How & When to Dead Head Roses

Who does not enjoy the beauty of a rose? And would not want to see the blooms more frequently?

On repeat and continual flowering roses you can encourage re-bloom by removing the spent or withered flower. This is called dead-heading.

If you do not dead-head roses one of two things happen. While we appreciate the beauty of the flower, the rose is really there to help in the transfer of pollen from one plant to another. If the bloom is pollinated a hip will develop below the flower and produce seeds. The hip in turn will produce a hormone that will inhibit any more bud formation, the rose will have done its job and wait for another season to bloom.

If the flower was not pollinated the rose will wither, the tip of the stem will dry up and the bloom falls off. Most of the time if the rose is a repeat bloomer new shoots will start being produced by the plant so new flowers will develop and perhaps be pollinated before the season ends.

There are many ways to dead-head (summer prune), how you tackle the task is up to the look you want to achieve in the garden. The traditional method is to prune down to a "five leaf-set", cutting at an angle just above a leaf-set facing outward. Easy enough if the rose produces them, but some do not! By electing to cut the stem lower on the bush you will encourage fewer but larger blooms, the plant concentrating on producing foliage. Another consideration in cutting the stem lower is the strength of the cane you are removing the spent flower from. You want the new cane that develops to be able to support the bloom produced, so cutting lower on the plant or cutting the cane out completely would be in order. If the plant is larger than you would like, cutting it back to an acceptable height but leaving some foliage on the canes will solve the problem. It may take a little longer to produce some bloom but the affect in the garden may be more pleasing to the eye.

Another method used by some is to just snap the flowers off at the base of the bloom (peduncle) especially after the first flush in the spring or for a newly planted rose. Keep in mind, a bush with more foliage will result in healthy canes, basal breaks (the main stems of a rose. These are the canes that come out of the base of the plant and form the main structure of the plant), and better blooms. Leaves are what the plant uses to turn sunlight into food, more food means more flowers. Fertilizing will not do any good without foliage because it is through photosynthesis that the plant manufactures food. By pinching or snapping off the bloom it will then send new shoots from the leaves near the top of the bush, producing smaller flowers. If larger flowers are desired then you will want to disbud the shoots that are produced from the leaves at the top of the cane, causing the cane to produce new shoots from father down that will develop into larger canes and bigger blooms.