Dead-heading Flowers


Dead-heading Flowers


What, exactly, is dead-heading?  This gardening term simply means to remove old blooms and seed heads from plants to help keep them blooming longer. 


Your next question is likely why a plant blooms more if you remove the old flowers. In the grand scheme of things, flowers strive to insure survival of the species.  All of the various blooms that nature developed are an attempt to insure that seeds are produced and the next generation of plants can survive.  In some cases, once a plant produces seed, thus ensuring the survival of the species, it will stop blooming; there simply is no reason for it to put energy into blooming any longer.


At some point, gardeners figured out that dead-heading before plants produce seeds will keep them blooming longer.  This can be a rather time consuming endeavor, but many times is considered a labor of love by gardeners. In more recent times, plant breeders have put a lot of effort into increasing the blooming time of plants. Someone also figured out that sterile plants, those that do not produce seed, will bloom continuously even without dead-heading. These plants keep trying, unsuccessfully, to produce seed.  It may be rather frustrating for the plant, but makes care easier for the gardener.


In most cases when dead-heading, you can simply remove the old flower by pinching off the stem just below the base of the flower.  This will remove the old flower and keep it from producing seed.  If the flower stem is too large or you do not want to use your fingers, you may find using pruning shears or a pair of scissors to make the process easier. 


With larger stems, removing just the flower may leave an ugly stem exposed.  Any flower can be removed just above the first leaf below the flower head without affecting the rest of the plant.  In fact, for plants that bloom with spikes of flowers, this is the preferred method.  New research shows that even roses perform better when old flowers are removed just above the first leaf rather than at the first set of 5 leaves. 


Choosing plants that don't need dead-heading would certainly be the easiest route to continuous flowers.  However, in some cases there will be a plant that will be worth taking the time to dead-head and in such cases, knowing how to properly dead-head will be very beneficial to the success of your garden.


First published by www.provenwinners.com

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