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When to Deadhead Flowers (And Why)

Deadhead flowers sounds like the name of a rock group, but it’s actually an important gardening term. If you’ve never deadheaded flowers or maintained a garden in general, you may be missing out on a crucial element of plant health promotion. Read on to learn what deadheading is, why it works, and when you should deadhead plants in your garden.

What Is Deadheading?

Deadheading is the process of removing dead flowers from plants. Many plants have multiple growth spurts throughout the year, not just in the spring. Deadheading removes the old flowers to help push nutrients to new growth. This is most effective for annuals, but it also works well for some perennials.

Note that deadheading is not the same as pruning, though they are somewhat related. Pruning is a more involved process that may remove stems, branches and larger sections of the plant. Deadheading simply refers to cutting off the flowers at the tips.

Why Deadheading Flowers Is Important

When you deadhead flowers, you’re literally cutting dead weight off the plant. Those flowers have already absorbed all the nutrients they need, and no new flowers are going to grow in the same location. Getting rid of the dead heads will direct water and key nutrients to the developing buds on the plants, which may encourage a richer bloom cycle in the future.

Deadheading also has aesthetic benefits. The dead flowers on a plant can detract from the beautiful new flowers that are thriving. They can also block light from the flowers that need it most. Remove the old flowers and you allow the new ones to reach their full potential.

When to Deadhead Flowers

It’s best to deadhead flowers as soon as the flowers start to fade. Some plants may benefit from weekly or even daily maintenance, depending on their size and bloom pattern. You can deadhead throughout the year, but most plants will only need this in the spring, summer and early fall.

How to Deadhead Flowers

You can deadhead flowers by pinching them off right below the base of the flower head. Since some plants have thorny areas near the flowers, you may not want to use your fingers for every plants. Basic garden shears can speed up the process and save your fingers. Just make sure to disinfect your garden tools between plants to prevent the spread of disease.