Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Deadhead - Not Just Band Groupies Anymore

Although "Deadheads", or Grateful Dead groupies, are still around, this post has NOTHING what-so-ever to do with them following the band around the country! It DOES, however, have everything to do with keeping your garden clean, beautiful and healthy.

Deadheading involves the removal of the expired bloom of a plant. And it's one of the easiest most enjoyable parts of gardening! Now, you may think to yourself, "Why would taking off a dead bloom, ala Marie Antoinette, be enjoyable?" Well, think about it. Most blooms are within reach without kneeling, so it's easy on the body, young or old. It keeps the garden looking tidy and makes your garden visually more appealing. And it only takes a few minutes of your day, so not a lot of time needs to be spent doing it. In fact, make it a habit to grab a friend or loved one, pour a glass of wine or two (two meaning one for you, one for them, not "two-fisting" it!) and take a stroll to enjoy your garden. While you walk and admire the beauty, the sweetly fresh scents, and the joy of being outdoors, just reach down and..."pop"...off with their heads! Doing this every day or every other day not only gives you a great way to wrap up your day, but takes care of the deadheading situation with little to no effort. But, there's another reason to do this that is beneficial to the plant.

Most bulb plants like Daffodils and Tulips have heavy pollen. It is not blow by the typical breeze. They have no nectar so, usually, bees don't root around in there and pollinate it. But, if by chance one IS pollinated, removing the dead bloom keeps the bulb from creating seed. And the energy that would have been wasted creating the seed is now stored in the bulb and saved for next year's blooms. Along with letting the foliage continue to photosynthesize until it dies back (another story for another day) and feeding the bulbs every Fall (like you ALWAYS do, right?), this will give the bulb the highest concentration of stored energy that it needs to show off for you again and again! Speaking of again and again...

Some plants, like Dahlias, will actually bloom over and over within the same growing season if they are deadheaded regularly. By deadheading them, the plant believes that it has not "done its thing", and will put out another bloom. Keep deadheading it, and subsequently confusing the hell out of the plant, and it will keep on keepin' on!

Deadheading. Easy. Fun. Enjoyable. Beneficial.


  1. How much and what kind of fertilizer do you recommend? We have, literally, thousands of clumps of daffodils spread over 10 acres or so and I have never fertilized other than mulch with shredded leaves and such. Most clumps don't show any sign of slowing down on blooming, but I guess you can always have more blooms, right? Thanks for your help.

  2. I have noticed that the bees are attracted to the "Geranium" daffodils that are finishing up now. Even if the seeds aren't viable if the plant is making them it takes energy away from the bulb so I snip the flowers as soon as they are spent. My garden is a manageable size but if it were much larger deadheading would be a huge job.

  3. Hoot Owl, our "fertilizer" is strictly compost. Healthy, dark, rich, compost. We distribute it on top of the ground where the bulbs are and let it work it's way in over the Fall and winter.