Brace yourself – this post may contain some upsetting words on the topic of deadheading, i.e. maiming your plants to within an inch of their life…
Just kidding, deadheading is actually a fairly therapeutic task that involves snipping away or gently pulling off dead or dying flowers from plants. Doing this on a regular basis is vital for a whole host of reasons, and should form part of your weekly (daily/ bi-weekly/ monthly – whatever suits you best!) garden maintenance.
Why is deadheading so important?
There are two key reasons to incorporate deadheading into your gardening routine. Firstly, on a technical note, removing dead or fading flowers allows plants to redirect their energy to other areas that need it more. If you do this regularly then you will soon discover that deadheading actually encourages plants to produce new shoots and flowers, and helps with overall vitality.
Secondly, on a more aesthetic level, many flowers consist of what seems like tonnes of petals, and when they decide to let go of these, things can get messy. And let’s face it, dead flowers are not the most attractive of sights – nipping them off just before they have faded completely helps to keep things looking fresh and healthy.
How to do it
The process is relatively simple; however, deadheading can seem onerous as some plants produce blooms more frequently than others and for longer. Shasta daisies, for example, bloom for what feels like months over spring and summer. Because of this, their flowers, although in abundance, have a shorter shelf life and so regularly need to be snipped away en masse. It’s best to use scissors with this type of daisy and to remove the flower all the way down to the first set of leaves.
Other perennials, such as lupins, are a little more tricky to tackle. I’d recommend researching how to deadhead your various different floral offerings before you begin the cleanup, as the same method doesn’t necessarily work for all.
Across the summer months, lupins produce fewer flowers than shasta daisies, and display their petals in a vertical column arrangement that bees go absolutely mad for. When around three quarters of the column has faded, then it’s time to snip away the rest, cutting the stem fairly low in the process. According to some sources, lupins may produce an entire second set of flowers if cut down close to ground level. I must admit that I hacked mine down a little too enthusiastically about a week ago (I was helped along considerably by a brazen clan of snails) and it is already starting to show new signs of life.
So what are you waiting for, get those scissors at the ready, and get deadheading.