I looked high and low but couldn’t find a anything short and simple on deadheading for common garden flowers and if I am doing something for my clients I want to be doing it in the best possible way.  So having consulted various sources, including professional growers on how to deadhead common garden flowers I have compiled this short and simple guide – I hope you find it useful.

We are driving straight in here however if you head down to the end of this post I have added some info on why we deadhead, what deadheading is, some of the jargon and a few hints and tips.

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

Mopheads – leave the flowerhead on until early Spring (aka 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.

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 Q&A

What is deadheading?

Deadheading is… the act of 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 in reality so I am hope the guide for each plant are 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 (long narrow blades) and make the job a whole heap easier.

Deadheading Top Tips

So with all this new found knowledge on deadheading to hand I thought a few final hints and tips would be useful:

  • Keep it clean – Whatever you use to deadhead should be clean and sharp.  Unless you are dealing with a National Collection you don’t need to sterilise and sharpen the blade between each cut but starting out a session with a sharp and clean set of cutting implements makes your job easier and manages the flowering as you want.
  • Be brave – Gardening is both and art and a science and gingerly snipping here and there might seem right but sometimes what is really needed is a good cut back.  So please be brave, especially when it comes to roses and you will be well rewarded.
  • Make notes – Every plant and garden is different and so make a little note how how you have dead-headed and pruned so you can see how things have gone and if not how you hoped you can make adjustments the next time.

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 for my clients I want to be doing it in the best possible way.

So, I 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 in the hope you find it useful 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 new found wisdom.