The Basics of Deadheading Flowers

The simple task of removing spent flowers ensures the best blooms on your plants

Want the best flower garden in the neighborhood? Learn the basics of deadheading.

What is deadheading? Deadheading is the removal of spent or fading flowers to spur new blossoms and keep a plant looking tidy and neat. As a rule of thumb, if the bloom has begun to lose its color, the plant will benefit from deadheading.Why Deadhead?

  1. For more blooms! Flowering is how plants make seeds. When flowers die, the plant spends its energy manufacturing seeds. So when you deadhead, you actually help the plant redirect its energy into growing blossoms.
  2. For good health. Flowering plants try to make seeds, especially when they lack nutrients or water, so when you remove the flowers during dry spells, you help the plant remain healthy and strong.
  3. To keep beds looking tidy. Deadheading helps keep your flower beds looking neat and tidy. Spent flowers are not attractive and detract from the beauty of your colorful bed.

How to Deadhead FlowersDeadheading petunias in the garden
Deadheading can be accomplished in one of two ways:

  1. By cutting off the faded blooms on long, thick stems, delicate flowers, or flower clusters to just above the nearest flower bud (i.e., geraniums, marigolds, etc.); or
  2. by pinching off the flowers on short stems that snap off easily (i.e., petunias, alyssum, etc.)

When you pinch off the bloom, grab the spent blossom between your forefinger and thumb, snapping off the stem above the next flower bud. A clean break minimizes the risk of disease.

When you cut off the spent blossom, use shears.

Collect all plant material you removed into a bucket and add it to a compost pile.

How to Deadhead Shrubs
Most shrubs only flower for one season, so removing the dead flowers will not promote new blooms for that growing season, however, it will help the shrub grow more buds and foliage for the following year.

Cut back stems that carry the dead flowers. The cut should be clean, generally above an outward-facing bud.

When Should I Deadhead?

  1. When flowers are past their peak. Flowers begin to lose their color as they die. The longer you leave a spent flower on the stem, the longer the plant will waste its energy on dying blooms.
  2. Deadhead at least weekly.

In the early spring (after the last frost but before the first flowering), pinch off several buds in each cluster to encourage larger blooms.

In the fall, deadhead fall flowers, such as Chrysanthemums and sedum before the first killing frost.

Flowers that love deadheading:

  • Marigolds (pinch off blooms just above the next flower bud on the stem)
  • Zinnias (pinch off stem just above next flower bud on the stem)
  • Petunias (pinch off stem just underneath a fading bloom)
  • Geraniums (with pruning shears, cut at the base of stem that holds spent flower clusters)
  • Tulips (cut thick tulip stems at lowest point without cutting off foliage)
  • Hyacinths (pinch off flowers at base of stem when first petals fall)
  • Narcissus (cut stem cleanly at base of flower with pruning shears)
  • Rhododendrons (pinch off at joint where flower cluster joins leaf stem)
  • Hydrangeas (cut off flower clusters as they start to wilt and before they turn brown)
  • Azaleas (pinch off faded Azalea blooms at the base of the flower)


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Image credit: bhamms / 123RF Stock Photo

About Jen

Jen is owner, author, and creative mind behind Bakerette. Jen eats a vegan diet and recently converted Bakerette to a plant-based website that offers a smattering of healthful recipes! Jen is author of the cookbook Festive Feasts: Meals and Memories from Halloween to Christmas, which can be purchased online at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.


  1. Wonderful information!

    There is a great book called "The Well Tended Perennial Garden" by Tracy Di Sabato-Aust. If a person can only add ONE garden book to their collection- THIS is the one to have! She covers deadheading etc. of perennials by individual plant (ie: coneflowers, lilies, veronica etc.) It's not about what to put in the garden so much as it is about how to care for what you've got.

  2. Awesome :) Hope you have a super weekend!
    ♥ HUGS ♥

  3. How cool is this! This is the perfect blog for you :) Now I can get some great ideas!!

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