Blanket Flower Deadheading: How And When To Deadhead Blanket Flowers
By: Mary Ellen Ellis
The pretty blanket flower is a native North American wildflower that has become a popular perennial. In the same group as sunflowers, the blooms are daisy-like with striking stripes of red, orange, and yellow. Knowing if, how, and when to deadhead blanket flowers is key to keeping up these otherwise very easy-to-grow perennials.
Do Blanket Flowers Need to Be Deadheaded?
The simplest answer is no. Removing blooms on blanket flower that are spent is not necessary to the survival or growth of the plant. The reason that people deadhead flowering plants is to keep the flowers going longer, to avoid seed production, and just to keep the plant looking nice and tidy.
For perennials like blanket flower, you can get all of these benefits from deadheading. Most importantly though, removing the spent blooms allows the plant to put more energy into additional growth, producing more flowers, and storing energy for next year. This is because when you remove the flowers, they don’t have to use that energy to make seeds.
A reason not to deadhead some perennials is to allow them to self-seed. Some flowers spread out and fill up areas of beds if you let the flowers stay on the plant to produce seeds – for instance, foxglove or hollyhock. However, blanket flower gets more benefits from deadheading than not.
When and How to Deadhead Blanket Flowers
Blanket flower deadheading isn’t necessary but is a good way to coax more flowers out of each plant, so it’s worth doing. And it’s easy. The timing is just after a bloom reaches its peak and starts to wilt and die.
You can simply pinch off the spent flowers or use garden shears or kitchen scissors. You can leave them on the ground to add nutrients to the soil, put the flowers in your compost pile, or rake them up with yard waste for disposal.
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A Guide to Deadheading Flowers in Your Garden
Keeping your garden and yard lush and full of beautiful blooms all season long may seem like a daunting chore, but I promise you. it's really not all that difficult. Even novice gardeners can quickly learn how to deadhead plants to encourage more growth and just about guarantee an extended blooming season.
PowerGear2™ Softgrip® Pruner
If you're wondering what is deadheading a plant and how does it keep your flowers blooming, read on.
In this article, you'll learn:
What Does It Mean to Deadhead Flowers?
Deadheading refers to simply removing the dead flower heads from your plants. If you're new to the world of gardening and wondering just how do you deadhead a flower, I've got good news for you. deadheading is easy! And, removing spent flowers has multiple benefits. Not only does the process clean up a plant's appearance, but it also controls the spread of seeds and encourages your flowers and plants to continue to grow thicker and fuller than before. If performed on a regular basis, this basic garden task doesn't require much time or thought. I like to deadhead plants while talking on the phone or watering the garden – I actually find it to be a relaxing experience (and rewarding, believe it or not. when I'm done and the end result is a crisp, clean, tapered and tailored garden, it was more than worth the time in the sun).
How to Deadhead Flowers
If you dread the process of keeping your flowers pruned and deadheaded, try not to think about the overwhelming task of doing it all at once. Instead, break your yard up into sections and do a little bit at a time. You may find the process enjoyable and peaceful. Whenever you have a few extra minutes, just head out to the garden to perform a bit of deadheading maintenance, once area at a time. I like to keep my Fiskars® SoftGrip® Micro-Tip® Pruning Snips, Fiskars® PowerGear2™ Pruner and a small bucket handy. When you're ready, just follow these steps:
1. Time your deadheading. You actually don't have to worry about timing when deadheading flowers. This garden chore can (and should) happen throughout the growing season, from spring to fall. You can deadhead flowers any time they begin to fade. This is easy to see in single flowers on single stems. Plants with multiple blooms on a stem, such as delphinium, begonias and salvia, should be deadheaded once 70 percent of the blooms have faded.
How often to deadhead depends on the specific plant and the weather. Towards the end of summer and into fall, you may want to allow certain plants the opportunity to go to seed. Some plants have attractive seed heads and provide food to wildlife in the cooler months.
2. Choose a deadhead cutting point.Choosing the point to deadhead may seem confusing. If you cut close to the bottom of the bloom, chances are you will be left with a dry and unattractive stem. Where to deadhead or prune a plant can change depending on the species. For a basic rule of thumb, deadhead your spent flowers and stems back to ¼ inch above a new lateral flower, lateral leaf or bud. This encourages new growth and healthy foliage.
3. Make the deadhead cut. Although some plants can simply be pinched, I like to use my Micro-Tip Snips to deadhead most plants. They give me the ability to quickly reach into a plant and make a clean, tidy cut with minimal damage to the plant.
Larger, woody stems, such as roses, may require a stronger tool. For these plants, I turn to my PowerGear2™ Pruners for clean, sharp cuts. Larger stems should be cut at a 45-degree angle. This reduces the risk of disease or damage.
4. Cleaning up quickly and easily.The main point of deadheading plants is to make your flower beds look amazing – so don't drop your spent blooms on the ground. It's just as easy to collect them in a small bucket for disposal in your compost pile.
5. Fertilize for continued growth. Deadheading flowers and pruning encourages new growth. Remember to keep a regular fertilizer schedule so your plants continue growing strong and healthy. Annuals are especially heavy feeders. Standard water-soluble fertilizers with balanced numbers will provide all the essentials your flowers need for continued blooming.
Why Do I Need to Deadhead My Flowers?
Flowering plants serve many purposes beyond simply brightening our landscapes with a rainbow of colors. A blossom's nectar and pollen provide forage to pollinators like bees, butterflies, beetles and birds. The plant itself may even provide a safe sanctuary and habitat for wildlife. And after your pretty blooms fade away, the fruits, berries and nuts that follow feed both wildlife and people.
The primary goal of a plant is to propagate. While we think of just the flowers as the reward for a well-cared for plant, the plant itself is playing an important role for future generations. The seeds that plants produce carry the genetic material that allows them to produce new generations year after year. So, once a plant has produced a round of successfully pollinated flowers, it begins to focus its resources on developing seeds. Both annuals and perennials put their energy into producing seeds to ensure the survival of their species.
From the plant's perspective, these seed containers – nuts, berries and fruits – hold the genetic material that allows the plant to produce progeny. So after your pretty plant has bloomed with a gorgeous round of flowers that's pollinated successfully, it then shifts its focus and resources toward developing those seeds. For food producing crops, this is most obvious. After all, isn't the goal to have luscious tomatoes, plump pumpkins, protein-rich sunflower seeds and sweet apples? But, when plants like petunias and roses stop blooming in early summer, it's time to eradicate the deadheads to re-invigorate your sweet plant and encourage it to flower again. And so the process of deadheading begins.
Flowers That Benefit from Deadheading
Not all flowers require deadheading. Peony, liatris and most bulbs will only produce one round of flowers per season. Most flowering vines, periwinkle and impatiens do not need deadheading. The annuals and perennials that respond well to deadheading and will reward you with a full flower all season long include several of my favorite bloomers. My deadheading flowers list includes:
- Marguerite daisy
- Hardy geraniums
- Blanket Flowers
- Bee balms
- Sweet peas
Deadheading Annuals vs. Perennials
Although many annuals and perennials can be deadheaded by just removing spent blooms, there are a few deadheading techniques that are best suited to perennials.
Cutting Back Perennials
A few mounding perennials, such as Coreopsis and Perennial Salvia, start declining in appearance no matter how often you deadhead. A hard pruning, also known as cutting back, can give plants a fresh start and keep your garden looking clean and tidy. I like to wait until after the majority of the blooms have faded to cut back my mounding perennials. The easiest way to cut back perennials is to use my PowerGear2™ Hedge Shears to cut the entire plant about 2 inches above the ground.
Pinching Back Perennials
Although you aren't technically deadheading plants, pinching back certain fall-blooming perennials during the growing season will encourage lush and full growth. Fall mums, for example, respond extremely well to pinching back. While it's technically called "pinching back," you're actually cutting the growing tips plus approximately 3 inches of growth. I like to give my mums three cuttings: in the spring when the plants are 8 to 10 inches tall, again at summer solstice and finally on the 4th of July. Once they bloom, regularly deadheading your mums will keep them looking beautiful. Other perennials benefitting from pinching back include common yarrow, cardinal flower and goldenrod.
Tips for Growing Gaillardia
Sunlight needs for Blanket Flower
Gaillardia plant likes full sun and it flowers best when it gets 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily. If you have a hot location and find that other flowers wilt from the heat, try growing Gaillardia.
It is very happy in a hot garden.
If you have a very hot location, gaillardia can handle some partial shade, but the flowers will get leggy and the plant will not flower as readily.
Moisture and Soil Requirements for Gaillardia
This pretty perennial is fairly drought resistant. Choose well draining soil that is loose and sandy. A neutral pH is best. Water in the first season to get the plant established but after this, the plant is easy care and requires little water.
Add organic matter such as compost at planting time and then early in the spring each year. Space plants about 12 inches apart.
Flowers and growing habit for Gaillardia
The gaillardia flower has very vibrant and bold colors in red, yellow and orange with a blanket like quilted look, from which it gets its common name. The flowers seemed to remind people of brightly colored Native American blankets and many started calling them Indian blanket flower.
The plant grows from about 15″ to a maximum height of 3 feet. Most plants are in the two foot range, which makes them perfect for the front of borders. Gaillardia forms a slowly spreading mound as it grows.
Gaillardia blanket flowers have an extended bloom time and will bloom for months on end throughout much of the gardening season, from early summer through to fall.
The ends of the petals of blanket flowers have a torn appearance. Some varieties have double petals. Most of the plants have a daisy like petal, but some have an unusual tube like petal that is very attractive.
To keep your plant flowering well all summer long, deadhead the plants regularly. The flowers are short lived, but will keep blooming as long as you keep on top of deadheading. (If you don’t like to deadhead, check out this post for plants that don’t need to be deadheaded.
Propagation of blanket flower is by division. root cuttings or seed. Divide established plants every 2-3 years in the spring or early fall. The gaillardia perennial is short lived, so division will keep them going in your garden for many years.
Growing gaillardia from seed is possible and unlike some other perennial seeds, they will flower the first year. However, gaillardia seeds from your existing plants will not grow true to the parent.
Cold Hardiness Zones
This pretty perennial is hardy in zones 3-9 and is very easy to overwinter. Cut back the clumps of gaillardia to about 6 inches in fall to be sure that they last through the winter months.
Be sure to check out my list of other cold hardy perennial plants here.
Uses for Gaillardia
Blanket flower is loved by cottage gardeners and those who like a meadow garden effect. It is attractive to bees, butterflies and other pollinators and is quite deer resistant.
The daisy like flowers are great for a cutting garden. Blanket flowers can easily be dried with borax to use in dried flower arrangements indoors.
Pests and problems
Be on the look out for aphids and leaf hoppers. The latter can spread a disease called aster yellows. Insecticidal soap will help with insects if you find them. Try to encourage natural predators such as ladybugs.
Companion plants for Gaillardia
Plant blanket flowers with Shasta daisies, echinacea, garden phlox and black eyed Susans. Taller plants that love the sun, such as foxgloves and hollyhocks will also look nice growing near gaillardia.
Ornamental grasses that love are sun lovers also look great with blanket flowers.
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Most of the blanket flower gaillardia plants that we grow in our gardens are the variety Gaillardia x grandiflora. Some are dwarf size and others are taller. Here are some popular varieties:
- Arizona Sun gaillardia – grows 6-12″ tall in full sun. Red Center with yellow outer petals
- Burgundy Blanket Flower – 24-36″ tall. Deep reddish burgundy color.
- Gaillardia Aristata – 2-4 feet tall with longer yellow tips.
- Gaillardia Sunset Poppy – double rose red petals dipped in yellow.
- Gaillardia Oranges and Lemons – tangerine orange centers with lemon yellow petals.
- Gaillardia Commotion Moxie – yellow tubular petals
Being such an easy care plant, gaillardia is often grown by beginning gardeners. Why not plant some of these in your garden this year?
Would you like a reminder of this post for the tips for growing gaillardia? Just pin this image to one of your Pinterest gardening boards. Be sure to also check out the video at the top of this post for lots of images showing many varieties of gaillardia in flower.
Q. Gaillardia aristata
Two years ago landscapers put in perennial garden with Gaillardia Goblin. They have been slow to start--almost looking dead by end of fall--plants laying on ground with a weak flower. This year was a wetter spring and one of the plants looks quite good but the other has a massive amount of green leafy plants spreading around the ground but no flowers. The leaf seems to resemble the outer leaves near the ground. The plant with the flower looks like a "regular plant" then with these same leafy plants coming up all around it also. Do these "go wild" and not flower--maybe just a weed coming where a plant used to be?