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Perennial Plants to Cut Back in Spring
- Perennial plants that bloom in late summer or fall, such as asters, chrysanthemum, obedient plant, black-eyed Susan, coneflower, joe-pye weed, goldenrod, Russian sage and tall sedums
- Ornamental grasses
- Perennial plants grown for their leaves, such as artemesia, purple sage and lamb’s ear
Time — 5 minutes per plant
Difficulty — Easy
Expertise — Know which plants are perennials
Frequency — Once a year
Where — All US
Cut perennial plants back before new growth begins or very soon after.
- (Optional) To hold the plant together, wrap a string around the whole plant and knot it snugly.
- Using a sharp hand pruner, garden shears, or scissors, cut off dead leaves and stems, based on the plant’s growth habit:
- Cut to the ground perennial plants that die back to the ground each season. New growth emerges from below ground in spring.
- Cut back woody perennial plants — those with tough, wood-like stems — to about 6 inches tall. Remove dead leaves and small, flexible stems, but leave the woody base of the plant intact. New growth emerges from the woody stems.
- For perennial plants with a low-growing, evergreen rosette of leaves at the base, cut off the stems but leave the rosette.
- For perennial plants that are partially evergreen in milder climates, remove damaged leaves and remaining flowers. Examples include coral bells, bergenia and evergreen ferns.
- Either compost disease-free leaves and stems, or dispose of them in your town’s yard waste collection. Put diseased leaves and stems in the trash.
Tips and Warnings
In early summer, give fall-flowering perennial plants such as mums and asters another light pruning to encourage more branching and flowering. When they reach 6 to 8 inches tall, trim off the top 2 to 3 inches.