Volume 14, Issue 23 ~ June 8 - June 14, 2006

The Bay Gardener

By Dr. Frank Gouin

Dead-Head Your Flowers for Lasting Blossoms

Short circuit the seed cycle

The flowering of many summer annuals will diminish as summer progresses. This is perfectly normal because the function of flowers is to produce seeds. Producing seeds requires a lot of energy. After the annual plant has produced seeds, it dies; its life cycle is from seed to seed in one growing season.

Anything that you can do to prevent the plants from producing seeds will encourage the plant to produce more flowers. The most common method is dead-heading, removing old flowers as soon as they have wilted. For some annuals such as zinnias, giant marigolds and geraniums, dead-heading requires removing only the wilted flower at the top of the stem. But for species that produce an abundance of flowers, petunias and impatience for example, dead-heading can become arduous. Head shears or grass clippers are the best tools for those sorts. Simply cut the plants in half. This pruning practice quickly stimulates lots of new growth, and flowering resumes in two to three weeks. Pruning alternate plants makes it less conspicuous.

Since you are reducing the amount of top growth by pruning without affecting the root system, the energy provided by the root systems will be directed toward growing new branches and leaves. After shearing, skip watering until active growth appears. By removing 50 percent or more of the plant, you will be significantly reducing its water needs. Over-watering at this time can result in root rot, which will kill the plants.

Hyacinth bloom from bulbs, not seeds

Q Several years ago my wife and I received a hyacinth for Easter, I believe. We planted it in a bed in our front yard, where year after year it has rebloomed in early spring, a little fuller each time. This year, perhaps the plant’s sixth or seventh since planting, after the bloom had died and browned, the plant sprouted several stalks with clusters of pods along the length.

A friend said to cut them from the plant so as not to sap root development. I left one, and now, maybe six weeks later, the pods have fallen from the remaining stalk on their own.

Are these seed pods, and if so, is there any way to nurture them into more spring-bloomers?

–J. Alex Knoll, Bay Weekly general manager

A Apparently conditions were adequate for pollination this year, and the flowers did what they are designed to do: Set seed. Your friend was correct and you should have cut the stem just below the flower. Allowing the plant to set seeds robs energy from the bulb, resulting in the bulb’s not enlarging as it would if it had not set seeds. Next year the flowers may be smaller because of a smaller bulb.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at frgouin@erols.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.