Blooming through summer is serious work.

So many of the pretty warm season annuals planted last spring are now at their best. Sweet alyssum, lobelia, verbena, moss rose and busy Lizzy never stop blooming, and only get more colorful as they grow through the season until they get replaced by cool season annuals in autumn. (It is unfortunate that busy Lizzy, which had been a standard warm season annual for so many years has become less available due to disease.) However, French marigold, petunia, floss flower, cosmos, statice, pincushion flower (scabbiosa) and zinnia need a bit of attention to perform as well that long.

These few warm season annuals can get tired of blooming if not ‘deadheaded’ (groomed of deteriorating flowers). Deadheading not only keeps plants looking a bit neater, but also prevents the diversion of resources needed for continued bloom into the generation of seed. As far as these blooming plants are concerned, seeding for the next generation is their priority anyway. As long as they are not allowed to set seed, they will continue to try, by producing more flowers to replace those that fade and get removed without setting seed.

Cosmos, statice and pincushion flower can continue to perform adequately without deadheading. The main advantage of deadheading these annuals is the removal of fading flowers. (There probably will not be much left for cosmos.) Many people actually prefer to leave fading cosmos flowers to disperse their seed for the following year.

Petunia is perhaps one of the more demanding of warm season annuals. It often needs to be clipped back in the middle of the season, right when it is expected to bloom the most. The best way to avoid serious pruning at one time it to keep plants snipped back lightly but continually as they grow, so that they can not develop the awkwardly long and weirdly jointed stems that eventually stop blooming. Short stems that stay close to the roots are the healthiest and most productive.

The various types of cockscomb are odd warm season annuals that become available halfway through summer, just in time to add color if some of the annuals planted earlier in spring are not performing adequately, or are finishing early. Of course, all of the other warm season annuals will still be available in nurseries until it is time for cool season annuals next autumn.


10 thoughts on “Summer Annuals Are Grateful For Deadheading

  1. Petunias have come a long way over the past 20 years. I haven’t bought Petunias since the early 1980’s when the yellow ‘Summer Sun’ came out until this spring. I bought a couple of large pots to divide and put in a friend’s planters. I am not sure of the cultivar name, but I bought several of the Wax Begonias that get HUGE for his planters as well. They look spectacular and don’t need to be deadheaded for continuous bloom. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Are they dragon wing begonia? Those are rad. I dislike almost all modern cultivars, but that one really looks sharp, as do several of the modern begonias.


      1. No, these are a wax begonias (B. semperflorens ?). The ones with the waxy roundish leaves for bedding plants. I went to the greenhouse today and she still has quite a few. I was very tempted to bring some home for my bed. Since they are still in small pots they were still on the small side.

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  2. I always have a hard time keeping petunias looking good for long. But I do love all those crazy colors and patterns hybridizers have come up with. So fun! I guess that means it’s worth to keep trying. 🙂

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    1. As much as I dislike modern cultivars, the modern petunias are easier to maintain than old cultivars were. They are denser, and not so reliant on pinching, trimming and deadheading. (I still prefer the old types though.)

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      1. Well, some of the modern cultivars are difficult to distinguish from the older sorts, although the differences become more apparent as they mature. You know though, I am still none too keen on Calibrachoas. I know they perform very well with less maintenance than other warm season annuals. They just look a bit too synthetic to me.

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