What is Deadheading? And Why is it Important?

Deadheading sounds quite dangerous — but in reality, it just means the removal of dead flowers and leaves from a flourishing plant to promote good health. Deadheading not only keeps your garden looking attractive and alive, it also helps your plants by redirecting precious nutrients away from dead flowers and leaves to healthier shoots and blooms.

Eric Kilby

Eric Kilby / flickr.com

Get in the habit of deadheading early and often. If you spend at least a short time in the garden each day, your deadheading task will be much easier. Start early while there are only a few plants with faded flowers. Repeat the process every couple of days and the chore of deadheading will lessen each time. However, if you choose to wait until later in the season, like early fall, the dreaded task of deadheading will be rightfully overwhelming.

David Bleasdale

David Bleasdale / flickr.com

Shrubby Plants with Many Small Flowers

These include Coreopsis, feverfew, golden marguerites, Lobelia, sweet alyssum, smaller mums, Potentilla, flax, Aster, Gaillardia, and Ageratum. Trimming one flower at a time would be too time consuming, so instead, shear off with grass shears. Get as much of the flower stalk as possible. Avoid buds, but don’t worry about taking a little foliage off with the blooms — it’ll grow back.


Alex / flickr.com

Shrubby Plants with Large Flowers

These include large marigolds, summer phlox, Astilbe, peonies, purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, daisies, annual and perennial Salvia, petunias, and zinnias. With hand pruning shears (also known as secateurs or pruning snips), cut off each flower individually, getting enough of the stalk so it doesn’t protrude awkwardly. It’s OK (and in the case of leggy plants, such as petunias, desirable) to take off a bit of the foliage, too.

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Not to be confused with pruning, deadheading roses means taking out only the minimum amount of stem to remove the flower. Make the cut at a 45-degree angle that slopes down toward the center of the rosebush. The cut should be located on a spot 1) that occurs after the first pair of leaves and 2) is directly above an outward-facing stem, that is, a stem that points away from the plant’s center.