Monica Brandies is an experienced gardener and author of 12 gardening books. She has a degree in horticulture and is an alumni fellow from Temple University. She can be reached at Her website is

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by Monica Brandies       #Advice   #Flowers   #Pruning







When you cut roses for bouquets or when you are deadheading, always cut back to just above a five-leaflet leaf and you will get more blooms quicker. Cut farther back if a bit of pruning is needed, too.

“Going to seed” is not usually a pleasant transformation – for plants and people. But it is part of life. Plants bloom not only to look lovely and give us joy, but also to produce seeds to perpetuate the species. When the seedpods are not needed and not attractive, it pays to carry snippers in your pocket every time you go out in the garden. Even if you want to collect some seeds, only a few seedpods are needed.

For plants that bloom constantly or repeatedly, such as crapemyrtles (Lagerstroemia), removing flowers that are past their peak will result in more and quicker new flowers. This is called deadheading, even though the flowers are not truly dead. Deadheading is an easy chore that can greatly improve the beauty of your garden.

Some plants such as this red spiral velvet ginger (Costus barbatus) have flowers (little yellow ones here) that bloom and then fall away. The red parts are bracts (modified leaves) that hold their color for months but they need to be removed after they lose their beauty.


Deadheading these daisies (Above) didn’t take very long and it made a big difference (Below).


(Above) These red geraniums are just doing their job, going to seed. It is nature’s way to keep the species alive. (Below) Now the seeding stems, along with a dry leaf or two, have been removed and the plant will have to make more flowers instead.

On a few plants, such as gold vine (Solandra spp.), flowers and attractive seedpods appear together. The golden raintree (Koelreuteria paniculata) is covered with yellow flowers in September and then a few weeks later, the pinkish/tan seedpod clusters appear and the trees are still beautiful.

Deadheading can and should be used for annuals, perennials, and flowering shrubs. For the most part, this can be done as you walk around your garden checking for new buds or bugs and just enjoying the day. But just a bit of deadheading can make a big difference. If you have daylilies (Hemerocallis) or Iris, for instance, there is nothing lovelier than the new flowers and nothing that spoils the scene like the old ones.

If you are hybridizing or saving seeds for replanting, you don’t want to deadhead some plants, so don’t ever do this in someone else’s garden unless you ask permission.

Picking flowers for bouquets has the same effect with more reward. With annuals, the more you pick, the more you’ll have. Some flowers, such as Pentas and Impatiens, drop their faded flowers and don’t need deadheading.

This butterfly ginger (Hedychium coronarium) looks great today, but tomorrow it may need some deadheading.

There are some flowers that bloom so prolifically that the best approach is to shear them back every several weeks to remove masses of seedpods. Do this for Ageratum, Cosmos, Portulaca, Torenia, and narrow-leafed Zinnia.

If your flowering shrubs are low enough, remove the dead flowers before they produce seeds, unless the seeds are decorative or provide food for birds and wildlife. But don’t worry about what you can’t reach. God didn’t intend nature to look perfect all the time.


A version of this article appeared in Florida Gardening Volume 22 Number 2.
Photography courtesy of Monica Brandies.    


Posted: 04/10/18   RSS | Print


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