Bartlett on Gardening: Perk Up Those Posies!

July 22, 2017

Vincas require no deadheading. But deadhead your zinnias and marigolds if you want them to bloom all summer.

 

One garden task I really find tedious is deadheading. This term refers to the removal of spent flower blossoms from the plant. The purpose of this practice is to prevent seed formation as well as make the garden look tidier. Gathering bouquets is a more enjoyable way to achieve the same end.

 

Annual plants sprout, grow to maturity and reproduce in one season. Once sufficient seed has been set, flowering ceases and the plant dies. As your marigolds and zinnias go to seed, it is essential to deadhead if you want color until frost. In the case of petunias, a midsummer pinchback accompanied by an application of liquid fertilizer provides renewed vigor to go the distance.

 

Some annuals are "self-cleaning". Impatiens, the color mainstay of the shade garden, is one. Sun-loving vinca is another. Flowers suitable for use in dry arrangements such as gomphrena continue to look decorative even when not harvested for indoor use.

 

Perennial plants also benefit from deadheading. Bulbs such as daffodils are weakened if allowed t go to seed. Once mine have finished blooming, I lop off their heads, leaving the foliage to feed the bulbs for next year's show.

 

Some perennials will rebloom if deadheaded. Monarda and cone flowers are prime examples. I appreciate their extended efforts although the first flush of bloom is the showiest.

 

In a field trial of my own, I observed that cat mint puts on the same second act whether or not I shear off the first. I repurpose dull sewing shears to quickly shear low bloomers like dianthus. My bypass pruner is the tool of choice for most other situations. Certainly the garden looks more manicured if spent flowers of once blooming plants are removed.

 

Deadheading promotes more flowering in some shrubs. Roses are exhibit A. Because they need to prepare for a winter's rest, it is a good practice to stop removing the flowers when fall arrives. This also allows decorative "hips" (seed pods) to develop on some cultivars. I deadhead my butterfly bush until it grows beyond my reach. By then

my enthusiasm is waning and fall is in the air.

 

So, off with their heads! Whether through selective pinching or wholesale shearing, perk up those posies for a resplendent show until frost.

 

Master gardener Ann Bartlett never lets lack of familiarity with a plant stop her from trying it in the ornamental beds around her home. 

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