What Is Deadheading a Flower?

Have you heard of the term deadheading and wondered what the Grateful Dead had to do with gardening? Deadheading is a term that sounds confusing, but is really simple to understand, and something you may have to do in the garden throughout the growing season. There are also a couple of reasons why you may have to deadhead a flower. Let’s explore!

Pinching basil flowers

So what is deadheading a flower?

Simply put, deadheading a flower means that you are removing the flower from the stem of a plant or bulb. You can achieve this by either pinching off the flower with your thumb and index finger, or by using a garden tool like a pair of clippers or pruning shears.

Why you should deadhead a flower?

There are several reasons why deadheading is a good gardening practice. First, it is a matter of aesthetics. Plants and shrubs like roses can look rather messy when the petals of flowers start to fall off after the flower has been pollinated. Deadheading makes things look nice and tidy in the garden.

Secondly, many plants that we consider annuals complete their life cycle after they have bloomed and had their flowers pollinated. Once the plant has produced seeds it begins to slow down and die. Removing the flowers will extend the life of your plants. Some plant varieties will also send out a second flush of growth and flowers after being deadheaded. Deadheading means you will get more flowers in this instance.

Lastly, deadheading preserves the flavor of many herbs and edible plants. After blooming, many herbs and leafy greens will start to taste bitter. Removing the flowers before they set buds will extend the life and flavors of many popular edible herbs.

How to deadhead flowers

Deadheading a rose

As I mentioned above, deadheading is really simple. For herbs, greens, succulent plants and non-woody plants, you can pinch off the flower head by placing it between your fingertips and twisting off the flower head.

For plants with tougher, more fibrous stems, you really should use a pair of clippers or pruning shears. Pulling and twisting stems can result in breaks and tears that make your plant prone to pests or diseases. It’s better to use a pair of clean and sharp pruners to make a clean cut. If you are deadheading various plants in your garden, you should make sure to clean your pruners in between plants to prevent passing on any diseases.

deadheading a yellow flower

Make sure you don’t pull or tug on the plants because this could result in either the plant’s roots being disturbed or breaks to stems and trunks from which you plants may not recover.

Now that you know what deadheading a flower is, and why should do it, go out into your garden and clean up those plants! Keep in mind that deadheading flowers means that you are removing any potential seedheads and seed pods. If you are interested in saving garden seeds, it is best to let the pods and seedheads develop. And if you deadhead some plants late in the season you risk the chance of the plant trying to send out new growth when it should be going dormant.

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