OK, it’s not fun, exactly, but it’s definitely fast. And five minutes of daily deadheading will make a huge difference to your garden, and the health of your plants. We promise there’s no bloodshed – your garden won’t look like an episode of CSI.
Deadheading is simply removing any flowers that have died or turned brown. A quick whizz round with some sharp scissors is all it takes. You can even snap some off with finger and thumb. A plant’s aim in life is to flower, so it can set seed. If you remove the flower, it doesn’t get the chance to set seed, and so the plant continues creating flowers. More deadheading = more flowers for you. Hooray! Removing dead flowers also makes your garden look tidy and cared-for – it’s like hoovering the carpet and plumping cushions before visitors come.
For instance, hellebores are beautiful early summer bloomers, but when flowers become spotty and stalks turn yellow and limp, the whole plant looks tatty. Cut the flower stems back to the ground, and in no time you’ll have a fresh green foliage plant to grace any border.
Combine your deadheading with a little light pruning – by cutting back the stems a little further – and you can improve the shape of a shrub. That way, you’re doing two jobs at once, and saving yourself time.
Many plants that flower in late spring and summer – buddleja, weigela, lilac, forsythia – need cutting back by about a third after they have finished flowering. This is deadheading in bulk – just chop off the part of the stem where the flowers were.
Hardy geraniums benefit from a deadhead-haircut. Get the shears out and chop off all the flowering stems. It looks ruthless, but in a few weeks you’ll have a second crop of buds.
Watch out, though. If you have flowers that produce ornamental seedheads (like poppy, allium, love-in-a-mist or sunflowers) leave them be. They’ll look gorgeous dusted with autumn frost, and provide food for hungry birds in winter. The seeds might also germinate and grow – giving you free plants with no effort required.