More Thoughts About Pruning

It’s time to talk about pruning with nary a mention of shrubs and trees—this blog will be all about deadheading annuals.  Almost from the start of the active gardening year (and who knows when that is, huh?), I am deadheading.  There are gardeners who object to the term deadheading—bad experience with Jerry Garcia, perhaps—preferring instead to say “removing spent blooms.”  While I admit that “deadheading” may have its less than favorable connotations, it is shorter than “removing spent blooms.” There are two reasons to go through the garden, clippers in hand, cutting off faded blooms.  The one that probably rates highest with me is the aesthetic one—I prefer a fresh, tidy look to droopy, faded flowers.  The second is to provide the plant a reason to send forth new shoots and buds.  One of the biggest effects of cutting back is to encourage new growth.  As I mentioned in part one of this topic, (see my blog called Cut It Off: Some Thoughts on Pruning ) leaving flowers on the plant is likely to advance the life cycle toward propogation—setting seed.  Fewer and fewer flowers will be produced if the plant “thinks” it’s done its job of reproduction.

One popular plant that falls into the category of “deadhead to keep the bloom coming” is the petunia.  Groan!  That can be a lot of work!  If you want to keep the flowers coming and avoid a petunia that is  too leggy, I encourage you to deadhead.  Don’t simply pull the flower petals off—pinch off the entire seed pod (the green part that the bloom is attached to).  Usually using your fingers is enough, but if it seems easier to you to use a clipper, that’s fine too.  I have three large petunia hanging baskets, so I know I can’t begin to keep up with the job, so whenever I am watering them or even passing by with a minute to spare, I nip off 10 or 15 faded blooms.  It makes me feel better.  I understand that the Wave petunias don’t need deadheading as the blooms keep coming on regardless and they don’t get leggy like standard petunias do.  Million Bells (not petunias but often mistaken for tiny petunias) also do not need deadheading.  Guess that my next year’s baskets will heavily feature Wave petunias and Million Bells!

Some annuals like dianthus (common name ‘pinks’) can be more quickly deadheaded by shearing them once the plant is nearly bloomed out.  Give them a couple of weeks or so and another flush of bloom will be brightening your garden.

One of the nicest ways to cut annuals is to bring the blooms inside to arrange (or if you prefer “plop”) into a vase to enjoy.  Not all annuals, of course, work well for this, but I love zinnias with their variety of size, form, and color!  Dahlias (not strictly an annual) are super for cutting for bouquets.  Growing up I remember my mother planting Bells of Ireland, bachelor buttons (cornflowers), cosmos, snapdragons, and my favorite, sweet peas.

With some annuals you may wish to cheat a little by leaving a few stems with the seeds to ripen and drop to the ground to start the process all over again.  Don’t worry too much that they will go wild since most annuals pull out fairly easily and some don’t mind being moved if they show up at the wrong spot. Keep in mind that not all plants that reseed will come “true to seed.”  Hybrids fall into this category.

Just one more feature flower, geraniums.  They are fun to deadhead and slightly different than, say, petunias.  When removing faded geranium blooms, don’t just snap off the flower head; remove stem and all.  With your fingers follow the stem down to where it stops and snap it off.  How easy is that?

Join me and take a walk through the garden and do some deadheading.  Your garden will benefit in both the short and the long term.

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All of the containers in the slideshow you have just seen feature annuals and come from my own garden.

Note: If you want visuals, the internet offers a number of youtube videos that illustrate deadheading.

6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Judy Munroe on July 20, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    I’m glad I do not have to deadhead my Wave petunias. I was feeling guilty about neglecting them. They have really spread these past 2 or 3 weeks.


    • Do you have your wave petunias in baskets or in a flower bed? I’ve heard that they really spread! Cool!


      • Posted by Judy Munroe on July 20, 2012 at 4:54 pm

        They are in a flower bed along the front walk & in the bed under the front windows. We do have one basket of purple & white Wave petunias as well. They usually last well into October!

  2. […] to deadhead flowering plants: it will encourage more flowers! Thoughts on deadheading: TwitterFacebook […]


  3. Posted by Carol on July 10, 2016 at 8:45 am

    Is it ok to pull off wilted blooms from the pods and leave the pods in place with wave petunias?


    • You know, Carol, I am not absolutely sure. Off the top of my head, I’d suggest taking off the pods too since that’s the part that is forming seeds. Removing that generally means more energy is going into making more flowers.


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