Many of your perennials should be pruned back in the fall. You can trim your foliage down to just a few inches. You will want to clear away your trimmings to help prevent disease and rot in the spring. If you experienced disease in your perennials last spring, cut the foliage all the way down to the ground and do not compost it. Throw it away so as to stop the disease from spreading. It is very important to clean your pruners with a mixture of bleach and water after dealing with any diseased plants. Make sure they are dried very well and then apply cooking oil before storing them for winter to prevent rust.

Plants to be cut back in the fall:

Bearded iris

Credit: User:GinoMM, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bee balm (Monardo)

Credit: HLWolfe, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Phlox

Lilies

Credit: Stan Shebs, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Gaillardia (Blanket Flower)

Credit: Rhododendrites, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Catmint (NepetaColumbine (Aqilegia)

Credit: KENPEI, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Daylily (Hemerocallis)

Credit: Doronenko, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Peony (Paeonia)

Credit: Taken by Fanghong, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Salvia

Credit: Taken by Phyzome, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Solomon ’s Seal (Polygonatum Odoratum)

Yarrow (Achillea)

Credit: Petar Milošević, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hostas

Credit: Qwertzy2~commonswiki, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Astilbe

Credit: stashabella, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Perennials to leave up through the winter:

Several common perennials can be left up through the winter for a variety of reasons, including protection, adding winter interest and assisting local wildlife. Plants to leave standing in winter and cut back in the spring include:

Annual wildflowers

Zinnias
Credit: শক্তিশেল, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you planted annual wildflowers like Cosmos, Zinnias or Sunflowers, leaving them standing in winter helps them to drop their seeds and come back the next year. If you aren’t happy leaving them stand, cut them back and leave the cuttings on the ground beneath. This should help them drop seeds for the next season.

Echinacea (coneflower) and Rudbeckia (Black Eyed Susan) should be left standing until spring to attract and feed birds through the winter.

Coneflower
Credit: Ulf Eliasson, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Black Eyed Susan
Credit: Lorax at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sedum and Ornamental Grasses should be left throughout the winter to add height and interest.

Credit: Dinesh Valke from Thane, India, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Butterfly Weed (Asclepius) , Ferns and Heuchera (Coral Bells) should be left until spring as the foliage helps to protect the crowns.

Butterfly Weed
Credit: Eric Hunt, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Heuchera (Coral Bells)
Credit: User:Geographer, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Hydrangea may be pruned in the late winter or the early spring or just after blooming has finished, depending on the variety. Hydrangeas that bloom on old growth 9like “Endless Summer”) should be pruned immediately after they have finished flowering. Hydrangeas that bloom on the new growth (like the popular “Annabelle” and “Limelight”) should be pruned in the late winter or early spring.

Hydrangea
Credit: 3268zauber, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This is why it is always good to save plant tags or write down which varieties you have in your garden. Fall cleanup can sometimes be daunting, but with all of the right information at your fingertips, it can be done in just a few hours.

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