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"Deadheading" Your Garden

by Bob Sampson, University of Illinois Extension

Remove Spent Daylily Flowers
Remove spent flowers to bring on more.

URBANA-Home gardeners often overlook the need to get rid of old flowers on their annuals and perennials to maintain beauty, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

"By taking away the old, spent blooms, you can ensure a steady flow of color in your garden," said Greg Stack.

The term for this practice is "deadheading," which simply means removing the old flowers, usually to the point on the stem where new shoots are developing.

"Deadheading is an unflattering name for a necessary action in the garden. Marigolds, salvias, geraniums, dahlias, marguerite daisies, and other large, single-flowered annuals benefit from deadheading and will re-bloom consistently after the old flowers are removed," he said. "Plus, deadheading can help prevent disease in the plant.

"It only takes a couple of minutes to clean off the old heads."

While the practice is primarily associated with annuals, Stack noted that some perennials can also benefit from deadheading.

"Again, as with annuals, deadheading perennials can often result in some re-bloom," said Stack. "You may not get as much blooming the second time around, but the additional color will be welcome nonetheless.

"Remember in this garden operation to take the flower stem off near a leaf node. Don't leave a one to two-inch 'stick' where the flower used to be."

Stack had another hint for gardeners who got started a little late in the season or who want to add some additional late color to their garden.

"Look for annuals grown in four- and six-inch pots," he said. "These are specifically produced to allow fill-in for something that didn't quite make it or for building that last-minute flower border.

"An annual this size will look like it has been in the garden all summer. Many garden centers are now stocking this type of annual, knowing they make it convenient for last-minute fill-ins."

Editor's Note: Bob Sampson writes articles at the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.


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