The Best Time To Deadhead Your Columbines And Collect The Seeds

Columbines are gorgeous flowers that will draw your attention. They have two layers of petals; the back ones are pointed, typically in darker colors, and the front ones are rounded and usually in lighter shades. They provide a beautiful contrast in the garden that you'll want to admire for hours, and by deadheading the flowers and saving seeds, you can guarantee that you'll have long-lasting blooms this year and even more plants next year. Deadheading should be done throughout the growing season right as flowers wilt, but saving seeds will happen towards the end of the growing season once the flowerheads dry out.

Deadheading and seed saving are contrasting activities, much like the two-toned columbine petals. The former requires you to remove flowers before they develop seeds, but doing so will encourage the plant to continue blooming. Saving seeds, on the other hand, means you have to let the flowers wilt and dry out on the plant. You have to balance the timing of the activities or you'll encourage your plants to stop growing new flowers and focus on making seeds, which can limit how many flowers you get in a season. It's good to keep columbine blooms around for as long as possible, not only for their beauty, but for the bees and hummingbirds they attract to your yard.

Deadhead when the flowers wilt

Deadheading is a must if you want to make columbines last longer. A plant's purpose is to develop seeds so it can drop them and keep the species alive. Deadheading removes the flowers, which reduces the chances of the plant continuing on because it can't make seeds. So, the plant quickly forms new flowers so its species can live on. These dramatic efforts will benefit you with a longer blooming season than if you were to leave the plant alone. Once columbines develop and drop their seeds, there's no reason for it to stay alive, so it can die because it achieved its purpose. For longer lasting plants, you have to make them work a little harder.

To deadhead columbines, remove flowers as they start to wilt. You can do it as soon as you notice a flower wilting, or you can wait a little longer, even to the point of it getting a little crunchy. The timing will be right as long as you do it before the flower makes seeds. You can pinch the flower off with your hands or with pruning shears making sure they're clean so you don't transmit diseases between plants. Pinch or cut the flower at the base of the stem, right above the node at the first set of leaves. If you want to remove the entire stem, cut it at the base of the plant. It's unnecessary unless you want to prune the plant for looks.

Collect seeds when the tubes are dry

Saving seeds is a great way to keep columbines in your garden. Their seeds are viable for about 5 years, so you can wait a bit before planting them if you need to. Saving their seeds couldn't be any easier since they naturally develop a cup-like tube that allows the seeds to easily fall out once the tube is fully dry. Since the flower must be dry, it's better to wait for the end of the growing season when you're ready to let the plants die back, since seeds signal to the plant that its goal is achieved and it's time to die.

The seed tubes open and release seeds naturally once they're ready, so if you want to save seeds, you need to keep an eye on your plant. When harvesting the seeds, crush the dried flower with your hand and you'll see several shiny black seeds come out of the flower. If any of the papery flower material sticks to it, you can easily remove it by hand. Store the seeds in a cool, dry place until you're ready to use them. Since the plant will self-seed, allow it to drop seeds on its own so you can enjoy more of the colorful flowers next year.