Pinching for Bigger Blooms

By Ken Lain, the mountain gardener

Our family got together last week to celebrate the moms in our lives.  Rain altered the usual patio party so the women gathered in the kitchen, and the men rallied around the smell of grilling meats.  Yes, Lisa and I had the heaters and fire pits in full flame around the grill, while the usually sun-busting umbrellas were unfurled to prevent rain over the flames.

We had planted lots of flowers in anticipation of both the forecasted rain and of the party.  Guests and hosts thoroughly enjoyed the colorful show of blooms. Flowers in full bloom at the Lain casa soon will be subjected to the secret of bigger, bolder, and recurring flowers . . . deadheading.


How to Deadhead Plants
Deadheading plants means to remove spent flowers so their plants won’t waste energy forming seed. Removing old, spent flowers promotes the formation of new flower buds.

For soft plants simply deadhead by pinching the stem between your thumb and forefinger. Plants with tougher flower stems will require snips or pruners to make the separations. Be sure to remove the entire flower and stem. Many beginners make the mistake of removing just the petals, missing the center of the flower where the seeds are actually forming, which defeats the purpose of deadheading.

“Deadhead” and “pinch” are very similar terms. Some people use them interchangeably. Others make a technical distinction, insisting that you “pinch back” a plant before it flowers, to train plants to grow bushier foliage.  Technically, a flower is “deadheaded” to remove the dead flower after a blossom has faded.

There are several plants that can be sheared to yield the same effect as deadheading. I give my sweet alyssum and pink Mexican primroses haircuts as they fade and need a tidying trim.  Right after deadheading and shearing I fertilize with Flower Power54 and watch the flowers come into gorgeous bloom all over again.

Tall-stemmed flowers with long leafless stems prefer their individual flower stalks be removed once flowering is complete.  Other types of flowers prefer taking their flower stems back to a lateral leaf, like a rose bush.  Here, my friend Debbie demonstrates this in a three minute video much better than I can explain it in a garden column.

How It Works –

Once a plant goes to seed the floral show is over.  Of course, plants naturally want to reproduce by forming seeds, which puts the plant’s natural habit in direct conflict with the gardener’s desire to enjoy the plant’s flowers as long as possible.  To “deadhead” a plant is to trick it into forming additional flowers instead of going to seed as it set out to do.  Cutting off spent flowers channels energy away from seed production and encourages additional blossoms to form. Don’t worry, this minor operation does no harm to the plant.

Which Plants Should I Deadhead?

Not all plants need to be deadheaded. Annuals really seem to respond favorably from cutting off spent flowers. Deadheading gives many of them the chance to continue blooming right through autumn.  Petunias can look terrible after a rain; this provides the perfect excuse to deadhead and encourage fresh new flowers to form. Most perennial flowers benefit from a good cleaning, or at least they look better without all those dead flowers left on the plant.

For example, irises just look better when the dead flowers and stalks are removed after blooming. Rose bushes such as hybrid teas and floribundas also benefit greatly by cutting dead dry flowers off the plant.

Without deadheading, many annual flowers stop blooming prematurely, robbing the landscape of color it could sustain through summer and early autumn. Many perennial flowers can be tricked into blooming a second time if you simply deadhead.

The following is a list of some of the annuals and perennials that benefit from deadheading:   Cosmos, Gaillardia, Geranium, Petunia, Columbine, Bee Balm, Coneflower, Geum, Yarrow, Mexican Primrose, Lavender, Shasta Daisy, Salvia, Roses, Monkshood, Italian Bugloss, Hollyhock, Coreopsis, Butterfly Weed, Speedwell, Marigold and Dahlias.

This is just a short list of plants to deadhead.  ‘If in doubt, cut it out’ is a good rule to follow.Flower Power

Insider’s Tip – Increase flower size, fragrance, and sheer quantity of blooms by fertilizing
with Flower Power54 at two week intervals.  This plant food is specifically designed to bring out the color of hanging baskets, blooming annuals, perennials, even roses.  It’s a critical supplement to blooming plants if you are hosting a backyard wedding, garden party, or just want a longer season of enjoyment out of your flowers.



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2016 Garden Tour – A gardener’s personality comes out in that person’s garden.  We have a lot of local garden personalties, and they are open to  the public on June 18th.  The Alta Vista Garden Club hosts this year’s garden tour with six stunning gardens on view in Prescott and Prescott Valley.  It’s a fun way to spend a Saturday. At just $15, tickets go fast, so don’t wait or they will be gone.  Tickets are available online and here at Watters Garden Center.

Until next week, I’ll be at the garden center deadheading flowers.  Hope to see you there. 🙂

Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his web site at or .