Colorado Master Gardener: Deadheading your garden
Fo rSteamboat Pilot & Today
My garden has been neglected when it comes to deadheading. Mostly native plants have flowered year after year, providing cheerful color and food for wildlife. But there is trouble in paradise.
The short blooming season is limiting pollinator food supplies, and aggressive plants have spread and crowded out other plants. By incorporating deadheading into my routine, I may have a longer season and greater variety of flowers.
Deadheading is the practice of removing spent blossoms. It can be done all season when a bloom has faded. The practice allows energy to flow back into the plant, rather than into seed production, improving the plant’s health.
Deadheading to encourage more flowers can be as easy as pinching off the dead flower. For most plant species, the process is more effective if the stem is cut just above the first leaf, ensuring the removal of the seed pod. Annuals, like geraniums, marigolds and dahlias respond, well, as do perennials like Jupiter’s beard, Shasta daisy and blanket flower.
For plants that don’t have leaves along the flower stem, the stem is cut down at the base. A longer blooming period or a rebloom may result, depending on a number of factors including the plant species, the weather and the time of year.
Deadheading can also be used to limit self-seeding of aggressive or unwanted plants, allowing other plant species to grow. Some of my native plants — showy daisy, yarrow and pussy toes — are bullies and crowd out harebells and lavender.
Deadheading will reduce their seed proliferation and help keep these aggressive plants in check. Roots and new growth also needs to be controlled with a sharp shovel since these species spread by rhizome too.
For some species, deadheading does not result in more flowers. Some nonnative plants are cultivated to bloom profusely without the need to deadhead. Others are one-time blooming plants, like daylilies and peonies.
Gardeners may deadhead just to improve the appearance of these plants and to keep their gardens tidy. For a list of common perennials that may rebloom after deadheading, visit finegardening.com/article/off-with-their-heads-deadheading-perennials.
Incorporating deadheading into my weekly routine will keep the task manageable. Aggressive seeders have been addressed first, then plants that may produce more flowers for pollinators. To ensure an ample supply of seeds and fruit for wintering wildlife, I will suspend the practice before too long. Seeing birds feasting in the winter garden is a treat.
Vicky Barney gardens for wildlife and is a member of the Master Gardener Class of 2011.
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