There’s something calming about a fall cleanup. As the season gets colder and leaves being to drop with greater gusto, you can take your time over a few weeks to complete an annual fall cleanup. We’ve already gone over when to prune hydrangeas, discussed getting garden beds ready for the next year and suggested that the fall is a good time to plan for planting, but did you know that there are some perennials that absolutely will not benefit from a fall pruning? These plants are either meant to be given a trim in the spring, or not at all. Follow the advice below, and if you have any of the plants covered, be sure to skip pruning them this fall, and you’ll be rewarded with next year’s growth.
Right off the bat, you’re going to want to avoid pruning anything that blooms early in the spring, as a general rule of thumb. By pruning these perennials back in the fall, you’ll be stunting their growth in the spring. When they would have just simply begun their spring growth on what was leftover from the winter, at exactly at the time and temperature that they should begin bloom, early blooming plants that are pruned back in fall will have to put energy, that would have just gone to blooms, into regrowing what was lost.
This phenomenon can be seen in springtime blooming perennials like forsythia, lilacs and fragrant viburnum (Korean Spice and Judd Viburnum, for example). There is almost nothing more of a pure, simple joy than smelling the lush perfume of just bloomed lilacs early in the rainy spring. Pollinators love blooming flowers, especially early in the spring, after a barren winter. Do yourself, your landscape and local pollinators a favor and skip pruning early blooming perennials during fall.
Now that you know not to prune early blooming perennials, how early is early blooming? A good rule of thumb is any perennial plant in our growing zone, 5b, that blooms between now (fall, or late October when this was written) and Mother’s Day should be considered an early blooming perennial. These early blooming perennials should be left alone to overwinter. By letting them grow as they should, you’ll be setting your perennials up for vibrant blooms in the spring.
Whispering Hills Garden and Landscape Center is a full service landscape center and nursery located in Cary, Illinois. Stop in today for our full selection of hydrangeas and perennial shrubs, now 50% off until end of season (Updated: 10/27/21).