Fall landscape bed with cut back perennials

Fall Cutbacks & Cleanups: Plants to Cut Back vs Plants to Leave

At the end of the season, you’ll see your perennials start to die back, turn brown and wilt. Many perennials need to be cut back in the Fall, all the way to the ground. Others should be left untouched until Spring. 

This is why it’s so important to use a good landscaper who understands and can identify plants when they’re out of bloom. You don’t want someone to come in and clear cut your flower beds, you want a plant specialist who can conduct a proper fall cutback.

What’s the purpose of Fall Cut Backs and Clean-ups?

  1. Health. Removing dead, diseased or inflicted parts of plants helps reduce the chance of spreading diseases like fungus to healthy plants in the spring.
  2. Reseeding. Keeping seed heads will promote reseeding of the plant, but cutting back will prevent spread and take-over by one species.
  3. Room for spring growth. Plants with wide leaves, such as hostas, cover the ground and prevent new plants from sprouting in the spring. Remove unnecessary foliage to open up space for new plants.

When cutting back fall perennials, be sure to clear the ground of any cut foliage to reduce the chance of passing disease to plants in the spring or creating unnecessary rot.

Some of the Fall cutback plants include:

  • Astilbe
  • Bearded Iris
  • Bee Balm (Monarda)
  • Catmint
  • Columbine
  • Daylily (Hemerocallis)
  • Hostas
  • Lilies
  • Peony (Paeonia)
  • Phlox
  • Salvia
  • Yarrow (Achillea)

Many perennials can be left to cut back in Spring instead. These plants offer food for over-wintering birds, protection for new shoots and visual décor for your gardens in the bleakest months.

  • Annual wildflowers – Cosmos, Zinnias, Sunflowers. These are more likely to drop their seed heads over winter and return the following year.
  • Butterfly weed, Ferns, & Coral Bells – their foliage protects the crowns of the plants
  • Coneflowers & Black-Eyed Susan – these are great species to provide an easier food source for birds in the cold of winter.
  • Hydrangea – these plants have blooms on old growth or new growth depending on the variety. Endless Summer plants bloom on old growth and should be pruned after flowering before they set next year’s buds. New growth plants (Annabelles) should be pruned in early spring.
  • Sedums & ornamental grasses – these provide some vertical and horizontal filling to the garden so it doesn’t look as bare.

The correct approach to fall and spring cut backs makes a massive difference in the healthy maturation and filling in of your gardens. There won’t be as much of a need to replace plants or treat disease and pests when proper maintenance and management practices are performed.

We can help you get an expert fall clean up so you preserve plants the right way for winter! 

Chesapeake Landscapes provides full-service landscape and hardscape design and installation throughout Harford, Baltimore, and Cecil Counties. Schedule an appointment with a designer here!