Deadheading Guide for Common Garden Flowers

Deadheading is removing flowers that have finished or almost finished their cycle of life with aim of encouraging more flowers or keeping the prolific self-seeders in check. This short guide explains how to deadhead many of the flowering plants commonly found in a garden, which bits are which when it comes to deadheading and various other bits of useful info.

If you are new to this deadheading business, scroll to the end of the article where there is an introduction to deadheading, which bits of a plant are which, the tools to use and other information.

Agapanthus

Once a flower has faded, remove the flower and stem at just above the base.

Aster

Once a flower is starting to fade, pinch off the flowerhead and depending on the variety you may have more buds forming and so get more flowers.

As Asters are astonishingly prolific self-seeders, deadheading is essential to keep them under control.

Bluebell

Once a flower has faded and if you want to stop it setting seed (and so spreading far and wide), remove the flower and stem at just above the base.

Buddleja

You can keep your Buddleja flowering well into the autumn by deadheading it. When half a flower spike is brown, remove it and its stem and more will flowers will follow.

Camellia

Once a flower has faded, remove the flower head where it joins its stem.

Cosmos

Once a flower has faded, count four sets of leaves from the base and then cut just above the fourth set.  You should get more flowers in the current season.

Crocosmia

Once a flower has faded, remove the flower head where it joins the leaves however if you can resist the temptation to remove them, the seed heads change colour providing interest through the autumn and winter periods.

Cyclamen

Once a flower has faded, sharply pull the stem out the base (as told to me by a professional Cyclamen Grower).

Daffodil

Once a flower had faded, remove the flower and seed pod but leave the rest of the stem as this is still photosynthesizing and so building up the bulb for next year.

Dahlia

Once the petals have fallen, remove the dead flower head – if in doubt, this will be cone shaped rather than a tight round and flattened ball which is a new flower head.

Daylily

Once a flower has faded, remove the flower and stem at just above the base.

Delphinium

Once a flowerhead has faded, remove to the first pair of leaves or set of branching stems. When the entire stalk has faded, remove this at just above the base of the plant.

Foxglove

When three quarters of the flowers on a spike have faded or dropped the spike can be cut at either the first or second set of leaves.  This should encourage a second flush of flowers. Leave a few flower spikes from the second flush to set seed if required.

Gazania

Once a flower has faded, remove the flower and stem at just above the base of the plant.

Geranium

Once a flower has faded, remove the flower and its stem.

Geum

Once a flower has faded, remove the flower and its stem.

Globe Thistle

Once a flower has faded remove it back to where it joins the stem and smaller flowers will bloom toward the end of the season. Remove entire stems back to base when flowering has finished. Deadheading extends the flowering period and reduces seeding however seed heads if left provide wonderful winter interest especially when there is a frost.

Goldenrod

Once a flower is starting to fade, remove back to next set of leaves and you may get a smaller second flowering.  Remove all fading flowerheads to prevent its seriously prolific reseeding.

Hemerocallis (Daylily)

See Daylily

Hollyhock

Once a flower stalk has faded, remove the stalk at just above the base.  Removing the faded flower stalk will also minimise seeding.

Hydrangea

For Mopheads, leave the flowerhead on until early Spring (March) to protect the developing buds and then remove the head and stem by cutting at the first pair of strong health pair of buds. In milder winter areas with little snow the heads can be removed sooner.

For Lacecaps, the faded flowerhead can be removed after flowering – cut just above the second set of leaves below the flower head.

Iris

Once the petals have fallen, remove the dead flower head.  If you have a “drift” of flowers, shears can be used to speed up the process and once flowering is finished, cut down the stems to about 5cm or where the last leaf is.

Kniphofia

Once a flower has faded it can be deadheaded by cutting it right down to the base.

Lilac

Once a flower has faded, remove the flower head where it joins the stem.

Lily

Once the petals have fallen, cut the flower head back to just above the next pair of leaves.

Lupin

Once the petals have fallen and the seeds are starting to develop, remove the flower head and stem to just above its base and you should get more flowers in the current season.

Marigold

Once a flower had faded, remove the flower head to where just above the first set of leaves.

Marguerite Daisy

Once a flower had faded, remove the flower head to where just above the first set of leaves.

Montbretia

See Crocosmia.

Peony

Once the petals have fallen (usually 5 minutes after flowering then), remove the flower with its stem.

Petunia

Once a flower had faded, pinch off the flower head.

Poppy

Once a flower had faded, pinch off the flower head ensure the plant flowers for longer and if you don’t want it to seed.

Rose

For an individual flower that has faded in a flower head, cut to just above where it joins the rest of the flowers.

Once all the flowers in a flower head are faded, cut the entire stem to just above the next set of five leaves.

For roses with single flowers, cut the stem to just above the next set of healthy leaves.

Sweet Pea

Regular deadheading is essential for Sweet Peas if you want to have flowers well into the Autumn.  Once a flower has faded remove it where it joins the stem.

Salvia

When an individual stem has faded cut it back to its base and then once the rest of the stems in its group have faded remove the entire stem group back to the base of the plant.

Zinnia

Once a flower has faded, remove the flower and its stem back to a set of strong leaves.

Deadheading

What is deadheading?

Deadheading is… removing flowers that have finished or almost finished their cycle of life. Such flowers are usually shrivelled, brown, without petals and so easy to spot.

For some plants the flowers to deadhead are single and so easy to find from other parts of the plant and for others, the flowers might be arranged in groups on several stems or on a single stem (often known as a spike).

Why deadhead?

Deadheading is done for various reasons depending on the plant, but it really intended to either manipulate the plant to produce more flowers or just keep it looking “nice” for us humans. 

For plants that are dead-headed to produce more flowers you are likely to find the next flowers will be smaller and not quite so numerous – this is because we are manipulating the plant and as such making sure you feed the plant is important – you can only take so much before the plant suffers so be sure to give something back.

Other reasons for deadheading, again depending on the plant, include encouraging it to put its energies into growth for the next season and/or limiting the number of seeds it produces.

What bits are what?

Before we get into deadheading it is worth just outlining which bits are which on a plant.

  • Stem – the bit from just below the flower to where it meets the next stem or branch. This can be a bit difficult to work out, so I hope the guide for each plant is as clear as can be.
  • Faded – the petals of the flower(s) are starting to lose their colour and shape.  Sometimes this will happen to the whole flower quickly and for others it will be a gradual process.
  • Base – this is the bit at ground level from which the stems sprout.

What to use?

Some flowers can be deadheaded by simply pinching the flowerhead or stem at the appropriate spot however if you have lots of deadheading to do or the stems are too thick then a pair of scissors or gardening snips will make the job much easier.

Dedicated spring-loaded snips are the best tool as they are designed specifically for deadheading and make the job a whole heap easier.

Deadheading Top Tips

  • Keep it clean – make sure your preferred pruning tools are kept clean and sharp.
  • Be brave – a little bit off here and there is not the way when it comes to deadheading, you have to get stuck in.

About this guide

I have written this guide entirely for my own benefit as I couldn’t find a anything short and simple on deadheading for common garden flowers and if I am doing something I want to be doing it in the best possible way.

So, I have looked over various websites, books, and the views of professional growers to come up with this guide which I consult regularly, and I am sharing it with the hope you do to.

However, this is still very much a work in progress as I want to be sure for each plant I have the best advice to hand so if you have suggestions, corrections, additions or anything else to add please do let me know and I will update the guide with this newfound wisdom.

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