Deadheading

By Matt Orwat, UF/IFAS Horticulture Extension Agent for Washington County

This piece originally appeared here on UF/IFAS Blogs as "Deadheading Can Keep Summer Perennials Beautiful."

Deadheading can make a huge difference in the appearance of one's landscape without a whole lot of effort. The act of deadheading is the removal of individual blooms or flowering stalks that are past their prime.

Leafy green coneflower plant with spindly orange and pink daisylike flowers

Coneflower, after deadheading, with new growth and flowers. Photo: Matthew Orwat, UF/IFAS Extension

When deadheading, always trim the stem to an area above a node. The node can be determined by the presence of a leaf and its attachment to a stem. This area is known as the leaf axle.

The main benefit of deadheading flowering shrubs and perennials, particularly in the spring and summer, is that removal of spent flowers promotes new growth and more flowers. It also eliminates unsightly seed stalks and decaying petals from the landscape. If trying to save seed or promote re-seeding, do not deadhead in the fall or near the terminal side of a given season for any plant.

On the left a rose plant with a very dead flower and on the right the same plant after the dead flower has been cut off

Roses before (left) and after (right) deadheading. Photo: Matthew Orwat, UF/IFAS Extension

Once proper deadheading is performed, new growth will emerge from the trimmed area. Oftentimes, this new growth is another single flower or flower cluster.

While this process is generally used for repeat flowering shrubs, such as roses, it can also be used effectively on crapemyrtle, salvia, cone flower, coreopsis, and many others. Promote an extended bloom season in the garden and deadhead!

On the left a poor photo of a leggy salvia plant that's practically indistinguishable from the grassy background and on the left a fuller leafy green salvia plant with shorter purple flower spikes

Salvia, before and after deadheading. Photo: Matthew Orwat, UF/IFAS Extension


Return to the May 2019 Neighborhood Gardener