If you want to make the most of your garden at this time of year and get as much colour as you can out of your flowering plants, then get dead-heading! In particular, this applies to roses, but also to container and bedding plants such as pansies and petunias.
Regular deadheading not only keeps your garden looking neat and tidy, it directs energy into stronger growth and more flowers. Ideally you should remove the spent flowers as soon as they look scruffy but a day or two won’t make a difference.
Plants to deadhead include:
Bedding plants: Tender plants growing in beds, containers and hanging baskets respond well to deadheading. The faded blooms of argyranthemums, cherry pie, pansies, polyanthus and petunias can be removed with finger and thumb
Geraniums (Pelargonium): Hold the faded flower stalk near the base and pull downwards. The old bloom will snap out cleanly
Roses: Gently snap off the faded flowers, breaking the stalk just below the head. If you want to continue the display into autumn, try pruning back to a bud in a leaf axil lower down the stem – to encourage strong new shoots. Prune to an outward-facing leaf to keep the centre of the rose bush open and encourage a good structure. Wild roses should not be deadheaded as they produce attractive hips in the autumn. After deadheading, give roses a feed to boost growth and encourage more flowers
Climbers: Deadhead climbers where practical, particularly Eccremocarpus as it rapidly produces seed pods
Bulbs: Remove flowers, along with the seed capsule. However, leave the green flower stalk in place as this produces food, helping to build up the bulb to flower well next season
Where to cut
For border perennials and annuals, trim away the old flowers, generally cutting back to a bud or leaf
Some hardy geraniums, delphiniums and lupins produce a second flush of flowers if cut back close to ground level. This is known as the Chelsea Chop, as it is carried out at the end of May, at the time of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show – although it can be done later in Scotland. Others, such as lady’s mantle and oriental poppies, can still be cut back near ground level but, usually, only produce fresh foliage
Gently snap off the faded flowers of roses, breaking the stalk just below the head (rather than cutting just above a leaf, as the snapping method results in more blooms being produced more quickly on repeat-flowering cultivars)
Some plants do not need deadheading, such as fuchsias, bedding lobelia and salvias – they don’t set much seed and actually deadhead themselves
Do not remove the faded flowers on plants that produce seed loved by birds, including Rudbeckia, cornflower and sunflower
Leave plants that have ornamental seeds or fruits without deadheading; examples include alliums; love-in-a-mist (Nigella), stinking iris (Iris foetidissima) and bladder cherry (Physalis alkekengi)