Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
July, 2010
Regional Report

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Deadheading this coneflower by removing the entire flowering stem will encourage the production of healthy new flowers later in the season.

Time to Deadhead

When you think of pruning, you probably think of woody plants, but pruning also benefits herbaceous annuals and perennials. When you cut back leggy plants, deadhead spent flowers, pinch stems, or disbud, you are actually pruning. Trimming or pruning herbaceous plants on a regular basis will promote a compact growth habit, larger flowers, and can even prolong the blooming period. The processes defined include:

Removing faded flowers is called deadheading. It improves a plant's appearance and will encourage new growth, which usually equates to additional flowering later in the season. On plants with foliage along the flowering stems, rudbeckia and scabiosa are good examples, you deadhead by cutting spent flowers off just above the foliage or along the stem just above new flower buds. On plants with leafless flower stems, such as columbine and Shasta daisies, deadhead by cutting the spent flowering stems down to the crown of the plant so the stubs are hidden by foliage. Flowering annuals, including cosmos, zinnias, marigolds, petunias and salvia need continuous deadheading to keep them blooming all season long. The single flowers on these plants are easy to snip off when they begin to fade.

Pinching is the process of removing the growing tips of a plant, usually just above the uppermost full set of leaves. The plant will react by producing new branches, making it bushy and more compact. Pinched plants produce more flowers than unpinched ones, but the flowers may be slightly smaller. I pinch the stems of late bloomers such as chrysanthemums in the spring when plants are 6" tall and again when they're 8" tall. I continue to pinch at two week intervals until mid-July. This treatment produces bushy, compact plants, loaded with blooms, which begin their display in early September.

Cutting Back
Cutting back, or uniformly shearing back a plant, renews its appearance, reduces its height, and encourages a new flush of growth with additional flowering. If you cut back bloomed-out annuals and perennials that have become leggy, they will produce new growth and will often bloom again before summer's end. Plants that respond well to cutting back include alyssum, veronica, spiderwort, phlox, dianthus, catmint, Bishop's weed, bee balm, yarrow, painted daisy and Russian sage.

Plants that produce flower buds in clusters, such as chrysanthemums or dahlias, can be disbudded when the flower buds first begin to form. Removing all but a single bud in each cluster will result in fewer, but larger flowers.

Continuous grooming of your annuals and perennials will make fall cleanup easier, because you've already done most of the work by pinching, cutting back and removing spent flowers. Ornamentals with more flowers, compact growth habits, and fresh new leaves all season long make your garden more attractive, which is the ultimate reward for all your efforts.

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