Deadheading Roses

Rose plant with new growth, weeks after deadheadingDeadheading a roseOne of the reasons I had stayed away from planting roses in my garden was the upkeep. It’s true that they need to be watered and fed with rose food, but they also need to be deadheaded. What’s deadheading? It simply means to remove dead flowers. By removing dead flowers, with my sharp garden shears, from what I’ve read, it tricks the plant into “thinking” that it was not productive and thereby stimulating it to produce more growth, both in more flowers and leaves, prolonging your rose plant’s flowering season. This is my weekly ritual, takes less than 10 minutes total, since not all of the rose flowers will have died or dried out at the same time. It also keeps your rose plant looking fresh. As an example, I’ve posted a photo of one such dead rose flower that was subsequently sheared. Next to that is a photo of a different section of that same plant, which was deadheaded a few weeks ago. Notice the shiny new leaves and in the center, a new flower bud is forming!

HOW TO: With a pair of sharp garden shears, cut the dead rose flower just beneath the dead flower. Be careful where you grab – you have thorns to consider! I’ve read that you’re supposed to cut it at about a 45 degree angle, but don’t worry if you’re off by a litle bit – the plant can take it! You’ll need a little patience since you’ll have to remove each dead flower from each plant, one by one, but the results will be worth it.

Take heart: the sheer anxiety that old (and perhaps some current) gardening books provoke about doing everything by the letter in order to get your roses “right” is to be taken with a grain of salt, in my opinion. Roses today are bred to fight disease and are strong enough to withstand imperfect deadheading and pruning by us everyday gardeners. I’ve had my rose garden for two years and the plants are still here and stronger, more productive, and beautiful than ever. As the years pass, I find that gardening books and advice provided by television and radio gardening experts are starting points – they don’t know your garden like you do. Nothing beats personal experience!


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