Deadheading your flowers: why, how and when?

Deadheading basically just means taking the spent flowers off your plants and there are two good reasons why you should:

  1. dead and decaying flowers just don’t look great and can make your whole plant look a bit ropey
  2. it can encourage your plant to keep flowering for longer or even give you a whole second flush of flowers

Why & when?

Well, basically the whole purpose of life (plants and animals) is to reproduce. For plants, this means producing flowers, which turn into seeds which then disperse. And Voila! Baby plants. So if you take off the flowers after they have stopped looking gorgeous but before they set seed, it will encourage most plants to create more flowers.

It doesn’t work with all plants, but for some, like sweetpeas, it’s absolutely essential.

Most nights after work, we take a short walk around the garden with a bucket and pull any flower heads which we think have “gone over”. So that’s our petunias, primula, viola, mimula, marigolds, gerbera, etc.


Just pinch the faded blossoms off the stem, or you can cut them with scissors. With some plants, you may get more than one flower per stem so be careful not to cut a stem below a bud which hasn’t opened yet. That would defeat the purpose somewhat.

Also, a fantastic tip, from experience, be careful if you pull a plant, if the roots aren’t strong you may actually pull the plant out of the soil (I’ve done this a few times). So pinch the flower off with your fingernail or snip with scissors just to be safe.

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