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Deadheading Flowers

Deadheading your flowers – will ensure better blooms throughout the season, as will harvesting bouquets throughout the summer. The more you cut, the more will grow. This is true for nearly every kind of flower and is especially true for annuals.

Deadheading, removing flowers that have gone by, prevents seed from setting. We gardeners get to choose whether we want the plant to direct its energy in to making seed, or making more flowers. In the Vermont climate, come September I will let some seed form on certain plants such as cilantro, arugula, calendula, chamomile, cosmos, dill, feverfew, and other self-sowing annuals that will easily reseed themselves for next year’s garden.

To deadhead, simply remove the spent flower bud. If that leaves an unsightly stem without the promise of more buds to come, cut the stem down to where the next leaf is growing. Usually, a new leaf set, will appear on either side of the cut stem at the joint of leaf and stem. Deadheading can be tedious to do for coreopsis, dianthus, thyme and most other herbs, and other species with either lots of blooms or lots of teeny tiny flowers; for these try cutting the whole plant back instead.

To keep more blooms coming throughout the fall, cut lots of bouquets all summer long. Leave enough flowers to provide color and pleasure, but keep the future in mind. Be sure to cut your stems clean right next to where a leaf comes out of the stem, or down to the next flower bud. Cutting in this manner will stimulate new growth.

In addition to deadheading, cutting back those perennials with just a few blossoms left will ensure a second bloom about mid-August. To cut a plant back, clip the flowers that still look good and put them in a vase and then cut back the remaining growth to a few inches above the ground. Soon a new mound of fresh green will appear, usually followed by another round of blooms. This is especially true for common garden perennials like columbine, cranes bill, comfrey, dianthus, Ladies mantle, yarrow, and perennial herbs like chives, marjoram, mint, oregano, sage and thyme.

When cutting back herbs, why not time it just right and harvest them too?! Herbs are best harvested before they go to flower. Learn more about harvesting herbs to dry for tea and spices.

Read our tip on How to Deadhead Flowers.

photos: CCF staff

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