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Refresh Summer Perennials
by Gloria Day       #Advice   #Pruning   #Summer

Drumstick allium is one of the most reliably perennial ornamental onions for central United States. It blends well with other flowers in the garden and in vases. • Phlox is one perennial that truly benefits from deadheading all season long, re-blooming until the frost nips. • Helleborus needs winter leaves removed just in time to reveal the showy blooms, often peeking through a late winter snow.

Keeping a garden at its best requires planning and a little effort. Spring through fall, here are a few tips for refreshing your perennials.

Echinacea can be deadheaded early in the season and the flowers can be left later in the season to provide seed for overwintering birds.

Start deadheading daffodils (Narcissus spp.) and tulips (Tulipa spp.) in early May, taking care to pinch off the flower heads and cut the stems, never the nourishing leaves.

Allium seed heads can be left on the plant to provide interest or cut, whichever you prefer. They can be quite interesting spray-painted for dried arrangements.

After Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum) bloom and fade, the labor-intensive task of deadheading begins. Although time consuming to cut each stalk back to the next bud, it is worth the effort when it produces a second or third bloom.

The method of deadheading Rudbeckia is similar to that for Shasta daisy, cutting the stem back to the next new bud. In fall, leave the seeds for wildlife.

Buddleia, whether dwarf or 10 feet tall, should be deadheaded frequently. Some varieties can be considered invasive due to self-seeding. The number of seedlings can be controlled by deadheading, both an environmental friendly task to prevent unwanted seedlings and to encourage continuous blooms. Cut the stem back to the next “V” junction on the branch. You will have larger flowers throughout the season, which translates into more butterflies visiting the garden.

Aster and Chrysanthemum flowers can be snipped off after the bloom fades and will give the plant a face-lift.

Sedum can be deadheaded after it flowers and dries, particularly the ground cover types. The dried flowers of taller sedum, such as ‘Autumn Fire’ or ‘Autumn Joy’, may be left on to provide winter interest if the stems are strong and the plant remains upright.


Salvia is another mainstay perennial that needs to be consistently deadheaded. It becomes unsightly after it blooms and dries. A quick snip at the tips will extend the life of the plant until frost.

The spent flowers of Dianthus should be trimmed above the mounding foliage.

Perennial Geranium needs a midseason haircut in order to rebloom. Cut back the top one-third of the plant.

Coreopsis can be treated the same way, using sharp hedge shears to expedite the task.

As the season progresses, keep up with deadheading and you will see a tremendous increase of both vigor and blooms.





A version of this article appeared in a July/August 2018 print edition of State-by-State Gardening.
Photography courtesy of Caleb Melchior and Gloria Day.


Posted: 07/03/18   RSS | Print


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