Getting the best blooms

Whether you have a patio with a few containers or a large garden packed with flower borders, it’s worth knowing a few tricks to get the most from your flowers.

Formation of side shoots (breaks) and control the flowering habit. Some side shoots may require further stopping at a later date – this is known as second stopping.

To stop a plant, hold the stem between finger and thumb at the base of a leaf joint, then, holding M ost of the techniques described here, such as stopping, disbudding and deadheading, will be useful for soft-stemmed plants such as annuals, biennials, bulbs (including corms and tubers) and perennials. The growth of woody plants such as shrubs is largely controlled by pruning , although flowering shrubs can have their faded flowers removed, provided they can be reached easily.

For most gardeners, stopping young plants to promote a bushy habit, followed by regular deadheading of mature plants will be all that is required.


Stopping simply means removing young and regularly deadheaded or pinching out the growing tip off to produce bushy plants with plenty a young plant to encourage their flowering impact.

Just above the joint with the other hand, bend the stem sharply down. If it does not snap off easily, cut it cleanly with a sharp knife or secateurs as close above the joint as possible. Remove the growing tip together with at least one pair of expanded leaves, otherwise new side shoots may appear only near the top.

Stopping is carried out on young plants once they have produced several pairs of true leaves, usually in the spring or early summer. When buying young plants, look to see if the plants have already been pinched out – you will either see where the growing tip has been hollyhocks and stocks. Plants that have become leggy through lack of light in the early stages of growth benefit from stopping; if required, up to a third of the main stem can be removed.

Chrysanthemums must be stopped in order to get large flowers – if allowed to grow naturally, they develop into a bushy plant with a mass of small flowers. Stopping also brings the flowering season forward, ensuring flowers are produced before the autumn frosts.

Large-flowered dahlias send up strong central growths, but make little side growth until the centre shoots develop flowerbuds. Two or three weeks after planting (usually late spring or early summer), pinch out the growing point. A fortnight later, six or more growing points will be seen developing in the leaf axils. Again, remove the uppermost pair of shoots to promote vigorous growth in the lower side shoots.


Disbudding means pinching out unwanted buds so the plant’s energy is directed into a few buds which then produce extra large blooms. It is a technique used for many exhibition flowers such as carnations, chrysanthemums, dahlias and roses. All buds but one on each stem are removed as soon as they can be handled – generally about the size of a pea – by rubbing them out between thumb and forefinger, or by cutting them off with a sharp knife.


Removing fading blooms from flowering plants immediately improves their appearance but it has a longer-term benefit too. It encourages the plants to produce further flowers rather than set seed, so you can extend the flowering period of your garden without spending any money.

Deadheading early-flowering perennials, such as delphiniums, lupins and violas, will often encourage a second show of flowers later in the season.

Due to the slightly reduced light.

The best quality sweet pea flowers are produced by training plants as cordons and then layering them. The initial training consists of pinching out the weaker shoots. Train the growing shoots up canes, tying them in with rings or soft string. Remove the side shoots as they grow.

Soft-stemmed plants can be deadheaded by hand – simply-snap off flowers with a finger and thumb using a twisting action. Use sharp scissors or secateurs to deadhead plants with tough or wiry stems. Do not tear stubborn stems by hand as these will die back and may kill the whole plant.

To prevent unwanted self-seeding, dispose of spent flowerheads in the dustbin or burn them rather than compost them.

The dead flowerheads of certain plants such as alliums, honesty, hydrangeas and sedums look at-tractive and these can be left intact. Dead top foliage also gives some protection from winter frosts, so in cold areas or with perennials that are slightly tender, leave the top foliage until the following spring.

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