garden tools

When my flowers bloom, my gardens look amazing. It is always a disappointment when those plants finish flowering and they are stuck in the foliage stage for the rest of the season. However, deadheading those plants can help encourage more blooming and new growth for a better looking garden through the summer.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a process of removing spent blooms to encourage more blooming. Flowers are produced on a plant so they can be pollinated and produce seed. Seed production is the purpose of plants to ensure survival. Once the flowers have been pollinated for the year, the plant will move on to seed production and not use energy on flower production. This will leave the plant without blooms for the rest of the season.

To keep the plant flowering through the summer, you can remove the flowers before the seeds are mature. This will push the plant to flower again to get mature seeds for future generations. Deadheading can be done with hand pruners, or just pinch them off with your fingers. Snapdragons, a favorite plant among many gardeners, need to be deadheaded or even pinched back after the first growth of flowers to encourage new growth and more flowering. Others that respond well to deadheading includes roses, zinnias, blanket flower, and others.

Not all of our plants go through this short process of flowering. Many annuals will continue to bloom through the season even without deadheading, but they will look better overall if the dried up blossoms are removed. Some plants are also self-cleaning and those will naturally lose their spent blossoms and will continually flower through the summer. There are some plants, as well, that do not need to be deadheaded, which includes sedum and impatiens, among others.

Pinching back

Some plants should be cut back to control the size and to help with flowering. Mums need to be pinched back to control flowering and size. Mums typically bloom in the fall, but if left alone all year, they can bloom early. Mums should be pinched two times in the month of June and should not be pinched again after the Fourth of July. For this pinching back, when the plant reaches about 6 inches tall, cut an inch off the plant. Then, when the new growth is another 4 inches tall, cut 2 inches off. If growth is rapid, you might be able to get one more pinching of 1-2 inches off the plant as long as it is before July.

Other plants can benefit from pinching back. Some of our plants such as my May Night Salvia can get leggy through the growing season and fall over. If you let it bloom once and then deadhead as well as cut it back a couple of inches, it will help keep the plant more upright and keep it from falling over.

Don’t deadhead in the fall

In the fall, it is a good idea to leave those seedheads on the plants through the winter months. These seeds provide food and habitat for birds and other wildlife. The plants left over the winter can also protect the plant through the cold months from constant freezing and thawing of the ground. Also, if you leave the seeds on the plants later in the season, some of our annuals can come back from the mature seeds that are left behind where the plant was the year before. I have done this with snapdragons for many years and they keep popping back up from seed as long as Preen isn’t used in that garden space before the plants emerge in the spring. Preen will stop the germination of seeds, that will stop the germination of annual flowers so they won’t come back.

Nicole Stoner can be contacted at (402) 223-1384, nstoner2@unl.edu, or follow her on Twitter @Nikki_Stoner.