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Should You Deadhead?

Updated: Jun 15, 2021

To deadhead or not to deadhead? That is the question. -Shakespeare?

I am sure that you have heard about the technique deadheading, which is the removing of old, spent flowers and thereby forcing your plants to grow new ones.

It is true that a plant will sometimes act in this way, but why? And should you be doing it?

The ultimate goal of a plant is like all other forms of life, to continue on as a species.

Today we will be focusing on the Angiosperma (flowering bearing) category of plants.

Flower bearing plants achieve species survival in multiple ways. Some species spread best through sprouting from root growth (clematis, lilac, catmint) some grow bulbs (allium, daffodil, iris) or vegetables (potatoes, ginger, sunchokes). Many of these plants you can deadhead or harvest the tops and encourage the plants energy to be focused root growth.

Many Agiosperma bear fruit over the course of the growing season with the seed inside (such as melon, pepper, grapes, legumes). Fruit trees will often grow better fruit when flowers are "thinned" to allow more vigorous growth.

On others, flower heads never produce fruit and will instead turn into seed heads. Some create seeds quickly (like dandelion, salsify, pasqueflower), others take slightly longer (calendula, poppy, desert bluebells).

If you remove the flowers, the plant will respond by producing more to replace the potential seeds lost. In the case of squash plants, you can deadhead male flowers to encourage the plant to produce more female blossoms.

You can easily remove blossoms on smaller plants by "pinching" them, or use clean, sharp sheers to prevent disease.

Reasons Why You Might Deadhead

When growing annual plants that produce seed heads to encourage more flowers.

When attempting to encourage root growth or bulb creation.

When attempting to cultivate healthier or more abundant fruit.

In the case of storm damage in an attempt to save a crop.

Reasons Why Not

When you are trying to save seeds and the season has become too late in order for the plant to create new blossoms.

The same goes for plants that produce vegetables or fruit may end up not having enough time to grow if the flowers are removed.

In addition, some plants only bloom once per year, so deadheading can actually ruin crop for the year.

Deadheading can weaken young perennials, so I recommend only doing this to more established plants

In conclusion, there are no correct answers in the world of deadheading.

I would say, deadhead flowering plants for experimentation purposes, and you will find what works best for each plant. Over time you will understand the proper measures to achieve your desired results.

Sometimes we must impart our destructive power for the greater good.

Gardening is a long, strange trip indeed. ✌️


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