Deadheading is a form of pruning which involves removing the spent flowers on plants, especially on annuals and herbaceous perennials in the garden. Spent flowers are those that have either been pollinated or have passed their prime. At that point, they begin to lose their petals and "shatter".

Keeping flowering plants deadheaded is important for two reasons:

  1. Encourage More Blooms - Many plants, especially annuals, have one intent...to produce seeds for the next generation. If they reach this goal, they will stop flowering and concentrate on producing seeds. When you deadhead these plants, it triggers internal chemical signals which tell the plant that their job for the year is not done. They then begin to produce more flowers which is what we want from these plants in our gardens.
     

  2. Prevent Seed Formation - In our landscapes, there are some plants that reproduce true from seed which we want to multiply. This group would include some of the primroses, coreopsis, gaillardia and others.

    However, it is not desirable for most of the plants in our landscapes to produce seed for two reasons:

    • Hybrids - Most plants with a 'cultivar' name are hybrids which almost never reproduce true to form by seed. Often, these are the result of cross breeding two different, related plants which result in the next generation having hybrid vigor. That is great for our garden. Unfortunately, when these hybrids then cross breed, the resulting seedlings may look nothing like the parents. That is generally not what we want in our gardens and deadheading will prevent this from happening.
       

    • Energy Drain - Seed production in plants is a survival issue. Therefore, the plant puts a lot of effort and energy into the developing seed. If we are not interested in using these seeds, it is to the plant's benefit to deadhead the spent flowers. This stops the seed production process and the plant (especially perennials) will be able to divert that energy into building stronger root systems and reserves for next year's plants.

    Deadheading is not the same as Pinching.

Note: We have provided some general information and observations on this topic aimed at the home gardener. Before you take any serious action in your landscape, check with your state's land grant university's Cooperative Extension Service for the most current, appropriate, localized recommendations.

 

Copyright 2000-