensures that the plant puts all of its effort into those beautiful double flowers, which means that you’ll be rewarded with double flowers that just keep getting larger and more impressive!
To remove the single flowers just follow the flowering stem to where it joins the plant and nip it out with your thumb and forefinger, it’s as easy as that!
Roses are an iconic garden flower and they too benefit from dead-heading.
In the case of roses you can dead-head for more flowers, or to encourage a more pleasing shape to your plant – the two techniques are different and we’ll concentrate on dead-heading to promote flowering here – we’ll write about plant shaping on another occasion…
Rose blooms that are past their best are easy to identify, and it’s a good idea to dead-head them before they drop their petals and make the garden look untidy.
Take hold of a faded bloom, follow its stem to the node where it joins the parent stem – make sure that this stem doesn’t contain any buds that are yet to flower, and then cut it off with a sharp pair of secateurs. Always make dead-heading and pruning cuts to roses at an angle of about 45 degrees – this will ensure that rain and water cannot sit on the wound causing rot.
Dead-head well and you’ll be rewarded with lots more flower buds and ultimately more beautiful roses!
Dead-heading should be viewed as essential maintenance of your garden – and an opportunity to get up close to the plants that you love… follow the tips above and they’ll all provide you with longer lasting enjoyment.
If you need any tools for dead-heading your plants – we’ve got everything you’ll need in-store – and if you’re inspired to add some long lasting floral displays to your garden we’ve got an enormous range of plants of every type – so drop in to see us soon!