Grooming, training plants pays off for garden — and gardener

Published Jul 30, 2017 at 9:00am

Maintaining your garden is a continual chore; however, the more often it is done, the lighter the task.

Grooming your plants can prolong the bloom time or even help to get a second flowering out of many plants. Removing spent flowers (deadheading) and removing damaged or browning foliage keeps the garden tidy and keeps the gardener aware of any problems.

Keeping your plants clean also helps with disease and insect control. Grooming also stimulates new growth, including buds which will insure plentiful blooms.

Many flowers such as cosmos, zinnias, and dahlias, respond to grooming by producing more flowers. So, it’s not just about cleaning your plants; grooming and training will help you get the most from your plants and extend their peak performance period.  

Use scissors, clippers, shears or trimmers to remove spent blooms; insure your tools are sharp and clean before you start clipping. Some plants may look funny at first when you’re clipping them; but new growth will soon appear and your plants will thank you! There are a few different ways to groom plants. The method depends on the plant and the reasons for cutting it back.

Individual Flowers:

Plants that bloom with individual short flowers such as hollyhocks or balloon flowers can benefit from just snipping off each flower pod as it fades.

This helps the plant bloom longer. After the flowers along the entire stem finish, cut the stem down to the ground or to the low mound of foliage.

Flower Clusters:

Small flowers that bloom in clusters atop branched stems need more snipping to keep them blooming and prevent them from reseeding. Plants such as garden phlox, Shasta daisies, and bee balm should be deadheaded in stages.

Rather than snipping off each floret or removing the entire stem, cut it back to a side shoot or branch. Side branches will then develop and bloom later, prolonging the bloom time.

Entire Plant:

Perennials that produce lots of blooms over the entire plant require time to remove each flower or section individually. Instead, shear these plants. Perennials like dianthus, baby’s breath, or threadleaf coreopsis can be groomed this way. After the majority of flowers fade, shear the whole plant back. The plants will reward you with a new, neat mound of foliage and you may even get a second bloom of flowers in a few weeks.


Trellising is also a form of plant grooming (along with staking) in which a plant is fastened to a structure, giving it support or shape. Plants may be trained on a trellis to conserve space, increase light penetration, display the plant, improve air circulation, or reduce disease potential.

When a plant has no clasping tendrils or twining shoots, attach it to a structure using soft fasteners such as strips of cloth or other flexible material. Secure the tie around the plant and the structure. Do not attach so tightly that it bruises the plant. Insure that the structure is sturdy enough to hold up the plant and long-lasting enough to survive the weather. If the trellis will be anchored in the soil, be sure the bottom is made from a rot-resistant material, such as treated wood.  

Grooming Annual Plants:

Typical container plants such as geraniums should be deadheaded regularly by cutting the faded flower stalks down to the bottom of the stem. Vrieties of petunias that may start to look leggy at this time of year may be clipped back a quarter to a half the size of the plant. The plants may look strange at first, but they will come back quickly with a fresh set of blooms to last through the remaining summer and into the fall.

Whether you have a perennial garden bed or containers on the deck or patio, regular maintenance of plants helps them stay healthy and perform optimally. A little effort makes a big difference when you remove spent flowers and give plants the support if they need it. The grooming effort will improve the appearance of your garden, no matter how big or small. Now is the time to get out, enjoy your garden, and take care of your plants.