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Potting

Deadhead for More Blooms

By Therese Ciesinski, GardenSMART

Deadheading is an important task that pays dividends in your garden. Removing flowers as they fade keeps them from going to seed. Not only does a garden look better when dead flowers are removed, the plants will be healthier, because they’re not putting energy into seed making. Some perennials will even bloom longer or repeat bloom when you cut off spent flowers.

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Deadheading is a form of pruning. You can often just pinch off dead and dying flowers with your fingers. For tougher stems, use snips or pruners. It’s a task that starts in spring and continues throughout the growing season.

However, not all flowering perennials need to be deadheaded. Some are enthusiastic self-sowers, giving you more plants if the seedheads are left on. The flowers on others, such as astilbe, echinacea, and sedum, are attractive even after they’ve faded, providing winter interest in the garden.

Other plants play an important role for wildlife. There are flowers with seeds that feed the birds and other animals. They should not be deadheaded after late summer, going into fall.

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Plants that have a tendency to rebloom after deadheading include:

Bee balm

Butterfly weed

Coneflower

Coreopsis

Dianthus (some)

Gallardia

Lavender

Pincushion flower

Phlox (some)

Roses (some)

Rudbeckia

Salvia (some)

Shasta daisies

Veronica

Yarrow

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Plants that don’t rebloom after deadheading include:

Astilbe

Bleeding heart

Daylilies

Evening primrose

Hosta

Iris

Liatris

Ligularia

Peony

Red hot poker

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Plants with flowerheads that feed birds:

Aster

Coreopsis

Echinacea

Globe thistle

Goldenrod

Joe-Pye weed

Ornamental grasses

Rudbeckia

Sea holly

Sedum (some)

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Plants that will reseed if you don’t deadhead:

Amsonia

Cardinal flower

Columbine

Echinacea

Forget-me-not

Foxglove

Liatris

Virginia bluebells

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How to Deadhead Perennials:

  • Snip or pinch off faded blooms just below the flower and above the first set of leaves.
  • For perennials with tall stems, cut at the base of the plant’s stem.
  • Try to avoid cutting off leaves since they provide nutrients for future blooms.
  • Watch to be sure you don’t accidently cut off flower buds along with the dead flowers.
  • Doing a little each day keeps this task from becoming overwhelming.
  • As long as plants are not diseased, throw the clippings in your compost pile.

Deadheading, like weeding, is a necessary chore that’s almost therapeutic. Cleaning up a plant and improving its appearance feels like an accomplishment. It’s not fun, exactly, but it is satisfying.


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