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Sunday, July 21, 2013

"Deadheading" means what??

     Okay, so I'm a little slow with my planting.  Actually, it's not so much that I'm slow.   I just keep buying more beautiful pots of this and that every time I walk through Tagawa's.  But it's a good obsession, right?

     Still, the "to-be-planted" assortment of perennials on my deck is no excuse to neglect my mid-summer chores.   Specifically:  deadheading.

Deadheading defined

    It's not as brutal as it sounds.  Deadheading simply means that as the flowers on annuals or perennials begin to fade (and well before they've actually crashed!), we need to snip off those spent blossoms.  Mother Nature has programed the plants to  make seed.  By cutting off the flowers before the seed production begins, you can "trick" the plant into thinking that it hasn't actually accomplished its mission.  The plant's only choice?  To make more flowers!

     The exception, of course, is if the seeds are what you want.  For example, the main point of growing dill (other than attracting butterflies) is to harvest the seed.  But with most plants,  it's the flowers that we work so hard for.

A bonus!

     Deadheading can also help keep plants healthy.  Certain petunias can get leggy in mid-summer.  Consider removing not only the fading flowers, but cutting back a few inches of stem as well.  It will help petunias and other plants look full and vigorous rather than tired and strung out. 

     Flowers like geraniums that bloom at the end of a separate stem are one of the easiest annuals to deadhead.  Just carefully reach down to the bottom of that leafless stem and snap it off.  Cutting just below the geranium blossom and leaving the flower stem will give you a plant with a lot of little sticks pointing out, but no new flowers at the ends of those dried stems.  It doesn't actually hurt the plant, but its not going to help its appearance, either.

Maybe a "haircut" is called for.

      Annuals and perennials that grow so tall they don't stand upright anymore may need more than deadheading.  They may be trying to tell you that they need a good haircut, so listen to them!  Get out some sharp scissors or pruning shears and cut them back to give them another chance to grow and show-off what they can do. 

     If you don't know how a particular plant should be deadheaded or cut back, bring in a sample in a sealed plastic bag.  The fine folks at Tagawa's will be happy to identify the plant, and offer some great advice on how to revive it for another round of flowers.

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