Deadheading and Disbudding


By Sharon Moore & Hal Reynolds


Deadheading and disbudding are terms that sound alike, but are very different. Deadheading is an integral part of regular grooming and maintenance, while disbudding is an optional choice to create a desired result.


Deadheading: to “deadhead” refers to removing dead or spent blossoms. This practice promotes repeat blooming by directing the plant’s energy into flower production instead of reproduction (seed).


Deadheading also removes hiding places for insects, discourages disease, improves air circulation, and makes way for sun to reach more deeply into the plant. Regular deadheading throughout the growing season will stimulate faster re-bloom, often grow stronger stems, and definitely keep your roses looking more attractive.


To deadhead, cut at an angle below the spent blossom, approximately ¼ “ above an outward facing five-leaflet leaf and swollen bud eye (where the next flower stem will grow) and where the stem is about pencil size or larger for hybrid teas and smaller for smaller flowers. Often the leaf where you have made the cut will turn yellow and fall off – this is normal. When you are removing a spray, cluster, or cluster of blooms, cut below the entire mass. Cutting to a five-leafletleaf does not mean the first five-petaled leaf, it means any five petaled leaf. You need to cut far enough down that the stem is large enough to support a new large blossom.








During the intensely hot summer months in the desert, it is imperative that you leave as much foliage on the bush as possible to avoid sunburn of the canes: some advocate “finger pruning” or removing only the spent flower bloom and no more for this reason. However, during the spring and fall growing season, your cuts can be deeper down the stems. While deadheading you can adjust the height of various canes by how far down you cut them. You do not necessarily have to cut to the first five leaflet leaf; it can be the second, third, etc. five leaflet leaf, depending upon desired shape and balance.



The practice of disbudding applied to roses can produce some impressive results in the size and quality of the bloom. This is how you get those large flowered, long-stemmed roses. When disbudding for one bloom to a stem roses, such as hybrid teas, you remove the side buds that develop at the leaf axels below the main bloom. Do this by rubbing the tiny buds out from of the angle created between the leaf and stem. Try using your thumb. It works best for getting right in the right place. The earlier you do this in the development of the side buds the better, because you will leave less of a scar or black stub at the site.


Deadheading and Disbudding

In a rose show, a single bloom on a stem will be disqualified if it has side buds, with the exception of Old Garden Roses and shrub roses.

When disbudding roses that bloom in clusters like floribundas, first you have determine how many buds there are. If there is a central bud and only one or two side buds, remove the side buds and leave the one bloom. When presented with many buds but one central bud, remove the central bud and make the stem into a spray (or cluster), because the central bud will bloom first and fade before the rest of the buds open.


A spray, for show purposes, must contain two or more blossoms, but three or more blossoms are best. Also, select stems with multiple buds that are about the same size so they open at the same time to ensure the greatest blossom count.


For disbudding minis and minifloras that are one bloom per stem, follow the directions for disbudding hybrid tea roses. For a spray of blossoms, be it on a hybrid tea, grandiflora, floribunda, mini or miniflora, follow the directions for cluster blooming roses. Polyantha and small flowered cluster blooming roses are usually not disbudded and disbudding Old Garden Roses varies depending on the type of rose and your preference.

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