GARDENING: Fall brings this question-What to cut back, what to leave alone?



I wrote this post in 2009, and I wish to write an addition to this post based on what I know after 10 years of gardening and biodiversity.

The thing is this, go easy on the cutting back and clean up. Yep. Take it easy. Not only will your back appreciate it, but so will your overwintering butterflies and insects, birds and small wildlife.

Two things:
1: Leave piles of mulch and leaves, either in your garden beds or in sections of your yard with even some branches and twigs. This gives nesting areas and safe cover during the winter for SO MANY LIVING THINGS.

2: Hold back on cutting back perennials and flowering bushes that don't mind if you prune them either way. Those dead flowers have seeds deep within that feed so many birds. And the dead plant matter provided cover for many insects.

SO all that being said, below is a list of what likes getting cut in fall, and what to skip. Below is the original post.

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Every fall I have this dilemma. I have learned the hard way that certain plants need to grow on old wood in the spring after I did a pruning in the fall, and vice versa. SO after years of mistakes and much reading, here is a rough list of what to cut back and prune now for the health of the plants, and what I leave alone until spring or even summer. This is not a complete "be-all-end-all list". But it should help. It helped me just getting this info out of my head and on something concrete I could print and check off as I did my fall clean up this weekend. Happy cutting!

YES Prune or cut back the following:

Note: When pruning, cut dead and diseased branches first, then anything spindly that won't survive the winter. Be sure to use wood glue to seal your cuts. When cutting perennials back, cut the plant (flowers and leaves) to about 6-10 inches above ground, clipping spent leaves and flowers as you go. Cutting back certain perennials that are prone to molds and mildews are beneficial to be cut back. Others in this list, pruning doesn't matter but keeps things neat and tidy come spring.Bearded Iris
Echinecea ( Might be OK to leave for seeds for the birds, but if mold is starting to set in, cut it back.)
Rudebekia
( Same as Echinecea)
Catmint
Daylily
Phlox
False Sunflower
Galliarda
Bee Balm
Blackberry Lily
Bronze Fennel
Columbine
Corydalis
Crocosmia
Golden Margarite
Golden Star
Ground Clematis
Begonia
Helianthus
Hollyhock
Japanese Anemone
Ligularia
Lily Leaf Ladybell
Masterwort
Meadow Rue
Mountain Bluet
Painted Daisy
Penstemon
Peony
Plume Poppy
Salvia
Siberian Bugloss
Sneezweed
Solomon's Seal
Veronica/Speewell
Wild Indigo
Yarrow

Japanese Maple, only when all the leaves are off and tree has started to go dormant
NO, wait until spring or summer for pruning the followingChrysanthemums ( Likes the leaf cover for protection)
Coral Bells ( Likes the leaf cover for protection)
Butterfly Weed ( Likes the leaf cover for protection)Astilbe
Artemesia
Asters
Azalea (prune after Spring blooms)
Rhodedendron (prune after Spring blooms)Lilac (prune after Spring blooms)
Weigela (prune after Spring blooms)
Balloon Flower
Basket of Gold
Bears Breeches
Black-Eyed Susans
Blue Mist Shrub
Butterfly Bush
Butterfly Weed
Campanula
Cardinal Flower
Spurge
Delphinium
Dianthus
Foam Flower
Foxglove
Fringed Bleeding Heart
Gas Plant
Gay Feather
Geum
Globe Thistle
Golden Rod
Heartleaf Bergenia
Hydrangea (Big leaf/colored, cut after blooms. Most others, early spring)
Clematis (Summer bloomer, prune early Spring. Spring bloomer flowers on last year's growth so prune after flowers have bloomed.)
Hosta
Italian Bugloss
Joe Bye Weed
Lady's Mantle
Lambs Ear
Lavender
Lavender Cotton
Lupine
Mums
Oriental Poppy
Scabiosa
Plumbago
Queen of the Prairie
Red Hot Poker
Russian Sage
Sea Lavender
Eryngium
Sedum
Coreopsis
Turtlehead
Jupiter's Beard
Guara
Willow Amsonia

Comments

  1. Wow - super helpful. What about lenten flowers? I am going to be at the nursery this weekend to find winter decorations for my front porch so I was planning on asking them. I should just google it.
    Thanks for the list; I almost cut my foxgloves NOW.

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  2. If you wish to see some examples of pruning of perennials for Fall, see above post: http://www.urbandomesticdiva.com/2009/11/gardening-addendum-to-pruning-fall.html. After a few questions, I decided to do an addendum post.

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