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Perennial deadheading guide

By: Garden Gate staff
Deadheading will help your garden look better. Not sure how to cut? Our comprehensive guide shows exactly how and when to deadhead over 50 common perennials.

Deadheading, or cutting back spent flowers, is a great way to tidy up your garden. But there are other benefits, too: Cutting back at the right time and in the right way can help you prolong the bloom time or even get a second flowering out of many plants. Others will reseed all over the place if you don’t keep their spent flowers picked off. Check out what deadheading can do for 50+ favorite perennials — and learn the best time to do it.

See the best deadheading techniques for different types of perennials in 3 Techniques for Deadheading Perennials

Plant name Botanical name Cold zones Will it rebloom? Tips
Astilbe Astilbe spp. 4-8 No Deadheading won’t stimulate more flowers so leave seedheads standing for late-season interest; when they look ratty, cut them to the ground
Baby’s breath Gypsophila paniculata 5-8 Yes Cut panicles of spent flowers to side shoots to keep this perennial flowering longer; shear stems to the ground after they finish to promote second, smaller flush of fall flowers
Balloon flower Platycodon grandiflorus 4-9 Yes Prolong bloom and keep the plants fresh by removing individual spent flowers; stems are tough — use small scissors and dip them in alcohol to clean the sticky sap; reseeds
Bear’s breech Acanthus spp. 5-9 No Leave the spent flowers standing — they remain interesting for several weeks; later, cut them to the basal rosette of foliage if they look objectionable
Bee balm Monarda didyma 4-9 No Cut spent blooms back to side buds to prolong blooming; after it’s finished flowering, cut stems down to 4 or 5 in. to promote mounds of clean, healthy foliage; rarely reblooms
Bergenia Bergenia cordifolia 3-8 No Cut flower stems off at the ground after flowering to keep the plant looking tidy; will not reflower; rarely reseeds
Bellflower, peachleaf Campanula persicifolia 3-8 Yes Pinch off individual flowers as they fade; cut entire stalk back to within 6 in. of the ground when it’s finished to encourage rebloom; releases a sticky sap as you prune
Blanket flower Gaillardia x grandiflora 3-8 Yes Snip off individual flowers a few inches below the seed head to prolong bloom; later cut stems to within 6 in. of the ground; stop deadheading in August
Bleeding heart, fernleaf Dicentra spp. 3-9 Yes Cut the flower stems down to basal mound of foliage after they’re finished to keep this perennial flowering into autumn; can reseed
Bleeding heart, fringed Dicentra formosa 4-8 Yes Keep up with removing spent flower stems down to the foliage and this perennial can continue to bloom into fall; does not die back like old-fashioned bleeding heart
Brunnera Brunnera macrophylla 3-8 No Cut flowering stems with small leaves down to 2 or 3 in. after they flower to prevent reseeding; leave basal foliage developing in the center of the clump; will not rebloom
Bugbane Actaea racemosa 3-8 No Leave seedpods on plant to add winter interest or cut them off to uppermost set of leaves, leaving as much foliage as possible to feed the plant; will not rebloom
Cardinal flower Lobelia cardinalis 3-9 Yes Cutting down spent spikes 2 to 3 in. from the ground will sometimes promote a small rebloom; short-lived so allow a few seeds to ripen or ground layer a stem or two
Catmint Nepeta spp. 4-8 Yes Cut stems down to 2 or 3 in. after flowering to keep plant looking neat; may or may not reflower after deadheading; deadheading will prevent reseeding
Columbine Aquilegia spp. 3-8 Yes Snip off spent flowers to side stems to keep columbines blooming; cut entire stem to the ground when finished; allow some seedheads to ripen to ensure replacement plants
Coral bells Heuchera hybrids 4-8 Yes Cut flowering stems below the low mound of foliage as they finish; deadheading will extend the flowering and sometimes promote a smaller second flowering
Daylily Hemerocallis hybrids 3-10 Yes Snap off spent flowers as they wilt to keep the later flowers as large as possible; once the stem is finished, cut it to the ground; some cultivars rebloom, others do not
Delphinium Delphinium elatum 3-7 Yes Pinch off spent flowers along the stems; cut the finished spikes to a leaf bud to encourage smaller side shoots; cut to basal foliage when all flowers are done; often reblooms
Dianthus Dianthus gratianopolitanus 3-9 No Some cultivars reseed, so deadhead as soon as the flowers fade; remove spent stems but leave the clump of foliage
Foamflower Tiarella spp. 4-9 Yes Some will rebloom after deadheading; cut or pinch off entire stem down into the low and hybrids mound of foliage to improve appearance
Foxglove Digitalis spp. 3-8 Yes Pinch off individual flowers along the stem; remove stems to the basal rosette of leaves when most of the flowers are finished; may rebloom later with smaller flowers; may reseed
Gas plant Dictamnus albus 3-9 No Cut seed heads down to foliage after flowering, or leave star-shaped seed pots for late-season interest; will not reflower with deadheading; can reseed
Gaura Gaura lindheimeri 5-9 Yes Flowers much of the summer without deadheading on stems that just keep branching; cut out stems that have bloomed to reduce reseeding; cutting encourages more branching
Geum Geum hybrids 5-9 No Can flower much longer with deadheading; cut spent flowers back to budded side branches; later remove the entire stem to the low mound of foliage
Globe thistle Echinops ritro 3-9 Yes Cut spent flowers to a side branch to keep the plant flowering as long as possible; cut entire stems to basal foliage when finished; late rebloom with smaller flowers
Goldenrod Solidago spp. 5-9 Yes Deadhead first and largest flowering back to healthy foliage to promote smaller second flowering from side buds; cut all seedheads to prevent reseeding
Hardy geranium Geranium spp. 4-9 Yes Hard to deadhead individual flowers, so cut tall cultivars' stems below foliage after most of the flowers have finished; cut low spreaders back to 4 to 6 in.; some species rebloom
Hardy hibiscus Hibiscus moscheutos 5-10 No Pluck off spent flowers daily to keep the plant looking tidy and keep it flowering as large and as long as possible; this also prevents reseeding; cut dead stems down in spring
Heliopsis Heliopsis helianthoides 3-9 No Don’t cut off all the spent flowers— goldfinches are fond of the seeds; reseeds, so you might want to remove some of the seed heads; will not rebloom after deadheading
Hellebore Helleborus spp. 4-9 No Pinch off spent flowers with fingers or small scissors to prevent reseeding; deadheading will not cause the plant to reflower
Hollyhock Alcea rosea 4-7 Yes Pinch off spent flowers along the stem as they wilt; leave a few flowers to reseed; cut stem to basal foliage once all the flowers have finished; may rebloom on short stems
Iris, bearded Iris hybrids 4-9 No Pinch off spent flowers before they form seedpods; cut entire stem to the foliage fan after all flowers have faded to keep the plant looking neat and tidy; some varieties rebloom in fall whether or not you deadhead
Iris, Siberian Iris sibirica 4-9 No Pinch or cut off flowers as they wither to keep the plant looking tidy and prevent seed formation; remove entire stem down into foliage when all flowers are finished
Jacob’s ladder Polemonium caeruleum 4-8 Yes Cut entire plant back to 2 or 3 in. to encourage new growth and keep it looking fresh; let a few pods ripen to replace the short-lived parent plant; often reblooms with deadheading
Joe-pye weed Eutrochium spp. 2- 9 No Will not reflower if deadheaded; can reseed; leave spent flowers standing for later season and winter interest if you want; cut stems to the ground in spring with pruning shears
Jupiter’s beard Centranthus ruber 5-8 Yes As the flowers fade, cut back to side shoots; prolific seeder if not deadheaded; often reblooms if spent stems are cut down to 3 or 4 in. after they flower
Lavender Lavandula spp. 5-8 Yes Harvest flowers with stems; cut entire plant back to healthy foliage to promote a second flowering; rebloom is shorter than first; harvest late flowers, leaving foliage
Lily Lilium hybrid 5-8 No Pinch or cut individual flowers as they fade; leave foliage until it yellows to supply food for the bulb; always try to leave as many leaves as possible; will not rebloom
Lungwort Pulmonaria spp. 4-8 No Cut away flowering stems to tidy up the plant after they fall to the side, exposing the new mound of foliage in the center; will not rebloom; can reseed; prickly stems — wear gloves
Lupine Lupinus hybrids 4-8 Yes After spring flowering, cut stems to small emerging buds along stems to promote second flowering; reseeds but seedlings vary in color; cutting back also controls aphids
Mountain bluet Centaurea montana 3-8 Yes Cut spent flowers back to side shoots; trim stems down to 2 to 3 in. after they’re finished flowering; often reblooms; can reseed rampantly
Mullein Verbascum spp. 5-9 Yes Cut main spike to side branches; cut entire plant to the ground after it blooms to stimulate late flowering; deadheading helps this biennial behave more like a perennial
Painted daisy Tanacetum coccineum 5-9 Yes Snip individual flowers off to a main stem as they fade; when the stem is finished, cut it to the basal foliage to keep the plant looking fresh; small sporadic rebloom
Peony Paeonia spp. and hybrids 3-8 No Snip off spent flowers back to the first leaf to keep the plant looking tidy; leave as much foliage as possible to feed the plant
Penstemon Penstemon barbatus 4-9 No Deadhead to side buds or branches to prolong flowering; cut stems down to the ground when finished blooming; usually will not rebloom
Pincushion flower Scabiosa columbaria 3-7 Yes Pick off spent flowers before seeds form; cut entire stems to basal rosette when finished to prolong blooming; note difference between buds and seed heads — they look similar
Purple coneflower Echinacea purpurea 3-9 Yes Reblooms fine even without deadheading; cutting off early blooms to a side shoot keeps later flowers larger; leave a few seedheads for bird food unless reseeding is a problem
Salvia Salvia nemorosa 4-9 Yes Deadheading promotes a long bloom period; snip off spikes to side branches; cut stems back to the basal foliage to encourage a late-summer rebloom
Shasta daisy Leucanthemum x superbum 5-8 Yes Deadhead spent blooms to side shoots to keep this perennial blooming almost all summer; cut spent stems down to 2 to 3 in. for smaller rebloom
Sneezeweed Helenium autumnale 4-8 Yes Snip spent flower heads only down to foliage to force side branches to develop and bloom; will continue to bloom until freezing weather if deadheaded
Speedwell Veronica spicata 3-8 Yes To prolong the bloom, cut spent flower spike back to side branches; once finished, cut entire stem down to the ground; may produce a small rebloom later
Spiderwort Tradescantia Andersoniana Group 5-9 Yes After all of the buds in a cluster have finished, cut the stems back to a side shoot or leaf axil for more flowers; if the plant looks ratty, cut it back by half to encourage rebloom
Spike blazing star Liatris spicata 4-9 Yes Cut stems back to the top of the foliage after the flowers fade; smaller second flowers may sprout from the stem or near the ground; if not deadheaded birds will feast on the seeds
Stoke’s aster Stokesia laevis 5-9 Yes Deadhead spent flowers to a side bud to prolong flowering; when flowers finish, remove stems to the ground; may rebloom; look carefully — buds and seed heads look similar
Tall garden phlox Phlox paniculata 4-8 No Snip off spent flower clusters; flowering side branches develop; deadhead to the ground when it’s finished blooming; seedlings will revert to less desirable colors
Tall sedum Hylotelephium hybrids 3-10 No No need to deadhead; leave seedheads standing for winter interest and wildlife or harvest them for dried arrangements; cut stems down in spring as new growth starts
Threadleaf coreopsis Coreopsis verticillata 4-9 Yes Use scissors or hedge clippers to shear plants to the ground in late summer to stimulate early fall rebloom; deadheading also helps prevent reseeding
Tickseed Coreopsis grandiflora 4-9 Yes
Turtlehead Chelone lyonii 3-8 No No need to deadhead because this late-blooming plant has seed pods that add winter interest; if seed heads look objectionable, cut them back to healthy foliage

You might also like our Guide to Dividing 45 of Your Favorite Perennials

Published: May 3, 2012
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