Why does ‘deadheading’ encourage flower growth?

2319517090_b613453d92_bGardeners can do some odd things. Like wearing Wellingtons and getting on their hands and knees in the mud when it’s raining. Or ‘killing’ and removing the flower head of a plant whose blooms they are trying to grow. Sometimes, however, there are good reasons for doing strange things.

Deadheading’ is the removal of the flower when it is fading (or almost dead). It sounds counterintuitive but actually encourages more blooms and maintains the overall appearance of the plant.

To understand why deadheading works, let’s first look at the life cycle of a flowering plant. A flowering plant’s life begins when a seed is planted and its roots start to form under the soil. With time, water and sunlight, the stem, leaves and buds emerge above the ground and eventually the bud opens to show a flower. Pollination then occurs (the ‘birds and the bees’ story for plants!), when an insect or the wind carries pollen from one flower to another. The pollen is transported from the stamen of the flower (which you could think of as the ‘male bits’) to the ovaries in another flower. Once there, they form new seeds. These seeds then get dispersed by animals or the wind, and the circle of life repeats! (Quite clever, right?).

However, deadheading interrupts the latter part of the cycle – preventing the formation of new seeds. The plant’s energies and resources are instead channeled into further growth and improved flower development, resulting in a stronger plant. As well as getting a prettier plant, deadheading has other benefits such as preventing petals (such as those from roses) from scattering debris widely.

Deadheading is a very simple practice (albeit a pretty tedious one!) but there are a variety of tips and techniques for doing it effectively (follow link to read more). The plants that need deadheading include bedding plants, roses, geraniums, shrubs, climbing plants and bulbs. Not all plants need deadheading, however. (Thank goodness!). Varieties that produce few seeds or whose flowers fall off readily with a gust of wind can be left alone.

My tip: plant lots of fuchsias!

Answer By Chloe Westley

Image Source: Roses by Chrisforsyth, on Flickr

Article by Chloe Westley

September 3, 2014

Based in Manchester, UK, Chloe spends most of her time getting up close and personal with a zippy bit of kit called a Raman spectrometer. In between doing some high-brow research as part of a PhD, she follows tennis, cricket and Man United (unfortunately) and loves watching Suits, The Big Bang theory and Breaking Bad (obviously!).


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