Ever wonder how florists get those big, beautiful flowers? A little trick called disbudding might be the answer. Many plants will make unusually large flowers if they’re forced to make fewer of them. The technique is called disbudding because it’s most commonly applied to peonies, chrysanthemums, and roses, all of which have clusters of serially developing buds on each stem. But disbudding is really just a form of pruning, and it can be used on almost any flowering annual or perennial.
The lead bud is usually the largest, even if you do nothing. Removing the flowers that would have come after it enhances the effect by permitting the plant to put more energy into fewer blooms.
Disbudding is especially popular among exhibition growers, who are usually after that one perfect cut flower, rather than well-balanced plants or full-looking borders. As they have discovered, even spire-formers like delphiniums will make bigger leading spires if all the secondary blooms are removed from the stem. If you want the blooms to be really gigantic, limit the number of stems in each clump and be sure you have those stakes ready.
Limiting the number of stems as well as the number of flowers will also work with summer phlox (Phlox paniculata) and Astilbe, but it won’t help with globe thistle, Joe Pye weed, or hardy asters. When in doubt, experiment. Assuming you don’t go hog wild with stem removal, this kind of extreme disbudding will have no lasting ill-effects on the plant.