Deadheading: The Why, the How, and the What

Annuals| Perennials| Spring Gardening| Summer Gardening

Deadheading is a term we use a lot in the garden world.  And many of you may know exactly what that means and how to do it, but for some of you, you may hear, “Make sure to deadhead!” and it goes in one ear and out the other because you have no idea what that really means.  Some of you may think that it is not even necessary…but if you want your annuals to flower longer with full foliage and your perennials to potentially rebloom, as well as improve overall performance, you definitely want to deadhead your plants.  


As our garden center team member Debbi put it, “Plants live for the purpose of reproducing themselves in the universe.” And the way that a plant reproduces itself is by producing seeds. Once a flower has bloomed and it begins to fade, the plant begins to go to seed.  Once it goes to seed, the plant thinks that its job is done. That is NOT what you want if you want your plant to keep producing beautiful blooms.  You can prevent the seeding from happening by deadheading the faded flowers.  



If you want to increase your bloom production, encourage branching, and keep your plants looking as beautiful as possible, you want to cut the blooms once they have faded. For flowers on plants with shorter stems (think petunias or marigolds), you can simply pinch the spent bloom off of the stem once it has faded.  


For plants with long stems (think daisies or zinnias), you will want to remove the spent bloom at the base of the stem. Just be careful not to remove a stem that below where new buds have already formed.  Some stems might not break easily away, so use a pair of scissors or pruning shears to cut back those stems so that you don’t damage the plant.


You will want to deadhead varieties of both annuals and perennials.  Some varieties (like impatiens) will drop their spent blooms, but you can still deadhead these types of plants to keep your plant looking as green as possible.  Common annuals that need deadheading as as follows (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Petunias
  • Geraniums
  • Zinnia (long-stemmed)
  • Gerbera Daisies
  • Marigolds
  • Pentas
  • Coleus
  • Perilla
  • Phlox
  • Verbena

There are a number of perennials that need to be deadheaded as well.  Some of the most common varieties are the following:

  • Salvia
  • Hyssop
  • Gaura
  • Rudbeckia
  • Echinacea (Cone Flower)
  • Heuchera (Coral Bells)
  • Tiarella (Foam Flower)
  • Hostas
  • Anemones
  • Iris
  • Phlox
  • Yarrow
  • Veronica