Deadheading basics

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A few days ago, a non-gardening friend asked me how to keep her container gardens in top shape all summer long. Of course I mentioned the usual tasks: proper watering, regular fertilizing, and deadheading, at which point she looked at me blankly. I explained that deadheading was the removal of the spent flowers and pinching off these dead blooms would allow the plant to put energy into fresh growth and more flowers, instead of seed production.

Deadheading basics:

I did a quick demo on her petunias to show her the right technique. The key is to remove the whole flower stem and not just the dead flower. In the below photo, I’m only pulling out the flower – this is the incorrect way to deadhead.


WRONG! Don’t just pull the dead flower out, use clippers or your fingers to snap the stem back to fresh growth.

In the next photo, I use my fingers to snap the flower stem back to a fresh flush of growth. This is the correct way to deadhead – see that tiny new shoot just below my fingers?


RIGHT! Proper pinching will remove the spent blossom, as well as the flower stem. Note the fresh new shoot just below my fingers. Once the dead stem is removed, the plant will direct energy into that portion of the plant.

Of course, to make the deadheading process quicker, you can use hand pruners or flower snips. I typically deadhead two to three times a week, or whenever I happen to notice an accumulation of dead flowers on my plants.

Do you have any deadheading tips?

Are your annuals looking a bit leggy? Time to deadhead. Let us show you how.

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3 Responses to Deadheading basics

  1. Wanda says:

    Thank you for the information. For years I have been deadheading wrong. I will soon correct that LOL

  2. Lloyd Caldwell says:

    I’ve been deadheading the petunias wrong for years and have now corrected that, thanks Nikki! How do you deadhead Rhododendrons?

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