Tips for Cutting Back Perennials in Fall

Tips for Cutting Back Perennials in Fall

Pruning is an important part of landscape maintenance, but what’s involved? Here are some tips.

Taking care of the garden is a three-season task. The plants wake up in the spring, thrive and fight in the summer, and go to bed in the fall. If you want your garden to look beautiful year-round, you’ll have to put some effort into it or hire a company that can do an excellent job of it. Part of gardening includes cutting back perennials in the fall. Below are a few easy steps for how to accomplish it.

Types of Pruning

There are two types of pruning: one is a light pruning, which happens continuously throughout the year as blooms fade and are about to drop their seeds. The other kind is called a hard prune, which involves cutting perennials all the way back.

Why Cut Back Perennials

Hard pruning is useful for the garden because of aesthetics and plant health. When the plants die back, they can look unsightly in your yard. Also, some species may have become too aggressive and encroached upon its neighbors. Plus, when the new leaves and flowers emerge in spring, they have a clear opening for growth without any of last year’s remains.

How Much to Cut Off

In the fall, plants naturally become dormant and take their energy back into the roots, leaving behind dead stalks and leaves. When these dead limbs become raggedy, you can cut back practically all the way to the ground, or a few inches above it. 

Which Plants to Cut Back

Not every perennial is worth cutting back. There is indeed an extensive list that are fit for pruning, but some are best left alone. Ones to prune back include bearded iris, heliopsis, peony, phlox, salvia, columbine, and yarrow. Plants to never cut back include butterfly weed, arum, lavender, foxglove, and many more. Be sure to look up your species before pruning it.

Dealing with Disease

Definitely remove foliage affected by disease and dispose of them in the trash can, as opposed to the compost pile. Diseased plants can be contagious and ruin your garden. Because of this, you’ll also want to sanitize your pruners before addressing other plants.

When to Cut Back Perennials

Exactly when to cut back perennials can be a matter of the eye. Frost-sensitive species might need a few rounds of hard frost before you can be sure they’re truly dormant, but for the most part, you can prune them when they become too dead-looking and before spring returns.

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