Which plants you should prune back in the fall

 

For some reason, the fall season is when many gardeners get the itch to prune back plants in their gardens.  The guidelines are as follows, at least for our zone 4 to 5 gardens here in Ottawa, Ontario:

  • if a shrub blooms early (before June) wait until after flowering to prune.  Some examples of early bloomers that need that old wood to bloom on are lilacs, forsythia, bridal wreath spireas, sand cherries, weigela, ninebarks, rhododendrons, viburnum, cranberry bushes, flowering dogwoods and magnolias.
  • if the shrub blooms after June, it can be pruned back in the fall or in the early spring when new growth is visible.  Examples include Snowball and PeeGee Hydrangeas, spireas (except for bridal wreath), Butterfly bush, smoke tree, hibiscus (rose of Sharon), and red stemmed dogwoods.
  • woody shrubs like boxwoods, junipers and cedars can be trimmed back in the fall too, but also throughout the growing season (spring and summer)
  • some shrubs are best pruned while dormant (late fall to very early spring, late February to early March)  These include barberries, smoke bush, crepe myrtles, spireas (except bridal wreath variety), dogwoods, and cotoneasters.
  • to rejuvenate shrubs that flower poorly, are overgrown or straggly, cut them back to just above the first bud above the soil while the plant is still dormant.  Shrubs that do well with this drastic treatment include spireas, lilacs, ninebarks, forsythias, barberry, weigela, blue mist, forsythia, honeysuckle, and potentilla (cinquefoil).  You may sacrifice the flowers the first season after this rejuvenation, but the plant will be healthier.
  • deciduous (non-evergreen) trees are best pruned when dormant (late winter) as well.  It is much easier to see the structure of the tree before the leaves come out.  Winter pruning also prevents the formation of bacteria and disease in the cuts. The wounds will heal quickly as new growth starts shortly after pruning.
  • dead branches can be cut off any time in the season.
  • after the first frost, remove any leaves from roses and apply mulch to the crowns. This prevents the plants from heaving from the ground during freeze/thaw cycles. You can cut the longs stems of the most tender floribundas, hyrdrid teas and grandifloras back to 20 inches before winter too to prevent them from breaking off under a heavy snowfall.  Another tip for tender roses is to apply a collar around the bush and fill it (loosely) with leaves.  Wait to prune others back until daffodils start to bloom in the spring to ensure the ground temperature is sufficiently warm.  Dead or broken branches can be cut off in the fall or any other time of the season.  Suckers can also be removed in the fall, cutting them out as close to the base of the plant as possible.

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Perennials can be, but do not have to be, deadheaded (remove dead blossoms) and cut back in the fall.  Remove sturdy flower stalks (coneflowers etc) right back to the foliage at the base of the plant.  Some gardeners like to leave these stalks on the plants over the winter for birds and their snow-covered beauty.  On softer plants simply remove the browned and dead looking, limp or soggy foliage (daylilies, peonies, bleeding hearts etc) and cut back their stems to six or eight inches from the ground.  I like to do everything I can in the fall because spring seems to be so short lived these days and I run out of springtime hours in the gardens.  Whenever you clean up your gardens, remember to harvest the seeds for future (freebie) plants as I did for my cottage garden.

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pictures from Pexels and Pixabay

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Welcome to April

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Well, although our April here in Ottawa is (typically) not quite as colorful as this picture, it does bring signs of spring.  We drove up to our cottage this past weekend to check things out and still could not get in the driveway as it is covered in snow, but things are starting to thaw out:

 

Spring is here….finally!

Mirror mirror on the wall…

Instead of “mirror, mirror on the wall”, I should say “gardens, gardens on my route,  who’s the fairest of them all?”  I know that “all” does not rhyme with “route”, but let me ensure you get the picture, literally…. Continue reading

Spring has sprung in Ottawa

In my visits to area gardens this week I am seeing lots of signs that spring has sprung here in Ottawa, finally…

I hope this spring weather lasts awhile; I have lots of work to do!

Please be sure to visit my other blogs:

Laugh out loud (LOL) with me at YOUR DAILY CHUCKLE

and

be inspired and motivated by famous words of wisdom at WoW

My gardening website can be viewed at www.gardens4u.ca

 

Spring is here, I hope

While my turkey was cooking this afternoon, I took the opportunity to get outside in the beautiful sunshine we are enjoying this weekend.  Most of my yard is bare with just a few patches of snow left.  I saw a few buds and stems of perennials basking in the sunshine too…

 

     My pond is still frozen with the plants around it covered in snow…

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A quick peek at my gardens turned into a chance to trim back some ornamental grasses that I left over the winter…

These ornamental grasses are best trimmed right now when they start to show some new growth.  Another garden chore that can be done very early is the trimming of any dead, crossing or undesirable branches on your trees.  It is much easier to do now than when the leaves emerge as you can see the shape of the tree better.

The rest of the plants are best left alone for a while yet…

 

 

The lone apple

When I looked out my kitchen window this morning, I saw a lone apple hanging in the bare branches of the apple tree in my backyard.  Here in Ottawa this time of year the trees, as well as the rest of the landscape, look pretty dreary.

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Isn’t it simply amazing how Mother Nature can transform this same tree to a thing of beauty each spring?….

I don’t know about you, but now I can barely wait till spring!

In the meantime, please be sure to visit my slightly more humorous blog YOUR DAILY CHUCKLE 

It is guaranteed to make you laugh out loud (LOL)

The when and how of pruning perennials

 

Are you confused as to when and how to prune your perennials in your garden?  Follow these simple instructions and guidelines to make the task easier.

FALL 

fall cleanup should include removal of any dead or diseased foliage. Any cleanup you get done in fall makes for less work in the spring and prevents the spread of disease.  Water plants well, especially evergreens, before the ground freezes to ensure they are well hydrated over the winter.  Fall is a good time to add compost around your plants to improve the quality of your soil, especially clay soil.  Mulch can also be added in the fall, preferably after the ground freezes.

anemones:  cut back after frost

daisies: cut back to 6 inches in fall.  

geraniums (perennial):  cut back if frost turns leaves mushy, otherwise leave foliage on over winter.

grasses (ornamental):  can be cut back to ground in fall or left intact over winter.  If left, cut back first thing in spring, before new growth appears.

hemerocallis/daylilies: remove dead leaves or cut back whole plant to 4 inches.  Although these do not have to be cut back in the fall, it will prevent messy/slimy cleanup in spring.

iris (bearded): cut plants back to 6 inches after frost to prevent disease.  Overgrown clumps should be separated in late summer or early fall.

ligularia: remove leaves when frost turns them mushy

monarda/beebalm:  cut plants back to 6 inches to prevent mildew

peony:  cut plants back to 8 inches to prevent mildew

phlox (tall): cut plants back to prevent mildew

poppy:  leave foliage over winter for protection.  Move or divide in August only

queen of prairie/filipendula: cut back in fall after blooming

salvia:  cut back to 8 inches in fall

sunflowers/helianthus:  cut back to 8 inches in fall

AFTER BLOOMING

some plants just need deadheading (removing dead flower heads), others need the long flower stalks removed. Others require shearing back the plant by half of its size. Each of these techniques improves the appearance of the plants and sometimes promotes reblooming…

achillea:  cut flower stalks back to base after blooming

artemsia:  although they do not flower, cut back plant mid May and late July to prevent flopping

asters:  cut back to 12 inches after blooming in fall

astrantia major/widows’ tears: shear back after flowering to promote reblooming.  Leave foliage on for winter protection

campanula/bellflower: cut flower stalks back to base of plant after blooming

coreopsis/tickseed:  shear off flower stems after blooming

daisies:  remove dead flower heads after blooming to promote rebloom

delphiniums: cut flower stalks back to base after blooming

dianthus/sweet william: shear plant back after blooming

digitalis/foxglove: cut back flower stalks to base of plant after blooming

euphorbia:  cut plant back after blooming to prevent flopping

gaillardia/blanket flower: cut flower stalks back to base of plant after blooming

geraniums (perennial): remove flower stalks after blooming to base of plant to promote rebloom

globe thistle/echinops: cut back late July to promote rebloom

hemerocallis/daylilies: remove flower stalks after blooming

hostas: remove flower stalks after blooming

iris (bearded): cut back flower stalks after blooming

lavender:  cut back flower stalks after blooming to promote rebloom

monarda/beebalm:  cut flower stalks after blooming to promote rebloom

peony:  cut off flower stalks after blooming.

phlox (border): shear back after blooming.  Do not cut back in fall.

poppy: plants go dormant after blooming.  Leave foliage over winter for protection

rudebekia/black eyed susans: deadhead after blooming if desired, do not cut back

salvia: shear back after blooming to promote rebloom

sedums:  cut back both fall blooming and ground cover sedums after flowering.  Flower heads can be left on the fall blooming variety if desired for winter interest.

 SPRING

wait until soil is no longer soggy to avoid compacting it or damaging bulbs, but don’t wait too long.  April is usually best in our zone 4-5 area of Ontario.  If plants looks green and healthy, leave them alone. A light cleanup involves removing dead/brown leaves and stems only.

astilbe: foliage protects plant over winter,  needs light cleanup in spring only

bergenia: needs light cleanup in spring only

campanula/bellflower:  cut plant back in spring.  Cut flower stalks after blooming to base of plant

clematis (most): deadhead spent flowers, cut plant back to 6 inches in spring

coreopsis/tickseed:  cut plant back to 6 inches in spring. Shear off flower stems after blooming

crysthanthemums/mums: foliage protects plant over winter; cut plant back in spring.  Remove faded flower heads after blooming

delphiniums: cut plant back in spring. Cut back flower stalks to base of plant after blooming

diantus/sweet william: foliage protects plant over winter, cut back plant in spring

digitalis/foxglove: requires light cleanup in spring only. Cut flower stalks to base of plant after blooming

echinacea and other coneflowers: deadhead after blooming if desired, only requireslight cleanup in spring

globe thistle/echinops: requires light cleanup in spring only, do not cut back in fall

grasses (ornamental):  if not cut back in fall, cut back to ground BEFORE new growth appears in spring

heuchera/coralbells: leave foliage over winter, requires light cleanup only in spring 

hosta: leave foliage over winter, cut back flower stalks after blooming

hydrangeas:  peegee, annabelle and snowball varieties can be cut back to 12 inches if overgrown

iris (bearded): remove dead leaves to prevent disease.  Can be divided in spring if did not bloom previous spring.

iris (siberian): foliage protects plant over winter, cut back in spring to 4 inches

joe pye weed: no maintenance required

lady’s mantle: light cleanup in spring only

lambs ears: light cleanup in spring only

lavender:  do not cut back in fall, wait until new growth appears in spring to remove winter kill.  Shear flower stalks back after blooming to promote rebloom

liatrus/gayfeather: light cleanup in spring only

lupines: foliage protects plant over winter, light cleanup in spring 

red hot poker: foliage protects plant over winter, light cleanup in spring

russian sage: cut back to 6 inches in spring, only after new growth appears

sedum (fall blooming): cut back to 6 inches in early spring if not done so in fall

AFTER BLOOMING 

some plants just need deadheading (removing dead flower heads), and some need the entire flower stalks removed. Others require shearing back the plant by half of its size. Each of these techniques improves the appearance of the plants

achillea:  cut flower stalks back to base after blooming

artemsia:  although they do not flower, cut back plant mid May and late July to prevent flopping

astrantia major/widows’ tears: shear back after flowering to promote reblooming.  Leave foliage on for winter protection

campanula/bellflower: cut flower stalks back to base of plant after blooming

coreopsis/tickseed:  shear off flower stems after blooming

daisies:  remove dead flower heads after blooming to promote rebloom

delphiniums: cut flower stalks back to base after blooming

dianthus/sweet william: shear plant back after blooming

digitalis/foxglove: cut back flower stalks to base of plant after blooming

euphorbia:  cut plant back after blooming to prevent flopping

gaillardia/blanket flower: cut flower stalks back to base of plant after blooming

geraniums (perennial): remove flower stalks after blooming to base of plant to promote rebloom

globe thistle/echinops: cut back late July to promote rebloom

hemerocallis/daylilies: remove flower stalks after blooming

hostas: remove flower stalks after blooming

iris (bearded): cut back flower stalks after blooming

lavender:  cut back flower stalks after blooming to promote rebloom

monarda/beebalm:  cut flower stalks after blooming to promote rebloom

peony:  cut off flower stalks after blooming.  

phlox (border): shear back after blooming.  Do not cut back in fall.

poppy: plants go dormant after blooming.  Leave foliage over winter for protection

rudebekia/black eyed susans: deadhead after blooming if desired, do not cut back 

salvia: shear back after blooming to promote rebloom

Good luck with your pruning.  There are so many varieties of perennials that I have only named the ones popular in my garden zone.  Do not hesitate to ask if I have missed something you have in your garden.