Flower and stem of geranium.

How to deadhead roses and other plants

Deadheading is the process of pinching or pruning off dead or spent flowers in order to promote longer lasting bloom, preventing seed formation. Whatever your reason is, deadheading is a crucial step towards improvement of a healthy colourful appearance of flowering plants.


Why is deadheading important to maintain seasonal bloom and how does it work? 


Every plant wants to reproduce, it’s their nature and purpose. Therefore, plants invest a significant amount of energy into flower production followed by seed formation. By denying them the seed formation, the energy will be diverted into a new growth, followed by the production of new flowers.

Flowers and buds of peony.
Flowers and buds of peony.

What equipment will I need?

You will need sharp and clean (disinfected) secateurs, gloves and occasionally clean and sharp shears.


Tip: If you are growing plants producing berries or seeds and your primary concern is to attract wildlife, deadheading will eliminate the seed formation and therefore is not advisable. 


How to deadhead roses?

Firstly, we need to point out that different types of roses might require different techniques, but the basic principle remains the same. The different types of roses include:


  • Hybrid tea roses
  • Floribunda roses
  • Climbing roses
  • Rambling roses
  • Patio roses
  • Rugosa roses


Deadheading hybrid tea roses

Hybrid tea roses are generally a single flower on one stem and are commonly used as cut flower arrangement. When the flowers are spent, you should remove the flowers by cutting two or three buds down.


Hybrid tea rose.
Hybrid tea rose.

Deadheading floribunda roses

Floribunda roses, as opposed to hybrid teas, produce a cluster of flowers on a single stem. The first flower is developed from the middle bud and needs to be cut off below the seed pod when it’s spent. This will encourage flower development of the surrounding buds. After they have died off, cut all the spent flowers two or three buds down the stem to divert more energy into a new growth.

Removing spent flowers of floribunda rose.
Removing spent flowers of floribunda rose.

Deadheading climbing roses 

Climbing roses are generally not true climbers but rather wall shrubs, belonging to floribunda rose type and the same deadheading principle applies to them. Although we understand that the frequency of deadheading might not be the same due to accessibility. You can remove the clusters of flowers after they’ve all died off. Your climbing roses will re-flower but most likely at a slower rate. 


Our tip: whenever you find yourself time to deadhead climbing roses, also remove any weaker branches pointing outwards. Remember, when growing climbing roses, our goal is to achieve a nice spread rather than density. This will also encourage a more vigorous new growth promoting blooms sooner.

Lovely spread of climbing rose.
Lovely spread of climbing rose.

Deadheading rambling roses 

Rambling roses are true climbers, and their flowering spell is usually very short, or at least they are compared to other types of roses. We don’t always recommend deadheading ramblers, unless you employ a professional gardener who doesn’t mind climbing and reaching heights regularly. 


Bear in mind that ramblers need pruning after flowering and don’t re-flower in the same year. 


Deadheading patio roses 

Patio roses produce smaller flowers but in a large mass in one cluster. In warmer climates, they flower all the way through to the winter. You can remove single spent flowers daily or remove the entire cluster when all flowers have died off or are dying off, depending on the time you can dedicate to this. 


Deadheading rosa rugosa 

Rosa rugosa is one of the very best roses grown for the repeated bloom. However, it produces very attractive hips after flower production, leaving us with a dilemma. We recommend deadheading this rose throughout the season until August or September. After that you can fully focus on hip production. Rose hips can be very sweet and tasty (only the skin) and are often used for tea making. The hips are at their best after the first frosts. 


Our tip on deadheading roses 

When rose flowers are fully open, the flowering spell is very short, usually lasting a day or two. If you can deadhead your roses daily, simply tap the flower as you are passing by. If the petals are falling off, the flowerhead is ready to be removed.  If you can only dedicate time to deadheading once a week, make sure to remove all the flowers that are fully open. This will prevent the petals from falling off later, making your rose beds looking tidier.  

Well maintained roses.
Well maintained roses.

Deadheading other plants 

Other plants as well as roses need deadheading, these include: 


  • Bedding plants. 
  • Herbaceous perennials. 
  • Flowering shrubs. 


Deadheading bedding plants 

Deadheading bedding plants such as petunias, busy lizzies of marigolds is fairly straightforward. Simply pinch off any spent flowers using your fingers just below the seed pod.  


Other plants such as geraniums, zonal or trailing, might require a little bit more effort and understanding. As you may know, geraniums produce a cluster of flowers on a single stem. Many people keep removing single spent flowers from the clusters to keep the appearance in check. If you can find yourself some time to poke around your garden daily, feel free to follow this technique. 


However, that’s not what we always recommend. We would encourage you to keep the flowers for as long as the overall appearance of the entire flower cluster looks aesthetically pleasing. After a few flowers start fading, remove the entire cluster including the stem. If you look closely at your geraniums, there are probably a few new flower buds waiting for development, and the old flowers removal will greatly speed this up, resulting in your geraniums looking fresh all season. 


Furthermore, if you only remove the large flowerhead, the stem will naturally die off as it no longer supports seed formation. The remaining dead looking stems can spoil the healthy display of geraniums. 

Flower and stem of geranium.
Flower and stem of geranium.

Deadheading herbaceous perennials 

Deadheading herbaceous perennials can be similar to deadheading annuals. Plants like oriental poppies mostly produce a single flower on a stem and will benefit from the removal of the dead flowers including the stem. As we mentioned earlier, the more unnecessary growth is removed, the more energy can be diverted into a new growth.


Other herbaceous including delphiniums, peonies, dahlias or lupins produce secondary flowers emerging from the main stem. You can remove the primary spent bloom back to the nearest bud development. Again, by doing this, the new flowers will appear quicker. After their flowering period has finished, remove the stem all the way back to ground level. Most herbaceous will then repeat flowering.

Deadheading dahlia.
Deadheading dahlia.

With perennials such as Geum, Alchemilla or Gypsophila, producing masses of flowers on a single stem, you can maintain the bloom as long its attractiveness allows you to do so. If you decide that the appearance is no longer pleasing on the eye, you should remove the whole stem to ground level. 


Some hardy geraniums that produce masses of flowers within a short spell can be cut back to ground level halfway through the season. Within a few weeks, a new growth followed by new flower production will come out. 


Deadheading flowering shrubs 

Not many shrubs need deadheading, however, there are a few that can benefit from it. Shrubs producing larger flower heads, such as rhododendrons or camellias, can look neater when deadheaded regularly. When flowers are spent, pinch them off with your fingers. It’s that simple. 


Other shrubs producing colourful summer displays should be deadheaded with the same principle as floribunda roses. A good example here is buddleia. When the flowers are slowly dying off, remove the centre flowers first. This will encourage the secondary bloom on the same stem. After they have died, cut back the stem two nodes down.

Main and secondary flowers of buddleia.
Main and secondary flowers of buddleia.

Shearing off dead flowers can be helpful in new flower production for plants such as margarites. When all flowers look brownish, you can cut them off with shears or even a hedge cutter. New flowers will start to develop rapidly. 


While different deadheading techniques apply to different plants, the principle remains the same. Removal of spent flowers will improve health, appearance and the blooming period of your plants.

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