As the autumn leaves fall and winter's chill looms on the horizon, it's time to shift our focus to
the garden. Fall garden maintenance is a critical step in ensuring the health and vitality of your
plants during the colder months and sets the stage for a vibrant spring. In this guide, we'll
explore the do's and dont's of pruning perennials and shrubs and discuss the late fall and winter
trimming that can benefit your garden.
Perennials: To Trim or Not to Trim?
1. Cut Back:
- Herbaceous Perennials: Trim back herbaceous perennials like hostas, daylilies, and peonies
to ground level. This not only enhances the aesthetics of the garden but also promotes healthy
regrowth in the spring.
- Faded Flowerheads: Deadhead perennials that have finished blooming. This not only tidies
up the garden but also prevents self-seeding.
2. Leave Untouched:
- Evergreen Perennials: Avoid trimming back evergreen perennials in the fall. These plants
maintain their foliage throughout the winter, providing structure and color during the cold
- Late Bloomers: Perennials that bloom late into fall or winter, such as certain varieties of
sedums and asters, should be left uncut until late winter or early spring. The dried flower heads
can provide visual interest and food for wildlife.
Shrubs: Pruning for Winter Resilience
1. Cut Back:
- Summer-Blooming Shrubs: Prune back summer-blooming shrubs like butterfly bushes and
some varieties of hydrangeas. Remove dead or weak branches and shape the plant to
encourage a compact form.
- Overgrown Shrubs: If your shrubs have become overgrown, fall is an excellent time for more
extensive pruning. However, avoid severe pruning to prevent stressing the plant before winter.
2. Leave Untouched:
- Spring-Blooming Shrubs: Avoid pruning spring-blooming shrubs such as lilacs and forsythias
in the fall. These shrubs set their flower buds in the previous year, and pruning now may
remove next spring's blossoms.
- Cold-Sensitive Shrubs: Hold off on pruning cold-sensitive shrubs like azaleas and
rhododendrons until late spring, right after their blooms go away. Pruning in the fall may
expose tender new growth to winter damage or decrease the amount of blooms you have in
Late Fall and Winter Trimming:
1. Shape Evergreens:
- Boxwoods and Conifers: Late fall is an ideal time to shape evergreen shrubs like boxwoods
and conifers. Light trimming can help maintain a neat appearance and prevent snow and ice
2. Remove Dead or Diseased Wood:
- Year-Round Task: Throughout fall and winter, regularly inspect your plants for dead or
diseased branches. Promptly remove any you find to prevent the spread of disease and
encourage healthy growth.
3. Wait for Dormancy:
- Deciduous Trees: For deciduous trees, late fall and winter, when they are dormant, are
suitable times for structural pruning. This includes removing dead or crossing branches to
improve the overall form of the tree.
By tailoring your fall garden maintenance to the specific needs of perennials and shrubs, you
ensure a garden that not only weathers the winter but also bursts into life with the arrival of
spring. Follow these guidelines, and your garden will be a haven of beauty and resilience
throughout the changing seasons. Happy gardening!