This week’s podcast and corresponding article are all about how to deadhead annuals & perennials. Doing this simple procedure can make a huge difference in both the health of your plants and how well and how often they bloom!
Contrary to what you might think, deadheading doesn’t only affect the blooming power of your flowers for this growing season. It can actually also make a big difference in how well plants grow next season as well.
You can listen in below to our complete podcast on how and why to deadhead annuals and perennials – or you can read on for a full-length article on the subject. As always, all of the podcast resource links will be provided at the end of the article.
What Exactly Is Deadheading?
Deadheading is the practice of removing old blooms from plants as they begin to fade. The process can be done by pinching back seed heads or by using clean, disinfected scissors to trim the spent blooms and stems from the plant.
Often, deadheading annuals and perennials will allow the plants to create additional blooms within the same growing season. For others, deadheading will allow the plants to focus their energy and nutrients on creating stunning foliage or storing power for next year’s growth instead.
Annuals vs Perennials
Annuals are considered flowers and plants that only live for one growing season. After that season is over, the plants will die off and need to be replaced the following year. Some common annual varieties include marigolds, geraniums, and petunias.
Perennials, on the other hand, grow back year after year. While they typically have a shorter blooming period than annuals, perennials are often grown for their beautiful foliage as well. Some great examples of perennials are hydrangeas, hardy geraniums, and blanketflower.
Whether you are growing annuals or perennials, deadheading can make an incredible difference in the long-term vitality of your plants. And, of course, how much and how often they bloom!
Why & How To Deadhead Annuals & Perennials
Why Is Deadheading Important?
One of the most obvious reasons why deadheading is useful is for aesthetic reasons. While vibrant, healthy blooms make a plant look strong and tidy, dying blooms can create the completely opposite effect. Deadheading helps to make sure your plants look their absolute best throughout the growing season.
Not only is removing old flowers a great way to keep plants looking fresh and well-kept, but it also helps them to use and send their resources where they are needed most.
When an old flower is allowed to die off on a plant, it continues to take and use energy. Plants are designed to heal and spend energy on any part that is still viable. This includes trying to heal broken branches or stems in addition to trying to rejuvenate blooms that have begun to fade.
By removing these decaying flowers, you allow the plant to put all of its energy into plant health and new blooms. For annual flowers, this means producing more blooms and more colorful flowers.
For perennials, it can mean longer-lasting blooms, more blooms, and, most importantly, more energy for the plant to put toward its foliage and next year’s growth.
How To Deadhead Annuals and Perennials
The benefits of deadheading annuals vs perennials certainly vary. However, both bring about great advantages for the plants and their blooms.
Annuals – How To Deadhead Annuals & Perennials
For annual flowers, deadheading is all about helping to keep plants in massive color. The more often you remove failing blooms, the more new blooms will appear for most annuals.
Without deadheading, annuals can start to look depleted and a bit pathetic by about mid-summer. That is because the plant is spending so much of its energy on the spent blooms that it has nothing left to create new blooms or to help fill out the foliage.
Geraniums, marigolds, mums, petunias, and most other annuals benefit from regular deadheading. Even newer hybrids of annuals such as Wave Petunias that are specifically grown to need less deadheading can still benefit from removing the old flowers.
For best results, aim for deadheading the spent blooms on annuals once or twice a week. You can remove the blooms easily by hand or by using clean scissors or pruners.
Instead of just removing the petals of the bloom, be sure to remove the entire seed head as well. For example, many people just pull out the dead petals on petunia plants.
Pulling out just the bloom still leaves the seed head on the plant. The left-behind seed head will continue to use up precious energy that should be sent to create new blooms instead.
Perennials– How To Deadhead Annuals & Perennials
For perennial flowers, deadheading can be just as vital. Although deadheading can help promote additional blooms and prolong blooming periods, it’s even more important for helping to keep the foliage strong and healthy for the duration of the plant’s growing season.
Most perennials will bloom for 2 to 3-week cycles. Thankfully, you can extend that timeline with deadheading. The process also creates stronger and longer-lasting individual blooms.
Some perennials like hardy geraniums and blanketflower can actually act like annuals in that they will continue to create and produce blooms all throughout the growing season when they are properly deadheaded.
With some perennials that have massive blooms (think hardy geraniums again), you can even consider trimming those back with a string trimmer. While it might sound a bit extreme, new growth will often come back in just a couple of days.
Words Of Advice – How To Deadhead Annuals & Perennials
While most plants greatly benefit from deadheading, there are some things to keep in mind.
First up, you want to make sure to research the type of plant you are going to deadhead. Some plants, especially perennials, either need their seed heads in order to create new growth for the following years, need old wood in order to create new growth, or deadheading just won’t help them.
In addition, the timing of when you deadhead might be important for some variety of flowers. For example, lilac bushes produce beautiful fragrant blooms in early spring. By the end of spring, most have all dried up and died.
If you plan on removing the spent lilac blooms, you want to be sure to do so as soon as they are done growing. Not at the end of spring, not at the beginning of summer, not at any other time – as soon as the blooms start to look less than stellar.
The reason for this is that most varieties of lilacs will add the new year’s growth onto old wood. So, if you wait too long to deadhead and prune those old spent blooms, you are likely removing the old wood that the plant is going to use to create new growth.
Additional Tips– How To Deadhead Annuals & Perennials
Once you have deadheaded the spent blooms, consider adding a bit of fertilizer to your plants. After deadheading, all of those nutrients and energy from the fertilizer will be used for foliage growth and additional blooms. None of the fertilizer will go to waste on spent blooms.
While some of the blooms you deadhead can go into compost piles, that isn’t the case with everything. If the blooms you removed do not contain any seeds, you can add them to your compost pile. The same applies to the stems or any foliage you may have removed in the deadheading process.
However, if any of the spent blooms are left on the plant for too long, they may contain seed heads. This applies to both annual and perennial plants. Since most home compost piles can’t reach a high enough heat to kill off seeds, it’s best to discard these blooms and keep them out of your compost pile.
Better yet, consider saving some of those mature seeds for next year’s garden. Flower seeds are fairly easy to gather and store from year to year, especially with plants like marigolds and zinnias.
Simply allow a few of the seed heads to mature and dry out on the plants themselves. Then, collect the dry seeds and store them in an envelope or brown paper bag in a cool, dry, and dark location.
Feed The Birds
The last option for deadheading would be to allow some of the flower heads to stay on the plants and dry out completely. The dried seeds will help to feed birds and other wildlife during the winter months. Sunflower blooms are a favorite of wildlife since there are so many large seeds available per bloom head.
Article Links– How To Deadhead Annuals & Perennials
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