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Perennial Plants to Cut Back in Spring

Your garden is almost ready to start greening up again, so it’s time to cut off the dead growth left from last year. Here is a list of perennial plants to cut back in spring: 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.

  1. (Optional) To hold the plant together, wrap a string around the whole plant and knot it snugly.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


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