Deadheading, the process of removing spent blooms, is a critical part of rose care. This easy task encourages more blooms by removing the spent or withered flowers.
If a gardener neglects to deadhead their roses, one of two things will happen depending on whether or not the bloom was pollinated. If the bloom has been pollinated, a hip will develop below the flower and produce seeds. The hip produces a hormone that prevents bud formation. The rose will have done its job and will wait for another season to bloom. If the bloom has not been pollinated, the rose will wither, dry up, and the bloom will fall off. If the rose is a repeat-bloomer, new shoots will be produced so new flowers will develop and perhaps be pollinated before the season ends.
When deadheading your roses, the traditional method is to prune the spent bloom back to a five-leaflet leaf, cutting at an angle just above a leaflet that is facing outward.
If you wish to encourage fewer but larger blooms, cut the stem lower on the bush. This will also strengthen the canes.
To reduce the size of the plant while deadheading, cut back to an acceptable height but be sure to leave some foliage on the canes. Blooms will take a little longer to grow back but the beautiful new shape will be worth it!
If you simply want to remove a faded flower, snap the flower off at the base of the bloom. This is recommended especially after the first flush in the spring or on newly planted roses.
While deadheading, be sure to leave as much foliage as you can. Plants use foliage to turn sunlight into food. The more food your rose can get, the more flowers it will produce! Foliage also results in healthy canes, more basal breaks (the canes that come from the base to produce the main structure of the plant), and better blooms.
Want bigger blooms? Remember that pinching or snapping off the bloom will result in smaller flowers as the plant sends new shoots from the leaves at the top. But if you disbud shoots that are produced from leaves at the top of the cane, you will get larger flowers as the plant will produce new shoots from farther down the cane. Don’t be afraid to sacrifice those smaller buds for larger blooms!