Fall perennial care

  • Wednesday, September 26, 2007 5:01pm
  • Life

Tina Wilson’s philosophy for fall perennial cleanup is to wait until a killing frost arrives before doing the majority of the work.

If a perennial is still green or has life in it, she waits until it looks like it’s fading before whacking it back.

She leaves some perennials standing, but prunes selectively from fall into winter.

“This makes spring clean-up chores easier to handle and spreads the work out more evenly,” she said. “Here are some general guidelines I use”:

Perennials for birds: Avoid cutting liatris (gayfeather), rudbekia (black-eyed Susan), echinacea (purple cone flower), Siberian iris seedheads or anything with seedheads or pods. Birds feed on them in winter and some of them have attractive seed pods.

What to cut back: Plants with leaves that have turned to mush should be trimmed back to new growth. Don’t remove the new growth. Leave anything that still looks good to you with a few notable exceptions listed below.

Plants not to cut back in fall: Some plants need to keep their foliage to survive the winter, including artemisia, heuchera (coral bells), dianthus, delphinium (remove flowers only), chrysanthemum (wait until spring warms substantially to cut back) and oriental poppies. Asters bloom so late, it’s a good idea to let them rest until late winter or spring. Leave fern foliage alone until spring whether they are evergreen or not.

Rake and remove: Rake up fallen foliage to prevent some diseases, rot and slugs laying eggs underneath. Rake up the majority of leaves that have fallen into perennial beds from deciduous trees. Leaving a few won’t hurt.

Perennials for fall color and interest include hosta, amsonia, sedums such as Autumn Joy, Autumn Fire, Dragon’s Blood and Angelina, Georgia Blue veronica, solomon’s seal, geranium sanguineum or geranium hybrids Brookside and Rozanne.

Perennials for interest in the winter include Helen von Stein or Silver Carpet lambs ears, dianthus, iberis sempervirens (evergreen candytuft), Georgia Blue veronica, geranium cinereum, epimedium (evergreen types), helleborus, asarum, pulmonaria, and oachysandra (especially variegated).

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