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How to deadhead plants

Published: 9th August, 2017

Deadheading plants to encourage growthKeep borders, flower beds, hanging baskets and pots in your garden looking fuller for longer with just a little deadheading care. Deadheading is the removal of any spent blossoms and seed pods from your perennials and annuals and it’s carried out for a couple of reasons. First of all, once the flower is spent it doesn’t look good and secondly, you want to rejuvenate new growth. As the summer progresses this should be done on a regular basis.

Like all living things, a plants main purpose in life is to reproduce. Once a blossom turns into a seed head it has lived its life cycle and to all intents and purposes the plant thinks its job is done. By removing the dead blossoms and seed heads you are fooling it into starting the process again & allowing it to concentrate its energy into producing yet more blooms rather than seeds.

Some dead flowers you’ll simply be able to pinch off the plant with your fingers, but make sure you take away the seed pod as well. In most circumstances, however, particularly where the foliage has gone a little bit wild and straggly, cut further back with a good pair of secateurs to just above a leaf node. This will encourage new growth to come out and keep the plant looking neat and compact. Make sure your chosen pruning tools are clean and sharp.  If you don’t make a clean cut you may damage the stems of the plant and promote disease.

If hanging baskets have become ‘leggy’ and tired looking, undercut from beneath to thin out the trailing stems. Within 2 -3 days it will reproduce new shoots. Similarly, if the growth becomes too dense the lower layers will begin to die off where they are not getting sufficient sunlight and air ventilation, so thinning out is always a great way of maintaining a healthy-looking plant.

If bedding and annual plants are beginning to look spindly and you can see no more buds coming through deep in the foliage, then give them a good haircut. Just cut in nice straight lines around the edges of the plant mass, almost like a lawn mower. Here again it will promote new growth for the remainder of the season. If any tall and heavy plants are still looking good but are weighed down, consider staking them as you go.

Roses are another plant that will benefit from deadheading. Once the flowers are past their best look down the stem to a point where there is a leaf stem with 5 leaves and cut at a 45-degree angle just above it. The plant will then send out a new flowering shoot. If you cut above where there are only 3 leaves the rose is more likely to send out dead wood, so do take the time to look for the 5-leaf stem.

Fruit trees, like ornamental plants, have a single goal and that is to produce seeds. They do this by producing lots and lots of flowers which are pollinated and produce the fruit. Picking fruit as soon as it’s ripe will allow space for remaining fruit to grow larger and will also encourage flower initiation and development for the following year.

Many gardeners find deadheading & picking relaxing and if you keep at it, just a little every other day, the task will never become too overwhelming.

Keep your plants looking stunning all summer long! Good luck!

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