Deadheading – Purpose and Practice

Q: I was always taught that if you want your petunias and geraniums to continue full blooming, you should remove the wilted flowers regularly. A friend told me recently that this is not true. Can you settle our little dispute?

A: Deadheading is the process of removing unattractive flowers after bloom. By doing so, the plant can’t expend energy making seeds or sending hormonal messages to cease growing. It’s true that breeders have introduced many plants described as “self-cleaning”, meaning that the plant drops flowers naturally when they begin to fade. These plants generally don’t need deadheading. On the other hand, you’ll have a much tidier plant if you deadhead before the plant gets around to it. You can deadhead by hand (or fingers) or use a clipper. Personally, I use scissors with a serrated blade to clip old flowers at their base.

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