The beauty of a garden lies in the eye of the beholder. When gardeners survey their land and plan their desired vegetation, it is important that they have long-term goals in mind. Whether gardeners want their patch to be sprawling and organic, or manicured and structured, there is a way to engineer plants to fit their visions. This valuable method of flora manipulation is called “dead-heading.”
Dead-heading is done mainly for aesthetic reasons, but you'll want to thoughtfully and considerately dead-head your plants to encourage reblooming. Also, think about the shape of the plant. Do this with perennials and annuals. Thoughtful dead-heading allows you to shape the plant.
To dead-head is to manually interfere with a plant’s natural life cycle in order to redirect its energy into a more desirable purpose. A plant’s natural goal is to produce fruit and ultimately seeds for reproduction. Dead-heading can stunt this process so that the energy can be directed to goals such as strengthening the roots, coaxing a second bloom, or growing more branches. Removing deteriorating material rejuvenates the plant, which also ultimately wards off pests and pathogens. Whether it’s plucking off spent blooms, cutting down entire stalks to the ground cover foliage, or removing healthy, full blooms before they expire, it’s all about where you want the plant to thrive.
Cutting a plant encourages more growth wherever the gardener makes the clip. Although it may seem counter intuitive to remove blooms from the garden while they are still healthy, it will persuade the plant to produce a second and potentially third bloom throughout the season. For plants such as Angelonia, it is helpful to continuously cut the stalks so that the foliage remains lush and the blooms continue to flourish through the spring and summer. Since Angelonia loses its flowers and produces seeds from the bottom up, it is important you to keep an eye on the process so that you can dead-head when more than half of each stalk turns from flower to seed.
There are different methods to dead-heading for each particular plant and each desired goal. Each plant has specific necessities in order to keep it looking its best and performing at its potential. For instance, plants with large heads such as hydrangea should be cut down in the fall before the frost comes. This way, the heads won’t fall and scatter around the garden, leaving less debris to gather come spring. When it comes to roses, let the blooms fill out and naturally fall, turning to seed. In the winter, it's time to shut roses down. Angelonia takes time to regenerate, so you should continuously dead-head so that it has flower after flower.
Oftentimes, gardeners find themselves enjoying the seed heads, as they provide a natural landscape for the winter and feed the wildlife surrounding the property. If you prefer harnessing a natural landscape and providing food for the birds, you may forego the process of dead-heading after a certain point, and allow the plant to follow its natural journey. All is in the preference of the beholder.
Beginner gardeners should educate themselves about the plants that they introduce into their landscape. It is beneficial to conduct research about the life cycles of each plant, and be sure to distinguish whether a plant is about to bloom, or about to seed. Delphinium is a plant that is oftentimes hard to tell whether or not the stalk is producing blooms or seeds. For delphinium, it is also important to note that the plant will decline if you just clip the tops off of the plant. Taking it all the way down to the ground cover will ensure that the energy continues to strengthen the roots and consequently produce more beautiful flowers.
The primary goal for an early garden is to tend to the strength of the plants by focusing the energy to the roots and promoting growth in the space that a gardener permits for the plant. Then, you can set goals for the future and shape the progress of the plant.