Now that so many plants are blooming, gardeners have a decision to make: Should you remove (deadhead) the spent blooms on your perennial flowers, or should you let your flowers set seed so they will self-sow?
Some perennials are short-lived and depend on reseeding for their continued survival. Some longer-lived perennials also reseed readily. Dealing with reseeding perennials can be a maintenance nightmare or it can be a bonus — free plants!
How you approach this decision depends on your objectives for your garden. When you deadhead your perennial flowers, you keep your beds tidy by removing the dead flowers. Some plants will rebloom after deadheading (for example, salvias, Veronicas, flax, coralbells, coreopsis, blanket flowers, lavenders).
Removing spent flowers can increase a plant’s vigor and allow the plant to store energy for the next year. During the growing season, you can spend a substantial amount of time removing faded flowers, although this task can be less labor-intensive if you deadhead on a regular basis.
By allowing some perennial flowers to reseed, you will save the labor you would ordinarily spend deadheading, and may be rewarded with new plants. You can leave these volunteers to flourish where they germinated, transplant them to another area of your yard or dig them up and give them to friends. Jupiter’s Beard, chocolate flower and black-eyed Susan will reseed readily. In addition, leaving seed heads on your plants can also provide winter interest and provide food for birds and wildlife.
When deciding whether to let your perennials reseed, consider the following caveats. If you have multiple species of the same plant growing together, any new volunteers could be a mix of the two species. If you want to encourage reseeding of a particular species, place different varieties of that species well apart from each other. Also, some species may not hold the color of the parent plant (for example, poppy, foxglove, columbine, flax, lupine). Most importantly, some plants can be garden thugs if allowed to reseed (some salvias, some catmints, Obedient Plant), so be sure to carefully research varieties of a given plant before making the decision to allow it to reseed.
Whether you opt for deadheading (for neatness and rebloom) or reseeding (for additional flowers), you have a win-win situation for your landscape!
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