Deadheading is the process of removing spent flowers which are producing seeds. This is done to encourage the plant to continue to grow and produce.
A plant's mission is to grow and multiply; nature's cycle of life. Some plants multiply in other ways (such as sending out runners, like strawberry plants), but most often plants reproduce by making seeds.
First the plant grows,
then it makes flowers,
then the flowers fade while parts of the flowers morph into seeds.
The plant will put considerable energy into producing seeds as it wants to propagate. If you let the plant makes its seeds, it will put less energy into the crop because it feels it has done its job: It has made seeds for the next generation.
By deadheading the seeds (or flowers), you trick the plant into thinking it needs to continue to grow in order to make seeds. It will continue to grow, so you get more production from the plant if you deadhead.
In my garden, the basil has gone to seed.
Clearly I did not keep up with deadheading it, but I could not put it off any longer. There are still weeks of summer left in my Los Angeles area garden and I want the basil to continue to produce, so today was the day. I deadheaded the plants and collected some seeds to be planted later.
Here are the basics of deadheading which can be applied to almost all plants. The idea is to remove the seeds, but the trick is to cut the stem at the right location to encourage the plant to sprout new growth. Looking at this basil you can see the stalk with the white flower buds and seed pods.
The stem needs to be pinched right above the place where the new growth has sprouted.
Now the plant will put its energy into developing those two side branches (leaves).
This is another example of a newly developing stem which will grow and produce flowers/seeds.
It was pinched off just above the new growth.
Grow little leaves, grow!
Here's one basil plant before it was deadheaded.
Here's one after pruning.
Doesn't it look delicious? Looking at these pictures is making me hungry!!