“When Trimming Dead Blooms, Should You Pluck Them by Hand or With a Tool?”

by | Updated: Nov 5, 2021

When plucking dead flowers or trimming dead blooms, it helps to use the right garden tools, like floral snips

Trimming off the dead blooms from your flowers can make them look even prettier.

It’s like giving them a fresh, new haircut!

But when you remove the dead blooms, should you pluck them by hand or with a tool?

I got this question recently and wanted to chat about it here.

For many flowers, using your fingers to remove the dead blooms is fine.

Once you get the hang of trimming off the dead blooms on your flowers (known as “deadheading”), you’ll be casually passing by your flowerpot with a cup of coffee in hand, and those dried-up flowers will be calling to you.

It’s hard to resist the urge to stop and pinch them off with your fingers.

Tip: It helps if you have longer fingernails, and you aren’t wearing gloves.

But, as I’ve learned the hard way…

Pinching off dead flowers with your fingers has its drawbacks.

  1. You may accidentally break off parts of the plant you didn’t intend to. And for me, it always seems to be a really pretty flower that’s about to open or a whole stem with new buds. (Ack!!!)
  2. It’s hard to be 100% accurate where you’re pinching a plant with your fingers. The stems don’t always break off cleanly or where you wanted. You can end up with some cuts that aren’t great for the plant and leave dead, stick-like stems. Not exactly the look we’re going for!
  3. Your hands can get sticky, depending on the plant. (I’m looking at you, petunias.)
  4. Some flower stems are just too thick to pinch with your fingers.

So, instead, consider using floral snips or hand pruners.

I use floral snips most of the time.
This is what floral snips look like for trimming dead blooms off flowers, known as deadheading

Floral snips are a small pair of scissors for trimming plants.

Tip! I leave my floral snips in an inconspicuous spot outside my door, so I can quickly pick them up when I walk outside. This helps me resist the urge to trim dead blooms with my fingers.

It also helps me trim dead blooms as I see them, rather than waiting until the plant is full of them.

(Translation: Keep those colorful blooms going!)

Floral snips are awesome because you can be VERY accurate in where you’re making a snip.

In the photo below, check out the precision you have when trimming off a petunia bloom.

Plus, if you want, you can wear gloves to keep your hands clean.

Floral snips work really well on flowers with thin stems, which are probably most of the flowers in your containers and many of the flowers in your garden.

But learn from my mistakes!

Don’t use your floral snips to cut thick-stalked plants.

You can accidentally squeeze the plant stems (not good) and really dull your snips.

Also, this may go without saying, but keep your floral snips for trimming plants.

My husband likes to borrow my floral snips for impromptu sprinkler projects, like cutting lines of tubing. The snips are never the same afterwards.

Moral of the story:

Hide the floral snips from your industrious Honey. 🙂

If you’re cutting a thicker-stemmed plant like a rose stem or a “cut flower” …

I suggest using hand pruners.

Hand pruners are a sturdier and bigger tool.

“Cut flowers” are the flowers you see in bouquets. Often times, they have thicker stems.

This is what hand pruners look like -- the blades cross over each other, rather than meeting in the middle

When choosing hand pruners, make sure the metal blades cross beside each other, rather than meeting at a center point.

This gives them extra strength for cutting.

It also ensures you won’t break or squeeze your flower stalks.

Where to find floral snips & hand pruners (new or used)

You can find new floral snips and hand pruners at your local garden center.

In the spring and early summer, you’ll often see them at places like Costco too.

If you prefer used garden tools, check out estate sales or websites like NextDoor, Craig’s List or OfferUp.

When you get used garden tools, clean them with soap and water and a disinfectant when you bring them home. This will help you lower the risk of spreading weeds or diseases to your plants.

I like the Fiskars brand for floral snips and hand pruners.

I’m not an affiliate for them. I’m just sharing their name for your convenience.

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Ann from Go West Gardener with her flowerpots and garden

Hey there, I'm Ann

I’m a Certified Colorado Gardener, dog mama and Midwesterner-turned-Colorado girl. I help budding gardeners in the intermountain west skip the “Why didn’t anyone tell me that phase?”, so they can get pretty results faster. More about Ann >>

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