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Guide to Deadheading

What is deadheading?

Deadheading is the removal of old flower heads before they turn into seeds – usually done by hand or with secateurs or pruners, which is gardening ‘speak’ for scissors. If you don’t own pruners, you can find a pair and other tools in our shop.

Why deadhead?

It’s simple – removing old flower heads will help your plants produce more flowers that last longer.

Flowers exist to attract pollinating insects so that the plant can produce seeds for the next generation of seedlings. Once seeds are produced, the plant thinks its job is done for the season – by removing flowers before they turn to seed, your plants are encouraged to produce new flowers.

However, deadheading and pruning is mostly optional. If you’re more of a hands-off gardener and are happy to let nature do its thing, then your plant will be perfectly happy without.

When to deadhead

When plants are flowering, you should be deadheading once every 3-4 days (unless there aren’t many withered flowers). It pairs nicely with watering your plants.

What not to deadhead

The exception to the rule is: do not deadhead plants that produce fruits. For example, deadheading a tomato plant won’t give you delicious tomatoes for your salad because the tomatoes emerge from the flowers themselves. 

How to deadhead flowers

You can deadhead some plants just by pinching off the old flower heads. Fuchsias are a good example of this.

How to deadhead fuchsias

Removing flowers from a fuchsia 1
A fuchsia flower that is starting to
fade and go brown at the edges
Removing flowers from a fuchsia 2
Pinch the base of the flower stalk at the junction, where it joins
the main stem or at the next leaf junction down on the stalk.
Removing flowers from a fuchsia 3
The fuchsia dead head removed

How to deadhead dahlias

Old flower heads are usually easy to identify as the petals may have started to discolour, gone wrinkly or perhaps fallen off altogether. However, deadheading dahlias can be tricky, so we’ll use them as an example of how to deadhead plants with more robust stems that need cutting.

Deadheading a dahlia 1
Step 1: find the old flower to deadhead
Deadheading a dahlia 2
Step 2: check it’s not a flower bud
Deadheading a dahlia 3
Step 3: move your secateurs below the dead flower head to the next leaf junction on the same stem
Deadheading a dahlia 4
Step 4: cut the stem of the dead flower head above the leaf junction at a slight angle

Want more information on how to care for your plants? Head over to our website for informative guides and insightful blog posts.

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