How To Deadhead Roses For Keeping Bushes Blooming All Season Long

Deadheading is cutting off old blooms. Here’s how to do it so your roses put out healthy new growth and keep the blossoms coming all season long.

While antique varieties of roses make one spectacular display each year, most modern roses are bred to bloom and bloom and bloom. With some pretty easy care, they will provide healthy flowers from the start of spring through the last warm days of autumn.

The year’s first task to ensure a healthy rose bush is winter-time pruning. This is when you have the chance to remove dead or diseased stems (called canes), refine the shape of the bush, and protect the bush from snow or frost. All this helps set the stage for a big show in spring!

To ensure your roses keep on blooming after their April and May display, learn the art of “dead-heading.” It simply means you need to attend to the regular removal of wilted or spent blooms.

deadheading roses

The benefits of deadheading are many:

  • Preventing old blooms from forming seed-pods (hips)
  • Removing potential homes for harmful insects
  • Reducing the risk of mildew, rust, or disease
  • Encouraging new growth and buds
  • Restoring the ideal shape of the bush
  • Keeping the garden looking clean and neat

As flowers fade and die back, rose hips will form on every stem if permitted. This is simply the rose’s way of trying to propagate itself; as with other flowering plants, a seed pod is the result of pollination. Some people value rose hips as a source of certain vitamins, and hips are often used for herbal teas. However, not all rose hips are ideal for this purpose and a bush that is putting its energy into making seed pods is losing the energy it needs to make more flowers.

How to Deadhead Your Roses

Deadheading Roses

  1. Start by gathering what you will need: sturdy gloves, sharp clippers, and a container to collect the trimmings.
  2. Look at the cane below the dead flower and find a leaf stem with five healthy leaves and a small bud where the stem meets the cane. (Smaller three-leaf stems are too close to the flower and won’t provide new growth.)
  3. If needed, choose a lower bud that faces in the direction you want the new growth to follow. This is your chance to maintain the proper shape for the bush.
  4. Cut at a slight angle, about 1/4 inch above the bud, and place the cut stem in your container (don’t let leaves or dead flowers collect on the ground as this will invite insects and mold).

That’s all there is to it! Even if you love to cut prime-quality roses to enjoy in your home, a few will remain in the garden. Keep an eye on these blooms as you water and fertilize during the season the sooner you remove an old bloom, the sooner your bush will push out new growth to replace it. As mentioned above, leaving old flowers on their stems will make the bush put its energy into forming seed pods, not new flowers.

Finally, as you tidy up each rose bush, look for crossing canes, signs of insect damage, or places where a cane may be dying back. All of these give you the chance to deal with them promptly and keep your roses healthy, productive, and beautiful well into fall.

~ Peggy DeMouthe