How to Deadhead Flowers

Summary: Find out all you need to know about deadheading flowers in your garden including when and why you should deadhead, what tools you need and also when not to deadhead

Keep your flower beds looking bright and full of blooms all summer by deadheading. This little job is an easy one to do, and our guide will help you to get it right.

Why Deadhead?

In many cases removing the dead flower heads encourages the plant to produce more blooms. It certainly makes the plant look less messy, and stop petals from being scattered all over the garden! Removing the flower head as soon as it looks past its best will help the plant to conserve energy which otherwise would have been put into creating a seed pod. Take a walk around your garden each day and spend a few minutes deadheading your bedding plants to prolong their life.

When to Deadhead

It depends on the plant of course. Looking out for flowers ready to be deadheaded can give you a new appreciation of your garden. As soon as flowers start to wilt and look a bit faded, you can remove them. It’s up to you whether you go around every day religiously, or leave it for a few days – just try to remove the flowers before seed pods start to form to give the plant the best chance at preserving nutrients.

Tools and Techniques

For some plants, simply your finger and thumb are the best tools to use. You may want to wear gardening gloves for protection, but they can actually make the job harder.

Some plants have tough stems, in which case you’ll need to use secateurs, scissors, florist’s snips or a gardener’s knife.

What and How

Starting early in the season, daffodils should be snapped off once they have finished flowering. Lots of flowers can simply be pinched off by hand, such as French marigolds and petunias.

Roses can be snapped off just below the head, but be careful of thorns. Shrubs such as lilacs should be deadheaded using secateurs, as the flowers can look quite messy if left on the bush.

Lupins, delphiniums and some hardy geraniums will produce another set of flowers if you cut them down close to the ground. With things like penstemons and snapdragons you should cut off the entire flower stem, which will encourage the plant to put up new stems.

Plants such as lavender which produce a mass of flower stalks, can be trimmed with secateurs or scissors once the flowers lose colour, or sooner if you intend to dry them.

When Not to Deadhead

There are some cases when it’s better to leave flowers be rather than deadheading them. Plants that provide food for birds, such as sunflowers, cornflowers and Rudbeckia are all flowers you can leave alone.

Some plants, such as impatiens and fuchsias, as well as salvias and lobelias, either drop their flower heads all by themselves, or don’t produce seed pods in that way.

Some roses produce wonderful hips that put on as good a display as the flowers themselves, so you may want to leave them to develop. There are several other plants that have ornamental berries or seeds that are worth leaving.

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