Homegrown Column June 27, 2009

Do I cut the rose off my rose bush to make the plant bigger?
— Rosemary

Most folks who ask that question are wondering whether and when to cut off the old spent blooms on their rose. This process is called deadheading.

Deadheading is simply removing old, spent blooms or the seed heads that follow after the flowers of any plant we might grow in the garden, whether it’s a rose, a perennial, an annual or even a woody flowering shrub such as your rose.

Deadheading helps to keep the plant looking better, it allows the plant to put its energy into
growth instead of forming seed, it can extend the bloom season and, in the case of roses, it helps to hasten rebloom.

I usually start deadheading roses when they’re pretty much done blooming. There may be a straggling flower or two, but as they start to fade, get the pruning shears out and cut them back.

You may have heard the old rule about cutting above a “five leaflet leaf” when deadheading.

Roses have compound leaves made up of smaller leaflets. Just below the old flower the leaves will have three leaflets. As you go down the stem, you’ll run into five leaflet leaves.

Well, newer research has shown that it really doesn’t matter where you prune as long as you remove the spent flower.

Believe it or not, when I deadhead my roses, I use the hedge shears. It makes the job so much faster and I can “even” up the plant a little while I’m at it since roses can be a bit unruly sometimes.

In three or four weeks you should start to get the next round of beautiful roses.

Reading your question, what I’ve just given you may not be the answer you’re looking for.

Sometimes, when a plant has just been planted, we’ll cut off the flowers right away so the plant puts its energy into rooting out and establishing itself.

That’s really the first job your plant must do, and diverting energy to flowering will sometimes delay that process.

I’m not sure if it really makes that much difference really, but if that’s what you’re trying to do, it sure wouldn’t hurt to cut the flowers off and enjoy them in a month or so when the second flush of bloom comes on.

I am trying to find good plants for a flower bed that is almost always in the shade. I am looking for nice flower/ground cover mixes.
Any suggestions?
— Shay

There are a number of great choices for shady spots.

In annual flowers, good choices would be pansies, violas, impatiens, begonias, coleus, ageratum, fuchsia, nasturtium, nemesia, lobelia, torenia, China asters and bacopa.

Annuals for foliage would be asparagus fern and dichondra.

I also like mixing some perennials into a bed to cut down on the amount of planting you have to do each spring replacing the annuals. A perennial won’t bloom consistently through the summer like many annuals do, so I’ll focus on interesting foliage to provide background and texture to the bed.

Good perennial choices are hosta, ajuga, coral bells, hardy geraniums, foamy bells, sweet woodruff, and varieties of trailing vinca.

One thing to keep in mind is that not all shade is the same and some of these plants will do better in darker conditions and some better with a bit more light. Since it’s difficult to make hard and fast rules about these things, do a mixture of lots of different things.

Getting it “perfect” is usually a matter of some trial and error over a couple of seasons, so doing different things will show you what does well and where.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, online at http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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