To Cut Back, Or Not?

Is fall the best time to cut back your shrubs and perenials? We have the answers!



Autumn is the time to tidy up the yard before the winter winds, ice, and snow wreak havoc. You will want to trim back the garden and mulch the beds. And you should prune the shrubbery, too.

Many perennials, such as black-eyed Susans, foxglove, and hostas, leave unsightly stalks in the fall garden that should be cut down. Not only will this make the garden look better, it will insure that the plants grow well in the spring and put forth showy flowers on schedule.

Use garden shears or small loppers to trim the stalks close to the ground, but not all the way down. Leave a visible crown.

If you grow roses, remove only the dead flowers and about a third of the upper branches. The goal is to cut the rose bush just enough so that the snow does not break the branches, and the wind does not snap them.

Many flowering shrubs do well when thinned. The sun can reach all the branches and the spring show will be especially glorious.

Other shrubbery, such as forsythia and lilac, form their blossoms near the tip of the plant and so fall trimming will reduce, or totally destroy, next year’s flowers. For these, cut off only dead branches and those that are up against the house.

(If you want to trim these, do so immediately after they bloom in the spring.)

Read up on the shrubs you have in your yard.

Evaluate the shrubs before you start cutting and think about the shape you prefer. Trim the shrubs so that they don’t interfere with the house or walkways.

Finally, mulch garden beds and around shrubs and small trees. Mulch, which can be ground leaf litter, wood chips, chopped straw, or a similar mixture, holds in moisture and prevents soil erosion.

If the soil in your garden is very moist and heavy with clay, you will not need to mulch as much as someone with drier soil. You will have to be the judge.