Deadheading and More!

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…and we are not talking about Grateful Dead fans!

As we have learned, maintenance of well-planned, sustainable landscapes not only helps decrease your water use and the amount of green waste you create, but also decreases the time it takes to maintain your yard.

Here are some general plant maintenance tasks that don’t take that much time, and can really boost the look of your garden.

General Plant Maintenance

  1. Deadheading

Deadheading is the removal of dead flowers or flower stalks.  Doing this typically creates a longer season of bloom by encouraging more flower production.

  • Unless your goal is to immediately improve the appearance of the plant, consider waiting until after any seed heads have scattered to provide food for native birds.  
  • One example is indian mallow (Abutilon palmeri) that has long spikes with orange flowers, that by the beginning of fall are spent and dead stalks can be removed.

2. Pinching

Pinching is the removal of only the tips of the stems on herbaceous soft shrubs and perennials.  By pinching back the tips, lower buds along the branches are encouraged to grow, creating a fuller, denser appearance.

  • Ideally, pinch plants when they are actively growing (usually in spring), and again after flowering is complete.
  • One example is black sage (Salvia mellifera) that can be pinched to create a fuller look.
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3. Raking

If you have tufts of evergreen native grasses that have brown, dead blades, you can use a rake to remove them and instantly liven up the look of your plant.  

  • Just pull a rake through the grass, and it will grab and pull out the dead blades.
  • One example is deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens) an attractive California-native grass that needs periodic raking. 

4. Cutting Back

Grasses that are not cut back periodically, can get leggy-looking, creating a messy appearance. Cutting them back to 2” – 4” tall will jump start deciduous grasses and rejuvenate perennial ones.  

  • Cut them back before new growth begins, typically in late winter to early spring.
  • One example is ‘Canyon Prince’ wild rye (Elymus condensatus ‘Canyon Prince’), a perennial grass that does well when cutting back in late winter, allowing new blue-green blades to grow back.

Before Cut

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After Cut

Growing Back

5. Edging

Edging is used if you have plants that are growing out into a path, walkway, street or other plants.   

  • For slightly woody plants such as California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), cut back the stems into the main body of the plant.  Don’t just sheer the stems along the path as this will create a flush of growth and cause more maintenance.
  • Do not prune back all the branches to the same point. This will create a less natural appearance.
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6. Weeding

Weeding is probably the one general maintenance task that needs to happen on a more frequent basis and involves the continual removal of unwanted plants.   

  • Be sure to remove the plant entirely, including the roots, and before it goes to seed.
  • One example is Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) that needs continual removal.
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All your plants need is a little love and care!

The wonderful thing about our climate-appropriate and native low-water use plants is that it doesn’t take much maintenance to keep them happy and looking great!  To quote a Grateful Dead song, “Love is like an April rain that makes the harvest grow!”

Want to learn more? Join us for a hands-on workshop on maintaining your sustainable landscape?

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Join us on Sunday, April 28 for a 4-hour Sustainable Landscape Maintenance Workshop that will cover soil health, plants and pruning, irrigation and watering considerations, rain barrels and more. Go here to register.  This workshop is sponsored by Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for customers in the LADWP service area.