I’m deadheading my roses today, in the rain. Deadheading, or the act of removing spent blossoms, is essential for two reasons. First, it interrupts the plant’s reproductive cycle, and tricks the rose into growing more flowers; next, it reduces the number of insects that visit the garden in order to dine on damp, decaying rose petals. Grab an umbrella, and I’ll show you how to handle this deadheading business like a pro.
There are three things in my deadheading-arsenal: heavy, thorn-proof gloves, sharp hand-pruners, and a deep, woven basket. If you are worried about spreading disease among your roses, you will want to add two additional items: a bottle of rubbing alcohol and a cloth. This way, you can sterilize the pruning-blade before moving from one shrub to another.
The Five-Leaflet Rule: Hold the dead blossom in one hand, and with the other, trace down the stem until you see a leaf that exhibits five leaflets. Cut just above this leaflet, say, a quarter of an inch. This is the point from which a new, flowering stem will emerge. Drop the severed stem into your basket. (I like to chop long, severed stems into smallish pieces for faster decomposition in my compost bin.)
Of course, if you are dealing with a cluster of blossoms on a single stem, and only a few of the flowers have faded, just cut the dead ones off. When the last blossom has withered, cut the stem down to the five-leaflet point.
While you are at it, trim off any dead wood from the bush, and also remove thin or criss-crossing canes. This will allow more light and air to reach inside the plant, and further promote the rose’s good health and decorative value.
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