When to deadhead flowers – 20 plants you can deadhead and how to do it

Gardening: Expert demonstrates how to deadhead flowers

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Deadheading is the simplest way to boost the performance of flowering plants – but only if you do it at the right time. While most plants should be deadheaded once the petals begin to fade, there are some varieties that don’t need to be tidied up at all. These are the key signs you should deadhead these 20 popular blooms – and exactly how to do it.

When to deadhead flowering plants

Regular deadheading is essential to maintain the health of your plants, and there are plenty of opportunities to do it both during and after the growing season.

Removing spent or faded blooms keeps the plant’s energy focused on the development of new flowers while maintaining a colourful display throughout your garden.

A wide variety of both annual and perennial plants can be deadheaded while they bloom, and there’s one key time you should aim to do it.

According to Sabine Schoenberg, CEO and co-founder of Smart Healthy Green Living, deadheading should be done as soon as the flowers begin to fade.

The best time to start removing spent blooms is after the “first wave” of flowers has reached its peak, but when should you stop?

Sabine said: “It should be repeated whenever possible throughout the flowering cycle on those plants that benefit.”

While most plants will respond well to being cleared of old flowers, not all varieties should be deadheaded during the growing season – and some shouldn’t be deadheaded at all.

Which plants should you deadhead?

The annuals and perennials which respond well to deadheading will reward you with a full flower all season long, but which varieties should you be focusing on?

Deadheading should be done to following flowers throughout their growing season:

  1. Butterfly bushes
  2. Cosmos
  3. Delphiniums
  4. Hydrangeas
  5. Marigolds
  6. Roses
  7. Yarrow
  8. Zinnia
  9. Delphinium
  10. Hollyhock
  11. Marguerite daisy
  12. Hardy geraniums
  13. Petunias
  14. Snapdragons
  15. Roses
  16. Blanket Flowers
  17. Bee balms
  18. Campanulas
  19. Sweet peas
  20. Salvia

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Key signs your plant needs deadheading

Plants that flower throughout the year are more likely to benefit from being deadheaded, though you can still remove spent blooms for aesthetic reasons.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) recommended that spent flowers be removed “as soon as they look scruffy”, and there are several key signs you should look for.

These include:

  • Wilted flowers
  • Faded petals
  • Fallen petals at the base of the plant
  • Discoloured flower heads

Most plants will respond to old blooms being pinched off using just your finger and thumb, though some plants will require a more thorough deadhead using gardening tools to remove entire flower-heads from the stem.

How to deadhead flowers

Deadheading should be tailored to suit the specific needs of your plant, so it is important to use different methods to ensure your garden is thriving all season long.

According to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), you should aim to remove the flower with its stalk to ensure the plant looks tidy.

Plants with stringy stems such as dahlias, calendula, marigolds and shrubs can be cut with scissors, secateurs or a knife.

It is crucial that you make the cut in the right place to stimulate new growth without killing the plant, so always aim to cut:

  • To the closest bud or leaf when cutting back border perennials and annuals
  • Close to ground level when cutting hardy geraniums, delphiniums and lupins
  • Just below the flower head when deadheading roses

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