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Triple Your Rose Blooms This Summer with This Simple Trick

In the realm of gardening, deadheading is one of everyone’s least favorite activities. It’s right up there with weeding. When it comes to roses, deadheading often falls in the realm of “Dang it, I knew I forgot to do something” garden tasks.  

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a novice, understanding the importance of deadheading can make a huge difference in the health, vigor, and beauty of your rose bushes.

Once you understand the why, when and how, you’ll see why it’s so important and rarely forget to do it. However, there is a scenario in which you might not want to deadhead roses, and we’ll discuss why that’s important, too.

The Importance of Deadheading Roses

Roses, renowned for their exquisite blooms and heady fragrance, are the crown jewels of many flower gardens. However, to keep them blooming profusely throughout the season and encourage new growth, deadheading becomes a non-negotiable task. You have to do it.

Deadheading is essentially the removal of spent flowers from the plant.

When you deadhead a plant, you’re redirecting the plant’s energy and resources away from seed production and toward producing more flowers, thereby promoting continuous blooming. You’re basically thwarting every plant’s desire to bloom, drop seeds and call it quits for the season.

If you need more convincing, here are all the reasons why you should be deadheading your roses.

1. Encourages Reblooming

New leaves and tiny buds on a stem that was deadheaded.

One of the primary reasons for deadheading roses is that it tells the plant to produce more flowers. And who doesn’t want more roses?

When you remove spent blooms, you prevent the formation of rosehips (these are the seed pods). This signals to the plant that, nope, your job isn’t done here; you need to continue producing flowers. This ends up giving you a prolonged blooming period with an abundance of glorious roses.

Deadheading is particularly beneficial for repeat-bloomers like hybrid tea roses, floribundas, and many modern shrub roses like Knock-Outs.

2. Improves Aesthetic Appeal

Yeah, this thing is a hot mess.

Look, I’m just going to say it: a well-maintained rose bush with regularly deadheaded blooms looks so much neater and more attractive in the garden. Roses that have bloomed without being deadheaded tend to look scraggly and messy. It’s not a great look among all of your other summer-blooming flowers.

3. Prevents Disease

Deadheading can also contribute to the overall health of your roses by reducing the risk of disease. Spent flowers left on the plant can become breeding grounds for pests and fungal diseases, especially if you get a hot, rainy season.

Properly pruned and deadheaded, this rose bush has much better air circulation and gets more light into the interior.

By deadheading regularly, you’re improving air circulation and allowing more light into the heart of the plant. Both of these reduce the likelihood of common problems such as powdery mildew or botrytis blight taking hold.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of dead rose bushes.

How to Deadhead Roses

Deadheading roses is pretty straightforward and is just like it sounds. When done correctly, you can get some pretty impressive results as the plant reblooms.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you on your way to becoming a rose-gardening master:

Step 1: Gather Your Tools

Before you begin, gather your tools: a pair of sharp pruning shears or scissors (You did remember to sterilize them, right?) and a bucket or basket for collecting the dead flowers. Use sharp tools to make clean cuts; this minimizes damage to the plant.

You’ll also want a thick pair of gloves to protect your hands. They make special rose-gardening gloves that are more like a gauntlet to protect your forearm from all those thorns, but these are only necessary if you have a large, bushy plant.

Step 2: Identify Spent Flowers

Oof, yeah, I need to do a better job of deadheading.

Inspect your rose bush regularly, ideally every few days during the blooming season. Look for flowers that have faded, lost their vibrant color, or begun to wilt. These are the blooms that are ready to be deadheaded.

Step 3: Locate the Node

Identify a node (the point where a leaf or branch attaches to the stem) that is facing outward and has at least five leaflets. This node is where the new flower bud will emerge after deadheading.

Step 4: Make the Cut

You want to cut at a 45-degree angle, about 1/4 inch above the node. By cutting close to the node, you aren’t leaving a long piece of stem to rot and invite disease.

Step 5: Dispose of Spent Flowers

Collect the deadheaded flowers and compost them. If they show signs of disease, it’s best to throw them out. You don’t want to introduce anything into your garden via infected compost.

Step 6: Wash, Rinse, Repeat

You’ll want to continue deadheading throughout the blooming season to encourage nonstop flower production. As new blooms appear and the old ones fade, repeat the deadheading process to keep your rose bushes healthy and blooming all summer long.

Don’t forget to stop and smell them occasionally.

When Not to Deadhead Roses

While deadheading is generally beneficial for most rose varieties, there is a situation where you might want to skip this practice – when you want rosehips.

Growing Rosehips

Rosehips form after the flower has finished blooming, and these seed pods can be enjoyed by humans and wildlife alike. (And really, there are so many excellent reasons to collect rosehips at the end of the season.) If you’re growing roses with the goal of sipping rosehip tea from your garden this winter, then deadheading isn’t the way to go.

Likewise, rosehips can be a source of food for birds and other animals during the colder months of the year.

By deadheading flowers, you’re removing that food source from your garden.

If you want bountiful rosehips, then skip the deadheading and tidy up your rosebush without removing the spent bloom. (You can pull the dead and faded petals off.)

But, you can have the best of both worlds, more blooms and rosehips, too, by deadheading only once or twice during the blooming season. However, if you continue too long into the season, you may end up with little to no rosehips.

And that’s all there is to it.

Deadheading roses isn’t just another chore to add to your gardening list but an important task that makes a summer of continuously blooming roses possible. And who wouldn’t love that?

So, the next time you stroll through your garden and stop to smell the roses, don’t forget to check to see if any need to be deadheaded.  

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Tracey Besemer

Hey there, my name is Tracey. I’m the editor-in-chief here at Rural Sprout.

Many of our readers already know me from our popular Sunday newsletters. (You are signed up for our newsletters, right?) Each Sunday, I send a friendly missive from my neck of the woods in Pennsylvania. It’s a bit like sitting on the front porch with a friend, discussing our gardens over a cup of tea.

Originally from upstate NY, I’m now an honorary Pennsylvanian, having lived here for the past 18 years.

I grew up spending weekends on my dad’s off-the-grid homestead, where I spent much of my childhood roaming the woods and getting my hands dirty.

I learned how to do things most little kids haven’t done in over a century.

Whether it was pressing apples in the fall for homemade cider, trudging through the early spring snows of upstate NY to tap trees for maple syrup, or canning everything that grew in the garden in the summer - there were always new adventures with each season.

As an adult, I continue to draw on the skills I learned as a kid. I love my Wi-Fi and knowing pizza is only a phone call away. And I’m okay with never revisiting the adventure that is using an outhouse in the middle of January.

These days, I tend to be almost a homesteader.

I take an eclectic approach to homesteading, utilizing modern convenience where I want and choosing the rustic ways of my childhood as they suit me.

I’m a firm believer in self-sufficiency, no matter where you live, and the power and pride that comes from doing something for yourself.

I’ve always had a garden, even when the only space available was the roof of my apartment building. I’ve been knitting since age seven, and I spin and dye my own wool as well. If you can ferment it, it’s probably in my pantry or on my kitchen counter. And I can’t go more than a few days without a trip into the woods looking for mushrooms, edible plants, or the sound of the wind in the trees.

You can follow my personal (crazy) homesteading adventures on Almost a Homesteader and Instagram as @aahomesteader.

Peace, love, and dirt under your nails,