How to Deadhead Coneflowers in 5 Simple Steps
Are you trying to deadhead your coneflowers this season, but aren't quite sure where to start? Deadheading is fairly straightforward, but can take a bit of practice. In this article, gardening expert Jill Drago takes you through five simple steps for deadheading your echinacea this season!
Is your garden jam packed with bright and happy coneflowers? In the summertime these perennial beauties fill gardens with colorful daisy-like flowers that are not only beautiful but attract a variety of birds and other pollinators to your gardens. Coneflowers are easy to care for, requiring very little from you if they are grown in the right conditions.
These bright and beautiful flowers are long lasting, however when they begin to fade it can be overwhelming. Coneflowers are robust bloomers and typically are seen grown in large swaths. No one wants their summer garden to look fried or sad. Insert deadheading here. This simple gardening practice will tidy your garden up in no time while also preventing the seeds from dropping all over your garden.
Let’s go over some very simple steps on how to make deadheading your coneflowers easy and manageable. Your garden will be looking fresh again in no time. You will also learn why deadheading your coneflowers may not be the right thing for your garden. Let’s dig in!
Coneflowers are extremely popular herbaceous perennials. They are in the same family as daisies, and have similar looking flowers that are much more colorful and bright. They are native to the United States making them an excellent choice for low-maintenance perennial gardens where you are desiring dependable plants that will come back year after year.
Coneflowers are hardy from zones 3-8, and thrive in gardens situated in the full sun. These perennials have now been hybridized to feature a variety of different heights and colors, making it the perfect plant for so many garden spaces.
Deadheading is different than pruning. It’s a simple garden task where you remove spent flowers from your otherwise thriving plants. Deadheading is almost a trick to ensure your coneflowers are producing new flowers.
Plants have a goal of producing seeds which will eventually grow into more plants. The removal of these spent flowers will encourage new floral growth and sometimes the growth of new foliage throughout the growing season.
Many times if you do not deadhead your perennials they will stop producing new blooms. This is because the plant will have gone through its cycle and produced seeds for this growing season.
Once the flowers on the plant have gone to seed the coneflower will begin to focus on producing strong leaves which will produce food to strengthen the roots making for a stronger plant overall.
Deadheading Pros & Cons
It is important to keep in mind that deadheading your coneflowers is not a mandatory garden chore. That being said, I do it in most areas of my garden. I also know plenty of people who choose to let their coneflowers fly free and they are equally as beautiful.
- Deadheading will prevent re-seeding.
- It extends the flower blooming period.
- Helps show off fresh blooms.
- Prevents fungal infections from spreading.
- Spent flowers will feed the birds.
- If ignored, they will self-seed.
- May produce smaller flowers.
- Can impact plant maturity rate.
When to Deadhead
Depending on where you live, coneflowers begin to bloom in June. This bloom period can last into October if conditions are right. These flowering perennials are made up of many singular flowers, each of these flowers can last for a few weeks.
Now, at what point you decided to deadhead is totally up to you and what your garden aesthetic is. The timing will also be different depending on how much water and sunlight your coneflowers are receiving.
I personally wait to deadhead my coneflowers until the petals have lost all of their color and turned brown. I have plenty of coneflowers in my garden, and I do not have a real need to replenish the blooms too quickly.
Now that you know a bit more about echinacea, it’s time to start deadheading spent blooms. Follow the steps below for better blooming plants, all season long!
Step 1:Get Your Tools Ready
Coneflowers are very easy to deadhead. The stems are thicker than many herbaceous perennials and I do find that it is easier for me to use garden snips or even garden scissors than it is to use my fingers to remove the spent blooms.
Aside from your snips you will want a bucket to collect the plant debris. Even though coneflower is not known to irritate your skin, having garden gloves on hand is always a good idea.
Wiping your snips down with rubbing alcohol or diluted bleach is recommended before you get cutting. This will help to eliminate any lingering insects or fungal spores, and will help keep your coneflowers nice and healthy.
Choose your cleaning method and wipe down the blades of your snips. Allow to dry completely before using. If you are in a pinch, rubbing alcohol is your best option.
Step 2: Identify Spent Blooms
If you are getting ready to deadhead your coneflowers then it is likely that you have noticed some fading flowers on your plants. Faded coneflowers take on a darker color, the petals will darken and brown and the seeds become a bit more bold and black.
You will begin to notice the seeds on the seed head become much more visible as the flower fades. Once the seeds have dropped to the ground it will look a bit like a tiny sunflower after the seeds have been removed, hollow where the seeds used to be. If your flowers are beginning to look like this, it is time to get snipping!
Before you cut anything, look at the stem of your plant and find a spot where leaves are growing from. Oftentimes there will be a new bud growing here. You want to make sure not to cut that off! This will look like a tightly curled up flower. It will likely be green and should appear to be full of life.
Step 3: Make the Cut
Once you have some spent flowers you will want to make a nice clean cut just below the spent flower. Now unless you are okay with your perennials looking like they just got a buzz cut you will not want to stop here.
Move your fingers down the stem until you locate those new buds we discussed earlier. Cut the stem just above these new buds. This will give your coneflower a more natural look while removing the bare stem.
If the stem you are working on does not have any new flower buds on it, make a cut above a pair of leaves that is close in height to the rest of the plant. This will maintain the shape of your plant and keep it looking attractive even if it is done producing flowers for the time being.
You can save the snipped seed heads if you would like to. You can throw them in an area where you may want more coneflowers if the seeds remain on the seedhead. Or you can put them out in a wooded area for critters to munch on.
Step 4: Repeat as Needed
Many coneflower varieties will rebloom even if you do not deadhead them. However, if you are in the habit of deadheading your coneflowers you can likely do it multiple times per season.
You do not need to make deadheading a large job. If you keep your snips with you while you are out in your garden, it will be easy enough to deadhead a few of your spent flowers every day.
In fact, splitting the work up this way will prevent your flowers from fully going to seed and potentially self sewing in your garden. Because you are deadheading and promoting new blooms you will need to continue to deadhead throughout the season.
If you choose to hold off and make your deadheading a once or twice a season job you may notice some of your coneflowers going completely to seed. This is a great option if your coneflowers are grown in a whimsical garden and you are happy to welcome new coneflower plants next year.
Step 5: (Optional) Ignore Deadheading
Deadheading your coneflowers is not required. Many varieties will rebloom without being deadheaded. There are many benefits to leaving the seed heads on your plants.
First, the seeds can feed birds and other small animals. This is especially important in the fall when the animals are really searching for something to eat.
Depending on where you have your coneflowers growing, you may want to allow your plants to self seed. Some of the newer varieties may not self seed as readily as the older varieties.
You can allow the seeds to drop off of the seed head, and wait until the spring to see if you have any new plants. This is a great inexpensive way to grow your coneflower collection.
If you choose to ignore deadheading, you can also collect seeds yourself. This will allow you to plant new coneflower seeds next season as the winter thaws and spring approaches.
Another time where deadheading is not worth your time is the fall. At this point the plant has already started storing its energy in other parts of the plant and has abandoned making flowers. Save your time and wait until the plant has taken on fall color and cut the entire plant to within a few inches of the ground.
Post Deadheading Care Tips
One of the reasons coneflowers are so loved is that they are extremely easy to take care of. Once you have combed through your coneflowers and removed the spent blossoms, there are a few different things you can do.
It’s a good idea to give your freshly deadheaded coneflowers a good soak. If you deadheaded in the morning, it’s the perfect time to make sure you water them thoroughly.
Compost Spent Blooms
You can compost spent coneflower blooms. They make great composting material, so why not make use of the spent blooms rather than just tossing them away.
Allow Them to Dry Thoroughly
Sun and wind can wick water right out of the fresh wound of a coneflower. Fresh wounds are also entry points for garden pests. This is why watering in the morning is best, as it will allow time for the plant to dry out through the heat of the day.
Skip Fertilizing (For Now)
Because your plant has just gone through the stress of having flowers removed, you should skip the fertilizer for now. If you fertilize after fresh wounds have been cut, you’ll risk damaging your plant.
While deadheading a large swath of coneflowers can appear to be daunting from afar. Try to consider it a meditative task, and just relax and know that whatever you get done is great, and whatever you don’t will be just fine! Because these perennials love full sun, I would suggest deadheading either in the early morning or at dusk so you don’t get too hot.