Some plants absolutely must be deadheaded, or there will be way too many of them. What is deadheading? Removal of spent flowers before seeds ripen.
I’m already well into deadheading mode. It starts with hellebores and continues through the summer and into fall. I spent a couple of hours this week pulling up spent bluebell stalks by the armload.
Here is a list, in chronological order, of the plants in my garden for which this treatment is not optional:
- Hellebores: April and May
- Bluebells: May
- Forget-me-nots: May and June
- *Meconopsis cambrica (Welsh poppy): May until fall
- Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii: May and June
- Lychnis coronaria (Rose campion): June until fall
- Linaria purpurea (Toadflax): June until fall
- Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s ears): July until fall
- Campanula persicifolia (Peach-leaved bellflower): July until fall, intermittently
- Echinops ritro (Globe thistle): August
- Verbascum olympicum (Olympic mullein): August and September
It’s helpful to know the plants’ seeding habits. Euphorbias, for example, pop their seed pods on hot days, shooting seeds for several feet. That’s why my next door neighbour has a couple of euphorbias, and why I started with one plant but now have half a dozen. Now I know the importance of cutting down the flowering stalks long before the pods pop. Toadflax and rose campion produce billions of tiny seeds, so if I get behind on the deadheading, or miss a few plants, it’s impossible to cut down stalks that carry ripe seeds without peppering the immediate vicinity.
Other plants need deadheading too, not so much to prevent seeding, but to spare them from expending energy on futile seed production. These include tulips, daffodils, irises, delphiniums, lilies, and roses. Civilized plants, in other words. Unlike their tough and seedy companions, deadheading protects them, rather than the gardener’s temper.
And much as I complain about the tough, seedy plants, I rely on them to do well in this garden in which fussier plants struggle. Some of them are short-lived, so it’s just as well that volunteers pop up to replace the ones that fizzle out.
This isn’t my first post about deadheading. I wrote one early in my blogging career, so early that it has languished unread and unliked. Anyone who wants to give the poor thing some attention may find it HERE.
*Update, June 16, 2022: A gardener who lives in Wales pointed out that Meconopsis cambrica is actually the Welsh poppy, not the Cambridge poppy. Duly corrected!