When Do I Cut Plants Down In The Fall

When Do I Cut Plants Down In The Fall

“Is it OK to cut my perennials back and do my garden cleanup now?”
“Can I trim my roses back in the fall?”
“When is the best time to cut down my ornamental grasses?”

These are questions our customers ask at this time of year. Truth be told, in most situations you can get away with doing your garden tasks whenever you get around to them. Yes, it’s better to transplant in the fall or spring but as long as you water transplanting in the summer is usually successful. And as far as fall cleanup goes, if you’re in the mood to cut back the  perennials or annuals this week, in most cases you won’t do any harm.

That said, there are a few general guidelines that help with being successful with particular plants.

  1. Never cut your blue/pink Hydrangea shrubs back now. They will have fewer flowers next year if you do so, and they will end up growing just as tall next summer. Don’t do it.
  2. You can prune old flower stems off lavender plants but don’t cut the entire plant back very much. These are actually small shrubs and they don’t respond well to a hard pruning.
  3. Many perennials are beautiful through December. If the plants are still an asset in the garden, consider leaving them and do the cleanup in the spring. Good examples are the coral bells (Heuchera), perennial geraniums and sedges (Carex).
  4. Roses are best pruned in the spring so if you are able to wait, do so. Since roses typically have some dieback on the ends of their branches in the winter, if you cut them back now they might become even smaller as the plant gets some winter kill.
  5. If you prune any of your spring flowering shrubs now – lilacs, forsythia, or azaleas, for example – you will be cutting off next year’s flowers. Wait to prune spring flowering plants right after they bloom.
  6. Any of your annuals that are no longer attractive can be either cut off at ground level or pulled out of the ground now. Or you can wait until later in the fall or even next spring.

    Here is a mix of annuals and perennials in early November. Some people choose to leave the garden as is and clean up in the spring, while others prefer to clear out the annuals, tops of perennials and leaves now. Either method is fine.

    Rake up fallen Hydrangea leaves to help control chilli thrips damage, but don’t cut the hydrangea stems down. Leave grasses such as this Hakon Grass (Japanese Forest Grass) until spring – this often helps grasses survive better, especially in their early years in the garden.

    Here’s an idea for your big clumps of Miscanthus: Tie them up in the late-fall! You can even put a colorful bow around where they are tied and celebrate the season. Then in late winter or early spring, cut grasses down to about twelve inches high.

    Do you have a question about specific plants in your garden? Come into the store and talk to us! And if you aren’t sure what the plant is called, bring in a picture or two so we can identify it for you and give you the best information about its care.

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