I realize this is rather a morbid title for an article about gardening. However if you would like your perennials and annuals to keep flowering for as long as possible, cutting off the flowers and seed heads often means that they will keep blooming for a longer time, or re-bloom later.
By removing the deadhead from a flower, you remove the seeds and prevent the flower from reproducing; therefore it will want to produce another flowerhead. Sometimes you want the flowers to self seed in your garden, like columbine, larkspur, and hollyhocks, to mention a few.
For dead heading perennials, just remove the flower and the leaves can be left on the stalk. Others, like day lilies, can be cut off at the base of the stem.
Annuals really benefit from dead heading. This is ideal for people who like to cut flowers for the house, but the smaller flowers like petunias will last far longer and look much better if the dead flowers are cut off.
One benefit of dead heading flowers is that you can dry the flower heads and then save the seeds to use for next year or to take to a seed swap in the spring.
Another benefit is some seed heads can be used in dried flower arrangements.
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