Snip, snip those dead-heads away

You think all you have to do is water and cut the lawn— there are definitely a few other gardening jobs that need doing.

  • Jul. 25, 2012 11:00 a.m.

Well here we are in mid July.  After our long, cool, wet spring we have actually had a few weeks of lovely, warm summer weather and all our plants are in a growing and blooming frenzy.

You may think that it’s summer and all you have to do is water and cut the lawn. Well, there are definitely still a few other gardening jobs that need doing.

So if the rabbits, deer and elk haven’t trimmed up all your plants for you, I would like to talk a little about doing some trimming called dead-heading.

Since the critters don’t care much for rhododendrons and azaleas ( and these are good shrubs for our area ) it is our job to trim off the trusses after the flowers have bloomed.  This will make the plant look better and it will help the plant direct it’s energy back to growth rather than seed production.

To dead head take your fingers or a pair of sharp needle nose scissors and  break off the spent flower being careful not to break the new growth near the truss. The flower bases are very sticky so gloves are recommended.

Then we have to look at our perennials and  annuals which also benefit from dead-heading the spent blooms.

Some, like irises and daylilies, generally have clusters of flowers at the top of their stems. For these use fine pointed scissors and as blooms fade, snip out the individual blooms at the swelling at the base of the flower where the seed would form.

Plants such as tall garden phlox, foxgloves, and delphiniums produce secondary flowering shoots lower on the stem.  Cut the spent flowering stem close to the new sideshoots as soon as the flower fades.  This will encourage the side shoots to bloom. Once all the side shoots are done, take out the stem at the base.

For flowers such as peonies, dahlias, and lupins, cut their stems to a leaf node where the cut won’t be so visible.

For plants such as bleeding hearts, hostas, heucheras, liatris, bergenias, red hot pokers, and many euphorbias snip off the spent flowering stems at the base of the plant.

Now for some other plants dead-heading can be done with a pair of clean sharp garden shears and just clip away all spent blooms and any leggy, untidy growth. This type of shearing is good for plants such as aubretia, basket of gold, snow-in -the-summer, thread-leafed coreopsis, hardy geraniums, candytuft, sweet alyssum, rock soapwort and spike speedwell. Also annuals such as nasturtiums and petunias when they get straggly. If you are lucky enough to have roses then the spent flower stems should be cut just above a healthy set of five leaflets.

You may actually find that dead heading can become quite an obsessive habit.

So happy snipping and enjoy the summer sun.

— Susanne Thom,Contributor and Lake Bloomers member