Deadheading is very common practice with flowering shrubs. In a nutshell, it means chopping off flower heads.
The process involves removing any fading blooms from your shrubs to allocate energy in the plant toward seed production and new growth.
Deadheading is also recommended because it prevents your shrubs from looking like they are dying off.
Some plants benefit from deadheading more than others, and hydrangeas are certainly in that category.
But with all of its benefits, there are two things you should know before you get started. The first is ‘’when is the best time for deadheading’’, and the second is ‘’how to do it correctly’’.
So, let’s take a little journey and see what we have in store for you. Let’s see everything you need to know about hydrangeas deadheading.
Should You Deadhead?
Before we move to the when and how, let’s have a brief look at why deadheading is so beneficial, and what it means.
Normally, there are different opinions on whether you should deadhead hydrangeas. In its essence, deadheading is a widespread form of pruning, since dying flowers are not as attractive and allocate a lot of energy into seed development if they get pollinated.
There are two main goals deadheading achieves. The first is to preserve the attraction of the plants, and the second is to encourage further blooming. It can be done only with a finger and thumb, or with a knife, scissors or pruning shears.
Deadheading is avoided if the plant’s seed is enjoyed by birds or if the plant holds attractive seeds or fruits.
Overall, deadheading is a perfectly adequate process, and it can help the overall health and well-being of your hydrangeas. We definitely recommend it.
When Should You Deadhead Hydrangeas?
As we have already mentioned, one of the crucial things in deadheading is the timing.
Seeing how hydrangea blossoms are very big, deadheading a hydrangea makes a noticeable difference in allocating energy to the parts that are more important for plant growth.
This process should be carried out all through the blossom season if you want your plants to look fresh.
There are a few different methods for deadheading depending on the time of year you choose to do it.
Before August – If you plan on deadheading in this time, then you should cut the stem bloom with a long stem attached. The next step is to examine the stem and try and find small buds. It is important to leave the buds intact when cutting the stem back.
After August – If you are devising to deadhead somewhere after summer, the plant is probably already growing new buds along the stems to prepare for spring. Inspect each set of leaves going down the stem, and locate the buds (they are usually found on the first or second set of leaves). Make sure to slice the spent bloom above those buds.
A time of year when you definitely shouldn’t consider deadheading a hydrangea is just before winter. Buds growing for next spring’s blooms are just below the old dead blossoms. The idea is to leave them there so they can provide the buds with good protection from outside elements.
A Few More Tips For A Good Start
Some people often mistake deadheading for pruning. The difference is that deadheading is far less tricky since only the dead blossoms are removed.
As we have already described, it is best to do this from spring through autumn and avoid the period before winter. The exact moment to get rid of a fading flower mostly depends on your preference. When you no longer like how it looks, get out the pruners.
Periods of heat and heavy rains can severely damage your blossoms, so you should consider deadheading more often after these periods.
Remember that it is in your best interest to keep denatured alcohol nearby, usually on a cloth, so you can wipe your pruners clean in between each cut. This should prevent any harmful disease from spreading throughout the bush.
How to Proceed With Deadheading?
When you notice your hydrangea is starting to get that wilting, dying look, clean your pruners with the method we just mentioned and get to work. Again, you want to make sure that you aren’t spreading disease, by wiping the cut blade before each snip.
We will get into a bit more detail with what we described earlier. To figure out where exactly you should make the deadhead cut, search for the first faded blossom stem down to the set of leaves below it.
Aim to find a pair of swollen flower buds along the stem, as we mentioned they are usually on the first or second set of leaves. Snip off the stem above these buds after you find them.
After you started to deadhead you might want to snip some more. The first thing you should find out is whether your shrubs are blooming on old wood or new wood. It’s most often the case that they are blooming on old wood, since the most popular hydrangea species bloom there, including the infamous bigleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla).
Anyhow, here’s the exact step-by-step guide on how to proceed with deadheading.
- Step 1 – Clean your pruners
First of all, you’ll need to clean your pruners to perfection. The last thing you want is to poison your plant with rusty pruners. So, in order to clean them properly, you’ll need a few items:
- A wet piece of cloth
- A bucket of water
- Dry towel
After you gather all these items, you can start with the cleaning process. Now, you will need to take your pruners and wipe them off with an old piece of cloth that is wet. Next, take the alcohol and spray it all over the pruners.
Make sure to hit the right spots. To conclude the cleaning process, you will need to soak pruners inside a bucket filled with water and leave them there for a few minutes.
After that, just take the pruners out of the bucket and wipe them off with the dry towel.
Your pruners are now completely cleared and ready for a round of deadheading.
- Step 2 – Find the perfect place to cut
It’s not always easy to find the perfect stop to cut your plant. But, we will provide you with some tips so you can find the spot to make the most precise cut.
Simply try to find the first faded blossom which is most likely below the leaves. After that, you should locate the spot which is right beneath the blossom. Make sure not to cut a big part of the steam since that can significantly change the plant’s life.
- Step 3 – Snip off the stem
It’s time to cut. Simply put, take the pruners and cut the spot you already located. You should make one strong cut so the plant can start to heal right after you’re done.
Also, pay close attention to the angle of the cut, since it’s best to cut the stem at a 45-degree angle.
- Step 4 – Repeat the process
After you’ve cut properly, it’s time to do it with every faded blossom to enhance the growth of flowers for your plant.
Simply speaking, find the same faded blossoms and repeat the cut on them until you deadhead the whole plant. This will probably take some time so it’s recommendable to do it slowly and with care.
Deadheading can be done at almost any time, but if you are also pruning you should know that additional pruning on old wood should be done before July. Flowers that bloom on new wood can be pruned as late as winter.
Pruning vs. Deadheading for Hydrangeas
Since we have mentioned pruning in this article more than a few times, we should dedicate a few sentences to it so you can have a better understanding of what it is, and the difference between the two.
People often get confused about what pruning is and whether it can be done to hydrangeas. Some of the most common reasons for confusion are the plant’s fading appearance in the winter, a failure to bloom in the summer, and the assumption that it should be pruned just because it has shrubs.
Hydrangeas can live without the need to be pruned, but they can handle it if necessary. If perhaps you don’t like the fading blooms, or you think that your shrub might be a bit tall, it’s perfectly acceptable to consider pruning. It can make a difference with your hydrangea and increase the size of its flowers and it can also drastically improve a shrub’s vigor.
In conclusion, you probably don’t have to prune your hydrangeas unless they have become overgrown or unsightly. If you decide to prune, keep in mind that if it’s done at the wrong time it can lead to a lack of flowers.
The process of removing spent flowers, called deadheading, is thoroughly explained in the previous parts of the article. The important thing to remember is that deadheading is a separate process, it’s not simply a type of pruning.
Benefits of Deadheading
As you could already see, deadheading hydrangea flowers is good for the plant. Also, with a little bit of time and effort put into the deadheading, you can make some great results when it comes to the overall looks and health of the plant.
In that light, here are some of the most noticeable benefits of deadheading.
- Hydrangea Plant will Look Better – The most noticeable and the biggest benefit of deadheading is that your hydrangea will look neater. Once you cut the faded flowers, you will see that your plant will look better and richer with beautiful flowers.
Also, deadheading will help your plant to get that healthy look which is quite important.
- Enhance the Plants flower growth – For many years, this was considered to be a myth. But, not so long ago, some experts determined that once you proceed with deadheading, the hydrangea plant will start to grow more beautiful and larger. This is a fact, and since deadheading will enhance the growth of the flowers, you will be able to enjoy it more.
Besides that, deadheading will provide a better look and therefore a healthier condition for your plant.
- Help your Plant to Conserve Energy – As many of you didn’t know, the hydrangea plant is directing some energy to the faded blossoms which is a waste. Therefore, if you deadhead flowers that are fading, you will enable your plant to direct all energy on other vital parts which are definitely a good idea.
Once you deadhead the plant, you will notice that all other vital parts of the plant will start to ‘’act up’’ in a good way.
- Prevent Bad Habits – In case you didn’t know, plants can establish some bad habits like seed formation. There are some cases of hydrangea plant where the plant is aggressively starting to produce seeds that are not that good for the overall health of the plant.
And, if you do decent deadheading of the plant, you will prevent this and enable your plant to be healthier and more beautiful.
We have explained what deadheading is, the best time to do it and the best methods to apply. You also had the chance to read about the difference between deadheading and pruning, since they often get mixed up by people. We threw in a few interesting facts that a hydrangea lover will surely enjoy reading.
We hope this article gave you some insight and knowledge on hydrangeas, so you could get a better understanding of this flower.