Not so fast: Many gardeners cut back perennials too soon

Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 06:04:30 AM. Perennials can add considerable winter interest to a garden. Many gardeners cut back their perennials much too soon.
My neighbor has started cutting back his perennial garden, and I was wondering if I should do the same in my garden. It seems too early to be cutting back perennials, and some of the ones in my garden are still looking pretty good for this late in the season. Am I missing something here? — Nancy Greenberg, Barrington I prefer to leave perennials up for winter interest and cut them back in spring. Many perennials add considerable winter interest to a garden, and I prefer a more natural look in the winter, rather than a clean and tidy appearance. Many gardeners cut back their perennials much too soon. There are nuances specific to certain perennials that dictate whether it is better to cut them back in fall or spring, but the general rule I like to follow is to only cut back perennials that start looking bad in fall. For example, many hosta cultivars have nice fall color. They are often cut back during early fall cleanup. Hostas will flatten out and get mushy after they have been frosted a few times — that is when I would clean them up. While it is a good idea to cut back hostas in very late fall, I often run out of time and do not cut them back until spring with no harmful effects. Peony foliage is also best cut back late in the fall, as it collapses from freezing weather. Day lilies tend to look ragged in late summer or early fall, so I try to cut them back at that time, well before a killing frost. They often send up some new growth after being cut back. A few perennials...Read more
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