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Gardening in the Rainy Zone.
Deadhead or not to Deadhead
Posted: Jul-26-2004 at 5:17pm
And my question is, which flowers do I leave to go to seed for the birds? There are some plants that would delight in taking over the garden and I'm sure some plant seeds that the birds won't eat(?). So how do I decide which to deadhead and which not? And if this question has been asked before, please direct me to where I might find the answers.
Yes Debbie, I still want to go through my garden with my nippers! But I await your or anyone elses answers.
Posted: Jul-26-2004 at 7:52pm
I cannot say exactly what to deadhead or not but I can say what I have done in the past. Deadheading in my garden is done all summer but come the last few months of bloom I leave the seeds to come on. The echinacia is great for the birds, they love the seed heads, same with torch tithonia (sp?). I am sure someone has more answers for you though.
Posted: Jul-26-2004 at 11:08pm
Hmmmm, I think it depends on your goals, your flowers, who your birdies are and what seeds they eat.
No point deadheading a flower that won't rebloom, no matter how much you deadhead, but that doesn't necessarily mean the seeds will be eaten by your garden's birds. I read somewhere that finches will eat gayfeather Liatris spicata, seeds but I've never seen finches eating them in my garden. Maybe finches in another part of the country will. Or maybe I just have finicky finches. LOL
If deadheading promotes more blooms, which we enjoy, don't feel guilty about promoting more blooms because they will feed butterflies, bees and other winged garden visitors. It's trade-off - feed butterflies and their kin or feed the birds. So maybe you can try my technique - deadhead a few for more blooms to provide for the nectar feeders and leave the others to go to seed for seed-eating birds. Now how's that for a compromise?
It might be easier for you to tell us which flowers you have for us to suggest which to let go to seed then to give a laundry list of flowers, perhaps not including the ones you want to know about.
I'm so tired, I really shouldn't be attempting to answer a gardening question . . . I'm sure to find holes in my answer tomorrow. Oh, well!
Posted: Jul-27-2004 at 8:14am
I deadhead all summer long but when September/October rolls around, I leave the seedheads on all the plants. Mostly what I deadhead are rudbeckia, stella d'oro daylilies, mums, kniphofia, canna, dahlia etc. I leave the seedheads on the lillies because I like the way they look.
Good answer, Lisa, even if you were half asleep!
Posted: Jul-27-2004 at 10:55am
Thanks, Jeanne! In the morning light, I didn't do too badly. Your answer is good, too. I read somewhere that when a flower goes to seed, it sends a signal to shut down, winter is coming. So deadheading per Jeanne's suggestion may help flowers go dormant.
The only exception I can think of is for prolific self-seeders. Deadheading these would help control how many babies you get the following year(s). Fireweed, Epilobium angustifolium, is one that would fit in this category. The flowers provide a rich nectar source for hummingbirds, butterflies, moths and bees. The honey made from fireweed flowers is quite the treat apparently - I saw fireweed honey for an unbelievable price at a country store. I recall reading that their fluffy seed heads are used by birds for nesting material but I can't find my notes to confirm that so take this bit of info with a grain of salt. I did find notes that suggest cutting this one down after flowering and before seed set would help control seeding.
Your local Audobon Society may be a good resource for you, Phlox. It would hopefully provide good local information. I have found that national information is sometimes misleading; it often seems geared to birds of the Eastern half of the US more than PNW native birds.
In the meantime, I'll keep hunting through my resources to see if I have anything more to add. A list of flowers you are wondering about would be helpful, Phlox!
Gardening in Sunset Zone 6, USDA Zone 8.
Posted: Jul-27-2004 at 10:11pm
Even though she lives in and writes about Ohio, a good source for advice on deadheading is Tracy DiSabato-Aust who wrote "The Well-Tended Perennial Garden". It was recommended to me when I asked for a book that would answer the question: It grew, Now what do I do?
Posted: Jul-28-2004 at 12:05am
Thank you all for your answers, sounds like you have the same thinking caps on. And it sounds like I have already started doing just what you-all have suggested.
I have been deadheading the ones I think will seed to abundently and the ones I have had for a few years that I knew would bloom again.
I think my biggest problem was cutting everything back in Sept. and Oct. instead of leaving them for spring. I think it will help me to leave as many as I can so I can see if there would be any that would be good for dry arrangements.
Thanks for the Audobon suggestion Lisa and all your other great suggestions......Thank you all!
Posted: Aug-02-2004 at 7:32pm
The plant that causes me the most headache by leaving the dead stalks is Liatris. Way too many germinations the next spring. It's a cool looking stalk though. I've kept one plant for now. In fact, I'm about a week behind on cutting the stalks.
Posted: Aug-04-2004 at 10:29pm
M.D I am glad you said that about liatris, I want way to many plants of everything! The one that always produced way to many plants for me was echinacia. Of course I don't mind and I sold most of them which is what I plan to do here but it is amazing where the buggers come up at. I am wondering about the reseeding ability of Missouri Primrose (oenothera). I love the plant and its fragrance but a woman from tx said they are all over the place there.