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How can I Deadhead Roses?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2016
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It is very easy to deadhead roses, and this act of basic rose maintenance will develop stronger, more attractive rosebushes. Deadheading is recommended for all roses, although it should not be performed when there is a risk of frost in the near future, as the plant may not be able to cope with the cold weather if it has been recently deadheaded. In order to deadhead roses, you will need a pair of thick gardening gloves to protect your hands from thorns, and a set of stout, sharp shears.

The process of deadheading is simple. It involves removing spent and fading blooms before they get a chance to develop into fruit. In everblooming roses, this stimulates the plant to produce more blooms, since it thinks that it has not been able to reproduce. In all roses, deadheading helps the plant conserve energy for the winter, by dedicating energy into leaf production rather than fruiting, and it helps roses develop an even, healthy growth habit.

To deadhead roses, start by identifying a dead or dying flower on the bush. Moving down the stem from the flower, look for the first group of five leaflets. You will probably pass at least one cluster of three leaflets along the way. Make a diagonal cut in the stem just above the five leaflet bunch, and repeat the process until all of the dead roses have been removed.

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Some people prefer to cut back to three leaflet groups, especially with young roses, because roses are vulnerable to overpruning. In roses where flowers grow in clusters, like tea roses, some people just cut away the base of the cluster, cutting further back on the cane at the end of the blooming season. A few rose gardeners try to preserve more of the cane by deadheading directly below the base of the bloom, a technique which can stimulate the production of more blooms, although it tends to generate a weaker cane structure in the long term.

If you are going to deadhead roses with the goal of promoting more blooms, you may want to cut back to the three leaflet point, and cut further down the cane later in the year. Roses take longer to produce new flowers when they are pruned more radically, so cutting to three leaflets will encourage the plant to produce more flowers more quickly. You should also provide roses with lots of fertilizer to promote growth after deadheading, unless you are going to deadhead roses in preparation for the winter, in which case the plant should be allowed to go dormant, as new growth can be damaged by cold winter weather.

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