Deadheading and Pruning Container Plants

To make sure that flowering plants continue to bloom for a long time, and to keep shrubs and climbers healthy, prolific and in good shape, you need two techniques: deadheading and pruning. Both are quick, simple and highly effective.

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Deadheading PlantsEnlarge Photo+Shrink Photo-DK - Simple Steps to Success: Containers for Patios © 2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Deadheading

Snipping off fading or dead flowers is an essential way to keep plants looking good. It ensures that drab old flowers don't detract from the new — there's nothing worse than fading white flowers turning an unsightly brown. Removing them also means that plants don't pour their energy into producing seed, which is the principal aim of a flower. Instead, the plants' energy is channeled into making more, high-quality flowers for a long display.

Why Prune?

Many shrubs and climbers need pruning to keep them vigorous and shapely and their flowers clearly displayed, and to stop their growth from becoming a tangled mess. Pruning is also essential because it eliminates weak, damaged, diseased and dead growth, so that plants put all their energy into growing strong, healthy stems. When pruning it's important to know what happens next. Usually new growth shoots out from below the cut. A hard prune generally results in a mass of new vigorous growth, while a light pruning gives more limited results. Check your plants' needs before acting.
Prune shrubs with opposite pairs of buds with a straight cut.

When to Prune

New deciduous shrubs should be pruned when dormant in winter, or after planting, to build up an attractive framework. Prune trees in winter, too, except Prunus species, which are pruned in summer. Established deciduous shrubs that flower in spring on stems made the previous year should be pruned after flowering. Shrubs that flower in summer on the current year's stems are generally pruned in early spring. Deciduous climbers are pruned likewise, depending on when they flower, and evergreens are pruned in mid- to late spring. Always use clean, sharp tools and wear protective gloves.

Pruning Tips

1. Prune shrubs with opposite pairs of buds with a straight cut (Image 1).

2. For alternate buds, use an angled cut just above a bud (Image 2).

3. Remove stems that are rubbing others, causing abrasions (Image 3).

4. Cut all dead and dying wood back to healthy growth (Image 4).

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Excerpted from Simple Steps: Containers for Patios

©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2007

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