Perennial pruning: spring or fall?

Perennials are undoubtedly the queens of the garden. We love them for many reasons, including their low maintenance. Once they are well established, there is little care required for them to offer the maximum of their beauty. Whether they are known for their beautiful, colourful blooms or for their structuring foliage, perennials are perfect for creating flowerbeds and clumps that will grace your home throughout the summer. One question remains about the maintenance of perennials: should they be pruned in the spring or in the fall?

There are two schools of thought about pruning perennials: those who believe that they should definitely be pruned in the fall and those who wait until spring to do so. Who is right, who is wrong? All answers are good. It remains the gardener’s choice more than anything else.

All above-ground parts of perennials die in winter, only the roots survive the cold season. Whether or not the plant retains its stems, leaves and flowering stalks does not change the principle of perennial survival.

Fall pruning

Some people choose to cut perennials back to the ground in the fall to keep the flowerbeds cleaner. It is sure that seeing plants wither away as the days go by can be discouraging to many. If you take the opportunity to add a few potted fall plants, such as chrysanthemums, and decorative cabbages to add a nice touch of colour and prolong the fun, why not?

If you’re into fall pruning, you don’t have to cut everything back at this time either. Some perennials stay beautiful for a long time and even have a visual interest in winter. This is the case for grasses, hydrangeas and echinaceas among others. Keep them!

It’s also important to know that the leaves and stems of plants that sag to the ground in the fall can protect the roots from the cold. They play a similar role to mulch. They also trap snow at the base of the plants, further protecting them from extreme cold, as snow is an excellent insulator. It is also important not to overlook the fact that this layer serves as a shelter for small animals and certain insects that can hide there to spend the winter and that, by decomposing quietly, it will bring organic matter to your flowerbeds.

Spring pruning

In spring, there is no shortage of tasks in the garden: cleaning, repairing, preparing, seeding, etc. If you got a head start in the fall, you’ll save time on pruning. On the other hand, after winter, you will definitely have a good cleanup of your beds to do to remove debris left by snow and wind. Why not do it all at the same time and take the opportunity to cut back your perennials at that time?

One thing’s for sure: perennials must be pruned. It’s up to you to decide the best time to do it. Your plants won’t hold it against you. For more gardening tips and advice, visit our blog section.