Sam Llewelyn said “In gardens, beauty is a by-product. The main business is sex and death.”
…And there couldn’t be a truer statement. When flowers bloom, a complex series of events has started to perpetuate their species. We gardeners get to enjoy the beautiful color displays and heady scents, which flowers are really sporting to attract pollinators. And what a joy it is to appreciate the blossoms!
Pollinators assist the flowers to produce seeds. Spent, old, and ugly blossoms are a step in the development of seeds. It’s at this point where gardeners interfere with this whole process by taking off the old bloom and frustrating the plant in its ultimate goal. They then must continue to bloom.
You can deadhead with your fingers and pinch off the old blossoms, or you can use scissors or small shears. Different flowers require different deadheading techniques, but to simplify things – cut the flower back to its nearest node – the spot down the stem where the next branch emerges. Make sure you remove the seed pod(s) associated with the flower.
If you would like to have seed production, just let the plants go.
Below is a list of annual flowers that do and do not require deadheading.