Deadheading: Keeping your blooms blooming

The primary reason flowers exist is to produce more flowers. In general, once a flower blooms and dies it forms seeds for the next generation.

The primary reason flowers exist is to produce more flowers.  In general, once a flower blooms and dies it forms seeds for the next generation.  However, if you want to have beautiful flowers in your annual garden or containers right through to the first frost, Michigan State University Extension recommends deadheading. Deadheading is simply removing the spent flower before it sets seed. This tricks the plant into believing it needs to keep blooming to produce seed for the next generation. Deadheading will keep your plants blooming and looking their best for the entire season.  Different types of flowers require different deadheading methods, but the simplest practice is to cut spent blooms.

Deadheading perennials extend the flowering season, but consider the benefits of deadheading versus letting the perennials set seed heads.  When perennials set seeds the seed heads can be very attractive in the garden and they may also provide food for birds and wildlife.  You may also want to save some of the seeds to plant in the spring.

Some flowers respond well to pruning.  If you are planning a summer vacation you might consider pruning some of your annuals back by half.  Petunias, marigolds, impatiens, zinnias and salvia will all give you a great show after a shearing or “haircut” in midsummer. It takes about two weeks for a good show of color, but is well worth it. An educational video by Expert Village illustrates how to complete the deadheading process.

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