Help: The Deadheads Have Invaded My Garden!

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Fiskars bypass shears removing deadhead from white echinacea

There are Deadheads and then there are deadheads. The former being followers of world-famous band The Grateful Dead; the latter being all those dried up, spent flowers in the garden.

If a busload of music lovers is crashing in your favorite perennial bed, I can’t do much to help you out. But, if instead, you’re wondering how to keep your plants flowering all season, read on.

Flowering plants serve a number of purposes. A blossom’s nectar and pollen provides forage to pollinators like bees, butterflies, beetles and birds. The plant itself may provide habitat to wildlife. The blooms may brighten our landscapes in a rainbow of colors. And, in many cases, the fruits, berries, and nuts that follow pollination feed wildlife and people.


deadhead flower


From the plant’s perspective, these seed containers – nuts, berries, fruits, etc – hold the genetic material that allows that plant to produce progeny. So, once a plant has produced a round of flowers that is pollinated successfully, it may begin to focus its resources on developing those seeds. For food producing crops, this is generally acceptable. Our goal is to have luscious tomatoes, plump pumpkins, protein-rich sunflower seeds, and sweet apples. But, when annual bedding plants like petunias and geraniums stop blooming in early summer, it’s time to eradicate the deadheads to re-invigorate the plant and encourage them to flower again.

To keep annual flowers blooming well into early autumn, take the time to snip out spent blossoms often – before the entire plant begins to fail. Taking a pair of Fiskars® Dead Head snips or Micro-Tip Snips or even your PowerGear® bypass shears, clip out the spent flowers by removing the entire stalk on which each flower or flower cluster grows. When fading or finished flowers are removed, the plant will put more energy into forming new flowers until late in the season when changing light and temperatures may cause the plant to go to earth for the year.


pink marguerite daisy


Zinnia, cosmos, marigolds, impatiens, Marguerite daisy and other annuals are not the only plants easily reinvigorated by deadheading. Some perennials will bloom again and again as you pinch out finished flowers. Fuchsia and Echinacea are great pinchable perennials. But don’t try to get an extra round of blooms by cutting down peony, liatris or tulip flowers; like many other perennials, you’ll get one bloom cycle per season from these.

Early blooming woody plants may give you a second round of flowers by early autumn – whether you deadhead them or not. An often-held myth is that a rhododendron won’t bloom again unless deadheaded religiously. Think about it: nobody is out in the native forests pinching out the spent flower heads from a rhodie, so why should you? (Unless of course, you can’t stand the look of a shrub covered with browned out seedpods.) If you’re lucky, that rhodie – or even a clematis – that blooms on the first day of spring may put on a few flowers again just in time for the beginning of fall no matter what you do during summer.