Deadheading/Refreshing Foliage

Often the foliage of both flowering and non flowering perennials will begin to look down right awful by mid summer.  Sometimes they look to have gone through a hot dry summer, even if they didn’t.  For some of these perennials, there is a remedy.

Silver and “gray” foliage plants often look scalded and ragged after the plant has bloomed.  All energy has gone toward producing blooms, and the foliage has suffered.  Deadhead your blooms immediately after they are spend so energy is diverted to refreshing the foliage.

Cransebill (perennial geranium) and Silver Mound Artemesia are about the worst for becoming unsightly by mid season.  These two can be sheared all the way back to just a few inches.  At the very least, remove dead foliage and trim out dry and damaged foliage.  Before you cut, check for the new growth at the center of the plant and be sure you do not cut that off.  You will soon be rewarded with fresh and compact growth that will hold up the rest of the season.  This will also work well with several other plants that may become ragged and shriveled, including: Lady’s Mantle, Bleeding Heart, and Spiderwort.  If the plant looks so bad that the garden is better off without it til next year’s new growth, you have nothing to lose by trying it.

  This Cranesbill will do fine with a little deadheading.  The foliage is fresh and green.  Another light flush of blooms will be produced.

This Cranesbill will do fine with a little deadheading.  The foliage is fresh and green.  Another light flush of blooms will be produced.

The Cranesbill below is a mess.  Much of the foliage is has dried and shriveled, and some has died off.  Trim off spent blooms, remove dead foliage, and trim out anything that isn’t fresh and green.  Some new foliage has emerged from the center, so be sure not to trim those off.  In a couple of weeks the whole plant will be refreshed - it looks better already!

Cranesbill by Midwest Gardening.gif
  Remove dead foliage

Remove dead foliage

  Trim damaged foliage

Trim damaged foliage

  Fresh and ready for new growth

Fresh and ready for new growth

Be careful about your late summer bloomers when doing a mid season cleanup.  If you cut back to control growth in July, you may forfeit August and September flowers on the late season bloomers.  These should be pinched back to control size or encourage dense growth in June.  Reducing a plants size by half to two-thirds early in the growing season will often result in more, but smaller blooms.  If the plant typically gets so tall that it must be staked, this may be effective in eliminating the need for staking.

Sharon Dwyer