Although many of the landscapes we install can be classified as low maintenance; it is impossible to have a garden that requires no maintenance. The term deadheading is often thrown around in garden discussions. What is deadheading? What plants respond best to deadheading? and when is the best time to grab your clippers and start hacking away at you garden? Here are a few pruning tips for some of our favorite San Diego grown perennials.
What is Deadheading?
Deadheading refers to the removal of dead flowers prior to seed formation. A plant’s cycle is to flower and then seed. If the flowers are removed from a plant before the seeding stage then some plants will revert their energy back to the flowering stage; extending the bloom time and creating a stronger and healthier plant. All plants are unique, and not every perennial in your garden is going to react the same to deadheading. Deadheading can also improve the the appearance of your garden by clearing out the clutter. For example, Daylilies or Bearded Irises will not produce new blooms after deadheading; however, they will enhance the look of your garden if the spent flowers are removed.
Echinaceas (Coneflowers) can be pruned in early summer resulting in bushier and more compact shape. Once the flowering period begins continually deadhead the deceased flowers to prolong the bloom period. As winter approaches it may be beneficial to cut the plant down to the ground and cover with mulch if you live in an area susceptible to frost. On the alternative let the final flowers turn into seeds and self-sow into new plants. The birds in your neighborhood will find the seeds to be a tasty treat. The same deadheading and pruning techniques can also be applied to Rudbeckia (Brown Eyed Susan).
Photo taken from Evergreen Nursery Website
Lantana, grown as a perennial here in San Diego, is one such plant that will respond well to deadheading. You can cut off the deceased flowers before the formation of seed-pods and you will be rewarded with a plentiful amount of new flowers.
Gaillardias or blanket flowers can be deadheaded throughout their blooming period. It is recommended to cut the plant down to its basal foliage as the blooming period ends (late August/September). The basal foliage refers to the leaves at the base of the plant.
After the blooming period for most perennials its beneficial to proceed with more invasive pruning techniques before the next Spring season.
Lantana is a vigorous plant that will bounce back after a major beheading. Cut the entire plant back ¾ of its height and watch it flourish again in the Spring.
Many low growing penstemons can be cut back about 4 inches in late fall or early spring for new growth. This will prevent your plant from becoming too woody.
Herbaceous salvias like Salvia Leucantha (Mexican Bush Sage) can be cut nearly all the way to the ground once they stop blooming.
Woody salvias such as Salvia greggii will benefit from pruning off the top woody branches only.
Benefits of Pruning
Pruning your plants will result in bushier and more compact shrub. Pruning allows the sun to reach the new growth at the base of the plants which results in a healthier plant. Maintaining a colorful and healthy garden can be quite satisfying. Don’t be afraid of your garden clippers, you’ll probably end up doing more good than harm!
Want to see more of our favorite blooming plants for San Diego water-wise landscaping? Check out Our Favorite Blooming Drought Resistant Plants for San Diego