Posts Tagged ‘deadheading’

Off with their heads!

July 12th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Deadheading scabious

Last week I brought you a little wisdom on watering from a book published over a hundred years ago: Annual & Biennial Garden Plants by A. E. Speer from 1911. And wise words they were too.

The other crucial item of summer plant care is dead heading and on this subject the good Mr Speer is more succinct. He tells us:
“Seed-pods should always as far as possible be picked off. This will prevent the plants from weakening themselves, and will prolong the flowering season. They cannot undergo the two operations together successfully.”

Got that? Good.

But different plants need different treatment. No one in their right mind would suggest picking off the fading flowers of lobelia or alyssum one by one – but a snip over with the kitchen scissors followed by a drink of liquid feed usually sets them up for a bright second flush of bloom.

Plants as varied as scabious (above), gaillardia, French marigolds and dahlias can have their faded flowers nipped off individually with a pair of secateurs. With phlox, sweet peas, foxgloves, hollyhocks and other plants that carry their flowers in a spike or cluster – well, you have to balance not allowing pods to develop with not cutting off flowers that are still at their peak. Always err on the side of an early rather than late snip.

Eventually you’ll have removed all the flower spikes of biennials such as hollyhocks and foxgloves and you can pull up and compost the ragged looking remains. Some perennials, especially many hardy geraniums, can be cut back to the ground but re-growth will be poor unless, at the very least, you give them a thorough soak. Ideally, follow that up with a generous dose of liquid feed to encourage attractive fresh new growth.

Roses are always a challenge. First, you need to snip out individual flowers from the clusters as the petals drop; then when the last flower has faded cut off the remains of the cluster at a leaf joint to spark new growth.

Once a week is not enough: Keep a small pair of sharp secateurs or kitchen scissors in your pocket whenever you’re in the garden and use them whenever a faded flower catches your attention. It makes a real difference