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Deadheading in flowerbeds

Promote health in the garden

Deadeading sounds barbaric. Unflattering.

It is.

Deadheading means to remove faded flowers from a plant. It is a good garden maintenance practice and should be done on a regular basis. The challenges are that we forget to do it, and, when we remember, it takes time.

But think of this as a mindfulness practice. Think of it as something that makes your walks in the garden even more enjoyable the next time.

How often needed depends on your flowers and other factors. It could be once a day (day lily) or every several weeks (daisy).

Reasons to deadhead include those plants are harmed by too much heat or too little water, to prevent reseeding, to encourage a rebloom, and to tidy up the garden. Deadheading also redirects energy elsewhere to the stems and roots.

For perennials, you have will decide the purpose of deadheading.

On perennials with multiple bloom shoots from a central stalk that branches out (salvia), cut the stalk just above the leaf node. For blooms that come on a single stalk (coral bells), cut down to the base to encourage new growth.

Peonies, for example, are not going to rebloom, but deadheading is still suggested. It prevents seed formation and promotes a healthy bulb. The shriveled bloom of a once beautiful peony is downright ugly.

For annuals, deadheading ensures a steady flow of beautiful blooms, especially for marigolds, zinnias, geraniums, petunias and dahlias.

Getting into the habit of evaluating your garden regularly will help you to keep up with deadheading chores. I find deadheading is relaxing, enjoyable and satisfying. This is a mindless task; meditation might be your goal. Being out in my yard completing a useful yet sweat-free task appeals to me. The idea of a second bloom is an incentive for me.

Some perennial and half-hardy ones are great re-seeders you may choose not to deadhead — hollyhock, foxglove, lobelia, forget-me-nots. On the other hand, if you have plenty of forget-me-nots, you might want to deadhead to control the falling seeds and producing even more new plants.

These perennial plants really benefit from having their heads chopped off — yarrow, astilbe, bellflower, coreopsis, larkspur, blanket flower, bee balm and garden phlox. Sedums, like autumn joy, should be cut back to promote a bushier plant. This is done early in the season, not late.

If you want to feed wildlife during the winter, do not deadhead or remove seed pods. Birds seem to enjoy perching and snacking on echinacea. Rudbeckia attracts goldfinches — even though they are not “gold” during the winter.

As I learn more about specific garden chores, I so wish I had known about this before I planted lemon balm a few years ago. Yes, I know about the “runners,” but deadheading might have helped slow it down. Let me know if you want a start of it!

To learn more about deadheading, go to http://go.osu.edu/deadhead.

McKinley is an The Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener volunteer for Mahoning County.

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