Fall is here! While you are taking care of your Fall cleanup checklist, don’t skip an important garden chore that some plants require! Fall Pruning!
Not all plants need a fall haircut, but for some - it is essential!
Nights will start getting cooler and some plants have already started shutting down for the year anyway. Seedheads that can make messes and self-sow, or branches that hold disease, insect, or fungal issues need to be removed now before they can become bigger problems in the future.
Depending on your plants and where you live, it is usually recommended that you not prune plants in the autumn - with a few exceptions...
Perennials and Grasses in cold climates benefit from having the foliage intact, not only to protect their crowns but also to provide winter interest as their seed pods or dried flowers sculpt the snow and feed birds and wildlife!
A plant’s crown (where the stem meets the roots) usually sits at, slightly above, or slightly below the soil line, and this is the point where all new growth will emerge in the spring. The dead foliage provides insulation and protects the crown from frost and chill.
There are a few plants that need, or even benefit from getting pruned in the autumn after frost has killed back the top growth. It is a necessity when it comes to preventing disease, and very helpful to remove any obstacles that may inhibit fresh spring growth.
But as Ma Nature always has exceptions to her own rules, here are the plants that do benefit from a fall haircut!
Trees, shrubs, and fruiting plants won’t need pruning until either late winter, or after they’ve flowered and fruited. Evergreens will not need pruning in the autumn either.
While most Perennials do not need pruning in the autumn, certain Perennials do need to be pruned. Include those susceptible to powdery mildew, disease, or insects while others can be invasive or just self-seed. Typically pruning for some of these plants is fine in areas where the climate is milder and has less chance of winter damage. In colder regions, it may be best to not prune so the plants catch the snow, and if there is winter damage - then that damage will simply be removed with spring pruning.
Especially trim back your plants if your autumn has been cool and wet - which is a breeding ground for fungal issues and diseases!
Perennials to prune include -
Prune by removing the stems close to the ground and all foliage, and dead flowers from the area. Let these plants die down from a heavy frost or two and then remove all of the old foliage and stems. Discard for sanitation purposes, prevent pests and disease issues at bay, and keep snails or slugs from having a place to overwinter.
Peony plants need to be completely pruned to the ground in the autumn and all the stems and leaf litter removed from the area and disposed of. Some suggest pruning in September if the plants are heavily mildewed. Tree Peonies are woody plants and should remain intact and not pruned.
Annuals, seasonal accents, and vegetable garden plants and herbs that are done for the year, are all best dug or pulled and the entire plants bagged or taken to a yard waste site away from your property. This includes all of the foliage, fallen fruit, and stems should all be removed from the area and disposed of. Remember what was planted where and rotate your crop next spring for the best results.
Annual flowers typically have gone to seed by now (or earlier) and to prevent self-seeding, remove the seed heads as the flowers fade to encourage new blooms during the growing season, then any remaining in the autumn can be removed with the entire plant once it dies. Now is a great time for seed savers to save seeds for next year!
Good sanitation by removing spent leaves and broken stems that showed signs of powdery mildew, insect infestation, disease, or other issues that year. These issues could overwinter in the debris and arise worse next year!
We suggest leaving most Grasses standing for fall and winter. Why not enjoy the movement and incredible attributes they add to the fall and winter landscape? Cutting grasses down in the fall can sometimes expose the cut hollow stems to more rainfall which might allow more water to the crowns of the plants and cause them to rot. There are a couple of exceptions like the Pampas Grasses or Switchgrasses that can drop grass blades and blow around all winter. If you find that is true, trim back the tops to remove much of the messier parts.
Flowering bulbs form roots in the fall before going dormant, so the green foliage is very important for making food and storing energy for the next year’s blooms. So leave the green leaves intact until they turn yellow, and then you can trim the old leaves to the soil making room for other plants in your borders.
Pruning is one of those chores at the end of growing season that won’t have you wondering how you’ll get it all accomplished before the snow flies! Trust us, there will be plenty of other garden chores to get done this fall.
Head over to the Nature Hills website and find everything you need to make this coming spring the very best one yet!
Check out our entire Garden Blog for information on Pruning almost anything in your garden!