The Secret to Deadheading Plants

Picking off dead flower heads not only tidies up a plant but also channels its energy into growth and the production of new flowers.
Similar Topics:
Cosmos Blooms

Cosmos Blooms

Photo by: DK - Learn to Garden © 2008 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Learn to Garden , 2008 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Cosmos will bloom almost continuously throughout summer and up to the first frost if you continue to deadhead it. Take long flower stems back to the ferny foliage below.

What to Deadhead 

Although not an exact science, there are a few guidelines: 

  • Large flowers, such as those of some pelargoniums, can be snapped off individually. The soft stems of most perennials are easily pinched through. 
  • If the tall flowering stems of delphiniums, lupines, and foxgloves (Digitalis) are cut off, new smaller heads might sprout lower down. 
  • Dainty plants with small flowers such as lobelias are best trimmed using scissors. 
  • For repeat-flowering roses, cut off blooms with pruners at the cluster point, either one by one, or just above a leaf. 

Shearing Back

An easy way to deadhead some plants is to trim them back with shears. Trim after flowering for more flowers, fresh foliage, or both. Try this with border campanulas, catmint (Nepeta), hardy geraniums, knapweeds (Centaurea), border salvias, and pulmonarias. 

In early spring, shear back growth of winter-flowering heathers (Erica carnea), ling (Calluna), periwinkles (Vinca), St. John’s-wort (Hypericum calycinum), and ornamental grasses, taking care not to cut into the new shoots. Also shear off old leaves on epimediums in late winter, before they flower. Cosmos will bloom almost continuously throughout summer and up to the first frost if you continue to deadhead it. Take the long flower stems back to the ferny foliage below.

Leave to Seed 

Not all plants need deadheading. Some will not produce more flowers, and may develop seedheads if flowers are left in place. These may be very attractive, especially in winter, and the scattered seed could result in a crop of seedlings the next year. Try leaving the flowerheads on the following plants: 

  • Achillea 
  • Astilbe 
  • Clematis like C. tangutica, C. orientalis, and their hybrids 
  • Eryngium 
  • Ornamental grasses 
  • Poppies 
  • Sedum 
  • Teasel

Next Up

Selecting and Planting Flower Bulbs

From the purchase to maintaining them throughout the season, this simple guide to bulbs will help ensure garden success.

Winterizing Plants

Discover easy techniques for getting plants ready for winter’s chill.

Planting Flowers for Summer Perfume

Rich in scent and color, tobacco plant (Nicotiana) or cherry pie (Heliotropium) are good selections for warm-weather blooms.

How to Plant Perennial Flowers & Plants

Perennials are the mainstay of the traditional flower garden. When planted correctly, they are long-lived.

Fast-Growing Flowers and Plants

Young children have short attention spans, so to get them interested in gardening, choose plants that do something spectacular, fast. While no plant gives instant results, many germinate and turn into something recognizable quickly enough for your child to remember sowing them.

How to Care for Your Plants

Learn the basics when it comes to light, water and food for your plants.

Ligularia (Leopard Plant): Our Favorite Flowers

Take off with these rocket-shaped flowers.

Planting Annuals: When and How To Plant Annual Flowers

Learn the ins and outs of planting annuals, including when to plant annuals and techniques you can use to boost success.

Garden Plants and Flowers

Learn how to discover which plants underscore and help define a specific garden design style.

Tips for Fertilizing Garden Plants

Help your garden thrive with these easy ideas for feeding plants.