Deadheading is the removal of spent flowers or flowerheads from the plant. It is done to encourage further flowering – if the flowers aren’t removed the plant will transfer its energy towards setting seed and forming fruits. However, if the flowers are removed it should continue to produce more flowers. In fact some plants (such as delphiniums) can provide a second flush of flowers later in the season if the first flush is promptly deadheaded to the base of the plant.

With flowering shrubs, deadheading once the flowers have faded can allow the plants to put more energy into growth (rather than seed/fruit production) and lead to a better display the following season.

You should start deadheading plants as soon as the first flush of flowers is over and the flowers start to fade. It’s useful to get into the habit of doing it once a week in peak flowering seasons.

When deadheading it’s best to remove the flower and stem (down to a joint or the base of the plant) so you don’t leave lots of unattractive cut ends sticking up. With some plants this can be done by nipping them off between your thumb and forefinger but with others, such as roses, it’s best done with secateurs. With bulbs, remove the flower by cutting just below the developing seed pod.

Some flowers will deadhead naturally, so there is no need to deadhead them. Fuchsias are an example of plants which lose their flowers naturally. You should also consider whether the plants have attractive seedheads or hips, or if you want to collect seeds from the plant to sow; in these cases it’s best not to deadhead at the end of their flowering season so you don’t lose this additional benefit, or alternatively only deadhead a quarter or third of the flowers, leaving the others to form fruits and seeds.