DEADHEAD—it sounds maybe dangerous—at the least not pleasant. But, I needs to be done. Here is why.
Flowers bloom for a reason, it has nothing to do with making gardeners happy. Flowers have a serious mission—they want the world to be full of plants. Not just any plants of course—plants like them.
Flowers attract pollinators to allow fertilization and seed formation. That’s it. That is what flowers want. When they have set seeds they can and usually do, go on to the great beyond with joy—mission accomplished.
We must stop them. Plants covered with fading flowers and seed heads do not make for a cheerful summer show. Gardeners want lots of flowers on healthy plants.. For this to happen—deadhead early and often.
How to do it? It’s not at all hard. For many plants, such as zinnias, coneflowers or cosmos cut the stem of the fading flower back to the first set of full healthy leaves. This hides the cut and encourages branching and new flowers. Do not cut just below the flower. This leaves a stem to turn brown –not at all the way to tidy up the garden.
For some plants, like salvias, the best plan is to shear back all the stems about two to three inches. This removes the dead flowers and encourages a fresh flush of blooms.
Be sure to collect the blooms—they are great for the compost.
Don’t forget your herbs! If you want basil for fall tomatoes keep those flowers cut—remember they are tasty and can go straight to the kitchen.
More flowers—tidy garden—sounds perfect—so why the resistance??
First— summer temperatures are still with us and its hot—that’s true. Early morning is an ideal time to go out—do a bit each day and things won’t get out of hand. Evening works too—just don’t put it off.
You will be rewarded. You will see things that might well have been missed. A quick visit by a hummingbird, a just hatched baby anole or delicate lace wing eggs that look like a tiny modern sculpture.
What about bees and butterflies? .
Are they still using those flowers? Well no, those flowers are past their prime for pollinators too. Really you are doing a big favor when you remove the old flowers—more will soon appear as the plant continues to try and fulfill its mission.