How necessary is deadheading?

dennisb1(7a/6b)November 30, 2009

Frankly, I'm both lazy and stretched a little thin regarding time. I can see where dead heading a rose that sets hips should be dead headed to produce more blooms (or doesn't clean itself well), but this is the case in only a small fraction of mine.

So my question is: what's the point?


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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

The reason "self-cleaning" is mentioned in descriptions is that such roses don't need to be deadheaded for aesthetic reasons. Once-blooming roses that set hips don't need to be deadheaded either. Repeating roses that set a great number of hips will bloom better if deadheaded, but you can experiment to see whether it matters much to a particular variety. The response varies. Some repeat pretty well despite hips forming, while others don't.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2009 at 10:21AM
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I am embarrassed to say that I gave up deadheading at all years ago - I decided to spend the limited time I had for fussing with my 100+ roses on feeding & pruning (if needed) them once a year. Then I discovered how lovely the hips are! Even repeat blooming roses like Altisimo have the most marvelous hips - I am using them in flower arrangements as we speak. The rose hips join the various other berries (pyrocantha, holly, privet, etc.) in making a display throughout the garden in winter.

Most of my repeat blooming roses set hips, and then just bloom again anyway. I think the need for constant deadheading may be one of those myths that arose along with the need to spray poisons every 2 weeks, never plant a rose where it won't get 6 hours of direct sun each day, pick up every leaf that falls to the ground, prune only in accordance with rigid specific rules, etc. - some folks just like to have lots of rules & regulations! I discovered long ago (when I got exhausted trying to keep up with the rules..) that ignoring them makes for a happier gardener, and even frequently happier roses, not to mention the wildlife (who, by the way, like rose hips!).


    Bookmark   November 30, 2009 at 12:28PM
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I agree with the above. Deadheading is often done for something to do. I enjoy wandering about in my rose beds when all the real work of pruning and fertilizing and mulching and weeding is done. I pick snip, pinch, and enjoy the smells and look at the different bushes and how they are doing and make notes and this is why I garden...I like to garden. If I dont have time or can't(this last summer was a total bust as I had knee trouble all summer long) I dont worry about the effects of not deadheading. The Bourbons had their fall bloom anyway and the Noisettes and Polyanthas continued to do their thing so far as I could tell from the sidelines. It does make everything look more tidy. You garden for pleasure, so do what pleases you and dont let anyone tell you different. Thats what I say.


    Bookmark   November 30, 2009 at 1:17PM
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jerijen(Zone 10)

Well, there are a few roses that are not self-cleaning -- and which look pretty tatty if you don't deadhead them.
Blush Noisette is one of those. The dead blooms just sit there like old Kleenex. :-(

But, aside from those special cases, I agree with you.


    Bookmark   November 30, 2009 at 1:18PM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

'Carefree Sunshine' is one that, if not deadheaded, covers itself with large hips and then doesn't bloom nearly as much. I don't know how common that is because I normally deadhead thoroughly-- it's just harder to keep up with CS because she blooms so much and self-cleans.

I've observed a 'Generous Gardener' that bears tons of large hips by midsummer and then does not repeat at all, but I don't know what happens if it is deadheaded.

There's no doubt that hips absorb energy that the plant could be using elsewhere, but strong shrubs can spare it easily. As Patricia says, gardeners should do what they please.

I don't regard deadheading as a chore because I just pull off spent flowers whenever I pass. With one large once-bloomer that doesn't self-clean, I shear the plant once a year with hedge clippers, which serves as the annual pruning as well as deadheading.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2009 at 4:19PM
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I undertook an informal study of 200 rose cultivars total (in 14 classes )and their bloom frequency. I actually counted every blossom on every bush for 2 years. I also documented the value of deadheading, in different classes. These are my findings.
In our Mediterranean climate, in Oakland, California the bloom frequencies between rose classes varies greatly.
Because a rosebush can produce an occasional early bloom, or two, weeks before a bloom cycle, I only counted each bloom cycle as beginning with the first 5 rosebuds to open fully. (the earlier blooms were added in count to the nearest bloom cycle)
China roses bloom earliest, in late April, and because they bloom on short thin stems will continue to produce blooms rapidly, in great number with no deadheading.
Old Garden Tea rosebushes bloom on slightly thicker stems, and these also will rebloom steadily with no dead heading.
a 'Lady Hillingdon' bloomed continually from april 22 through July 17, with no deadheading, or feeding for that matter. It is the most continual blooming Tea I've documented, with no deadheading.
The bloom cycles of many Tea roses are filled in between with 2 to 3 roses or in the case of Lady Hillingdon 1 to 2 dozen blooms. Other Tea roses do benefit from deadheading, try deadheading one side of a Tea rosebush, (where both sides face the sun equally) to see how well this works on the Teas you grow.
Noisette class rosebushes, are late bloomers and typically begin their first bloom cycle here, with the Hybrid Tea class roses in May. Noisettes than bloom again in July typically, and again in autumn, in warm autumns a fourth bloom cycle can occur.
Florabunda rosebushes that bloom on short stems can benefit from being dead-headed. This class has longer bloom cycles than H.T.s that average only 28 days of bloom versus 33 days for Florabundas. (plus /minus 5 percent)
H.T.s have a typical bloom cycle of 28 days, X 3 bloom cycles per year. These benefit from deadheading after the May or June first bloom cycle, but very few will bloom soon enough to create an extra flush of bloom in Autumn, past the typical 3 bloom cycles per year. I was dissapointed in this class, having moved from Seattle I expected H.T.s to bloom much more often, here. They loose their leaves so early though, and China, Tea and Noisette rosebushes have evergreen foliage which allows them to continue to bloom later in the Autumn.

Florabunda rosebushes grown in this area produce an extra bloom cycle in November, during warmer Autumns, and some are even now still producing 22 percent to 80 percent of a full spring flush, on Nov 30.

In September, therefore I would not bother to dead-head an H.T. or H.P.,becasue they won't be likely to rebloom, or a China because they rebloom abundantly without deadheading them, but I do deadhead all my Tea roses, and Noisettes promptly, for the latest winter blooms possible.

Hybrid Musk roses typically have the same bloom frequency habit of Noisette, in our climate, one way in which the Hybrid Musk class does mimic R. moschata, more than R. multiflora. My earliest bloomer in the new year is "Bubble Bath" which has produced a bloom cycle in January, with thirty three percent of its average spring bloom cycle production. This only occured when I had deadheaded during its last bloom cycle in November.

Hope this is worth reading to someone,

    Bookmark   November 30, 2009 at 8:08PM
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Excellent, Lux, it was well worth reading for me. You said a very impressive mouthful. I learned a lot from everyone's posts. Thanks, Jackie, Michael, Patricia and Jeri!


    Bookmark   November 30, 2009 at 8:45PM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

Interesting that HTs only give three flushes in northern California. I get four flushes plus additional bloom in November, or a 5th full flush from a few plants.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2009 at 3:24PM
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thanks, all; esp. Lux. I can rest a little easier.

Looks like, for me, to concentrate on just shrubs and HT's. Traviata, The Squire, and Fragrant Cloud have 3-4 bloom cycles without deadheading. Heritage and Abe Darby set hips and seem to benefit. Some, like Sombreul and James Galway, are too large to worry about.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2009 at 10:47AM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

Here it is necessary for size control. The roses would be too tall without trimming back after each flush.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2009 at 1:48PM
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Very informative thread... loved your post, Lux. Also liked the thought of letting the large ones do their thing and shearing them back after it's all over. None of mine are that big yet, but it's good to know that is an option. Usually I just pick off spent flowers as I walk by, or if I have time when watering. I'm not worried about it, I know everything will get renewed in the big jan/feb prune.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2009 at 2:18PM
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This thread has indeed been very informative.... I've been hearing lately that NOT deadheading is better as roses appreach dormancy, to aid them in going dormant, as well as for winter color & wildlife food. Since my climate is similar to Lux's, with mild winters, I'll follow her advice. Interesting comparison...I have about half as many roses as her, but only a minute fraction of her rose knowledge!

    Bookmark   December 2, 2009 at 9:42PM
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jerijen(Zone 10)

Some, like Sombreul and James Galway, are too large to worry about.

*** But Sombreuil (if you mean the climber) will repeat best if it is deadheaded.
It is one of the roses DH took to deadheading with a hedge-trimmer.


    Bookmark   December 2, 2009 at 11:11PM
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Good thread Dennisbl.
I have just started deheading since our Spring flush, regretting I hadn't done it earlier. I have been busy watering, weeding and mulching. It is dry here and I have alot of new roses to give extra care to.
So its real good Lux, to know the process of reblooming
has already started on some of them eventhough I am late. Thankyou for yours and everyone else's knowledge here.
Lux, what a bit job you did for 2 years ! What brought it about ?

    Bookmark   December 3, 2009 at 12:12AM
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bluesibe(NoCa 9a)

What I am learning is to know your roses. This past summer I was unable to deadhead. I noticed that a rose like Felicia bloomed away and much more rapidly than when I deadhead, yet Prosperity, right next door, did not repeat as often or as splendidly. Jude the Obscure did not like the lack of attention. Orfeo bloomed from late April and still has blooms on it today, but it looks better when cleaned up.
The old HTs want deadheading. I think it is a watch, learn and experiment kind of task.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2009 at 9:53AM
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lori_elf z6b MD

I've noticed that many of my Austins benefit greatly from deadheading. Some need it to keep in shape/bounds, and some seem to bloom in more regular and faster cycles. This year I slacked off deadheading and noticed a difference. Portland roses also seem to respond to deadheading with faster bloom cycles.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2009 at 4:40PM
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organicgardendreams(z 10)

Very interesting thread. To be honest it never occurred to me that deadheading could be not necessary! I guess there is always more to learn about roses :-)!

After being back from a 5 weeks trip to India and having a closer look at my garden I would like to share one observation. I usually deadhead very regular, but the last 5 weeks the roses were watered by my husband but not deadheaded at all. Many of them had made a nice Autumn flush but stopped flowering after that, except my white Iceberg shrub roses and the white Iceberg climbing roses. They continued to flower to this day. To me it looks like that they did better not being deadheaded in terms of flower production than when I deadhead them regularly. I was thinking that roses need to be deadheaded, because if you don't and let the roses set hips that signalizes the roses that they have fulfilled their job to produce seeds and they stop producing flowers. Besides that I personally don't like the look of dried up flowers so much.
But by now I assume that I usually deadhead at least the Iceberg roses too severely and that they would be better of if the flowers would be just snapped of (if you still want to deadhead them) but not cut back a couple of leavelets down a cane. Does someone else have made the same experience with Iceberg roses?

    Bookmark   December 3, 2009 at 7:55PM
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jerijen(Zone 10)

Iceberg is more or less a Hybrid Musk Rose, and no. It does NOT really appreciate being cut back hard.
It will be its most graceful and productive if NOT chopped back all the time.
The downside of that being that in mild Southern CA, it can be pretty big.

One of the reasons Iceberg has become something of a cliche in our climate is that it is planted everywhere.
And it is planted everywhere (including gas station landscaping and hotels) because
it shines when it is neglected.

I have too many commitments, and a bad back -- so
I really appreciate roses that are happy with benign neglect.


    Bookmark   December 4, 2009 at 7:23PM
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organicgardendreams(z 10)

Jeri, thanks for your answer. I will take your advice to heart and from now on deadheading will be only a "nibble at the blooms" and not cutting them back so much anymore :-).

Winter pruning is a different story though. As you mentioned Icebergs get quite big here in SoCa and mine need to be kept in boundaries otherwise I am not able to grow them in my small garden.

I will read a little bit about Hybrid Musk Roses as a class to understand the needs of Icebergs a little better. I think, I still underestimate how important knowledge about rose classes is!


    Bookmark   December 5, 2009 at 8:25PM
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Some, like Sombreul and James Galway, are too large to worry about.
But Sombreuil (if you mean the climber) will repeat best if it is deadheaded.
It is one of the roses DH took to deadheading with a hedge-trimmer.

***Next year the top of my Sombreuil covered arbor will likely be pruned Clay Jennings style.

For now I deadhead Sombreuil almost every day by the snap method (breaking off the flower stem at the "abscission point") like your wise Grandmother taught you Jeri, and this rose blooms virtually non-stop here.


    Bookmark   December 6, 2009 at 12:39AM
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jerijen(Zone 10)

Bill, the older I get, the more often I recognize that my Nanny was ALWAYS right.


    Bookmark   December 6, 2009 at 12:36PM
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Bill, the older I get, the more often I recognize that my Nanny was ALWAYS right.

*** I imagine she'd be pretty proud that you have shared her wisdom (and a great deal of your own) with so many people. Me included.

You are a treasure!


    Bookmark   December 6, 2009 at 6:10PM
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jerijen(Zone 10)

Bill, you are a flatterer!



    Bookmark   December 6, 2009 at 7:26PM
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