Since I just wrote about harvesting your summer veggies, I got to thinking that most people don’t know that they should also be “harvesting” their flowers as well.
In fact, removing dead flowers is just as important as harvesting your fruits and vegetables. Why is that you might ask? Because removing dead flowers, known in garden speak as “deadheading,” promotes new flower growth and new flower growth means a longer growing season for you to enjoy because many annuals and perennials will keep on blooming if they are continually deadheaded.
How so? The goal of a flower plant is to produce seeds after flowering. Inside the flower is where the seeds are produced for the next generation of plants. So, once the seeds have been produced the plant “thinks” it has done its job reproducing, and flower production stops. But, if you deadhead the flower blooms, you kind of trick the plant into thinking that it’s not done with reproducing and it will usually produce more flowers.
Different plants require different methods of deadheading, it depends on the plant, and you can snip, prune, cut, or pinch to remove the dead bloom. Just make sure that you don’t just remove the petals, but also the developing seedpod. This is usually located at the center or just behind the flower.
But when to pick flowers? Here are some general tips for some of this season’s most popular flowers:
- It is usually best to remove spent blooms as soon as the flower has died. Popular summer flowers like zinnias, cosmos, and marigolds will flower all summer if you continually remove the spent flowers.
- Cut the stem back to the next bud or set of leaves.
- Another popular flower, impatiens, don’t need deadheading since they drop their flowers naturally.
- Sweet William can be cut back after blooming and will produce a second set of blooms, just shear the plants back to half their height after the blooms begin to die.
- Want to save some seeds? Simply stop deadheading by late summer to allow some seeds to form.
Judi Gerber is a garden and agriculture writer, a horticultural therapy consultant, and a certified Master Gardener with the UC Cooperative Extension Los Angeles, Common Ground Garden Program.