In gardening terms, “cutting back” refers to reducing the size of a plant. Some perennials fare better through the winter when they are trimmed back prior to the colder months. Others rely on their foliage for protection, so they should be trimmed only in spring. Below, you can learn more about which perennials should be cut back in the springtime to ensure their health and create a beautiful home garden.
What Does “Cutting Back” Really Mean?
Cutting back is the act of reducing the size of a plant for various reasons, including to help promote better branching, to control the plant’s size, or even to help a plant rejuvenate and become healthier. When it comes to perennials, the act of “topping” – removing material down to two inches above ground level – is ideal, but only for some plants. Though some perennials fare better when topped in the winter, there are some – including asters, black-eyed Susan, campanula, foxglove, hostas, and more – that should be left alone in winter and trimmed back in spring.
Which Perennials Should Be Cut Back?
The list of perennials that should be left to go dormant in the winter and trimmed back in the spring is exhaustive, but some of the most common include:
- Asters – Asters require a bit of work during the blooming season. They must be pinched and forced in order to get the gorgeous blooms seen on television and on magazines, so by the time winter rolls around, they’re best just left alone to rejuvenate. Come spring, they can be trimmed back to your liking.
- Black-Eyed Susan – These are incredibly resilient flowers. While you absolutely can cut them back in the winter, many hobbyists choose to leave them alone because the seeds found on their heads are fantastic for feeding non-migrating bird species. If you leave the heads on during the winter, be sure to cut them back in the fall.
- Campanula – Campanula is fairly fast-growing. Many gardeners find themselves tending to the foliage in the summertime to remove any dead or damaged leaves and encourage more blooming. But because campanula continue to grow through fall, it is best left alone in late fall and winter, and only trimming back in the spring.
- Hosta – Hosta foliage is quite delicate. Leaving it alone through the winter for frost protection is ideal. In the spring, trim it into the desired shape. Remove any dead or damaged leaves.
- Mums – Leave the foliage alone through the winter; it will do an excellent job of protecting the crown.
- Valerian – Valerian is a beautiful addition to any garden. If you’re going to cut it back, it’s best done in late summer months. Then, leave it be through winter. Valerian struggles in colder zones, but if you can avoid cutting it back once fall rolls around, it’s much more likely to survive.
Understanding which perennials to cut back in spring is sure to help you enjoy your garden all throughout the year. Of course, you may also prefer to leave your grasses, foliage, and blooms to expert professionals who can provide all the services you need to keep your garden looking fresh throughout the year!