Off with their heads and then tie them up

When I told Cruella (my wife) that I was going out into the garden to cut heads off and tie things up she immediately expressed a sharp interest in being involved. Filled with excitement she ran off to get what she called “her tools” and returned two minutes later with an axe and rope. However, there was a palpable air of disappointment when I told her I was deadheading Iris and tieing them up. She stormed off accusing me of deliberately misleading her; but not before aiming an axe blow at my head which I thankfully ducked.

Anyway, enough of all this non gardening excitement, let’s get on with the really good stuff.

26th April 2021. Things I have been doing lately:

🪓 Dead heading Iris and other bulbs. Here in Alicante province most of the Iris and other bulbs have been in bloom for weeks; and it has been a very good year. However, if you want excellent flowers next year you must dead head as soon as the flower has finished. If you fail to dead head then the plant will direct all its energy into creating seed and this will diminish the bulb and next years potential flower.

A few years ago it became fashionable when bulbs had finished flowering to tie the plant leaves and stems into a tidy knot. This was especially the case with daffodils and tulips. But please don’t do this as it is disastrous for the bulb. For the bulb to be replenished you need the stem and leaves to continue the process of photosynthesis to feed the bulb with energy.

When deadheading Iris go just below the spent flower head and you will see a swelling of the stem, cut just below this swelling for the maximum benefit. The first photos below show various stands of Iris at various stages in the deadheading cycle. It is important that you don’t wait till all the flowers in a particular stand have finished flowering. Treat each plant individually and dead head them as they become ready. The final photo shows exactly where to cut for the best results. Click on each photo for a larger view.

Finally with long stemmed plants like Iris you don’t want them flopping down and shading out other plants as they die. So the easiest thing to do is just tie them up loosely. Also make sure you think of succession planting, a large stand of Iris will leave a big hole in your border, and you will not be able to plant directly into the bulb area. I overcome this by having a ground cover plant such as trailing Lantana which sits beside the Iris stand and then comes into play when I eventually chop down the stems. The photo below shows my loosely tied Iris with the ambitious Lantana waiting to take over.

Another bulb that I dead head is a few pots of spiral grass that I leave sitting on window ledges. After deadheading the flowers I will cut back the stems in about a month or two. These will be left sitting on the potting bench till late Autumn when they show some re growth and then they will be back in action for Winter and Spring. I am replacing them on the window ledges with Geraniums which will be swopped to the potting bench and replaced with the spiral grass in its turn; ah the beauty of seasonality. The photos below show the spiral grass flowers getting the chop and finally finding their way to the potting bench. The final photo shows the upstart geraniums who have taken over. Click on each photo for a larger view.

Finally, before I leave deadheading for a while, don’t forget to deadhead every day on repeat flowering plants such as Roses. The more you dead head the greater will be the repeat flowering. And also, don’t forget to compost all your spent flower heads as you will be adding to the wonderful circle of life in your garden. Oh, and another thing always thank your plants as you deadhead them it pays to show your appreciation, and if you like, say a little prayer and tell them how much you are looking forward to seeing them next year. The photos below show a couple of colourful trugs heading for the compost bins. Click on each photo for a larger view.

Author: spanishgarden

I live in both Spain and the UK and am a very keen gardener. I garden every day and enjoy sharing all the secrets that God allows us to discover in our gardens.

One thought on “Off with their heads and then tie them up”

  1. Are those Dutch iris? I am not experienced with Dutch iris. There was a single colony at work that has been doing well for many years, but I do nothing with them after deadheading. A few more that had been overwhelmed by vegetation in a recently cleared landscape started to bloom this year.


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