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As Fall continues, we will see most of our landscape begin to go dormant. While it may be tempting to just cut everything down to the ground or to prune it now since it’s cooler outside – don’t! We will breakdown the most common things that you should prune or cut back this Fall and also what you shouldn’t! Make sure to use a clean pair of sharp pruners and if you ever prune a diseased plant then sanitize your pruners before moving onto the next plant.

Trees & shrubs that bloom in the Spring should NOT be pruned now. By pruning now, you will cut off the buds that are already starting to develop for next years growth. Some shrubs blooom on “old wood” meaning they will bloom next Spring on THIS year’s stems. If your shrub (Hydrangeas for instance) grew leaves on the bare stems from last year, then it probably grows on old wood. If your plant comes up fresh from the ground every year then they bloom on new wood and can be cut back or pruned. Rebloomers often grow on both woods.

While we don’t recommend pruning most trees in the Fall – you definetely want to avoid pruning our first list. These Spring bloomers should only be pruned immediately after flowering next Spring.

Avoid pruning these Spring blooming trees & shrubs now

  • Rhododendrons
  • Azaleas
  • Flowering Cherry, Peach, & Plum
  • Forsythia
  • Crabapple
  • Lilac
  • certain Hydrangea varieties that grow on old wood such as Oakleaf
  • Saucer Magnolia
  • Ninebark
  • Weigela
  • Spirea
  • perennial grasses

Prune these trees & shrubs in the Fall/Winter

  • Annabell Hydrangeas
  • Limelight Hydrangeas
  • Hydrangeas blooming on new wood only
  • Knockout Rose – cut back by about 1/3
  • Japanese Maples (can also be done in early summer)
  • Fruit Trees (make sure it do it before early Spring bud break)
  • Crape Myrtles

Prune these perennials after the first harder frost

  • Bearded Iris – cut back to around 6″
  • Bee Balm/Monarda – cut back to the ground
  • Peony – cut back to a few inches above the base
  • Daylily – cut back to a few inches above the base
  • tall Phlox – cut back to a few inches above the base
  • Hosta – cut back to the base
  • Hollyhocks – cut back to about 6″
  • Nepeta/Catmint – cut back to tidy up
  • Crocosmia – cut back to a few inches above the base
  • Helianthus False Sunflower – cut back to the base
  • Penstemon – cut back to a few inches above the base
  • Salvia – cut down to around the base of the plant to a few inches
  • Baptisia / False Indigo – cut back to the base

Avoid pruning these perennials for best results. Some will provide winter interest and food sources for birds, as well.

  • Sedum – winter interest and longer lasting foliage
  • Ornamental Grasses – help protect the crown
  • Russian Sage – winter interest
  • native Coneflowers (it doesn’t hurt to cut them but seed pods can be a good food source for birds)
  • perennial Hibiscus – leave some stalks up because since Hibiscus is so late to emerge you may think it’s dead and accidentally plant something else in it’s place
  • Artemsia – often too fragile if cut back in winter
  • Astible – wait for Spring clean up
  • Bellflower / Campanula – wait for Spring
  • Black Eyed Susan – they make a great food source for birds with their seed pods
  • Butterfly Weed – the foliage can protect the crown during winter
  • Coral Bells – best pruned back and cleaned up in Spring though you can remove the dead bloom stalks and any  lower dead leaves
  • Dianthus – will stay somewhat evergreen during winter and only need a light clean up in the Spring
  • Joe Pye Weed – another great food source for birds in the winter if you leave it be until Spring
  • Lavender – wait until Spring to cut out dieback. Never cut more than 1/3 of a Lavender plant in a season
  • Red Hot Poker – only cut back about half to protect the crown
  • Coreopsis – clean up in Spring

We know this isn’t an all encompassing list so feel free to contact us with any specific plant questions you have!

16 replies added

  1. Maleski Diane Pernal October 7, 2022 Reply

    These lists regarding when to prune various plants are SO HELPFUL. I’ve never seen detailed lists of pruning various shrubs and plants like this. No wonder you’re my go to plant source!

  2. Charlie October 7, 2022 Reply

    So, when can one prune azaleas?

  3. Lorie October 7, 2022 Reply

    When should you prune roses other than knockout roses? Thanks!

  4. Dovie Hamblin October 11, 2022 Reply

    I have two Christmas hollies around 3 yrs old, when i bought them they had lots of red berries and they haven’t had any since. what am i doing wrong?

  5. John Sieber October 12, 2022 Reply

    Loved the info. When do I prune fruit trees?

  6. Tammy November 1, 2022 Reply

    When can you cut back a small japanese maple?

  7. Jane Redmond November 2, 2022 Reply

    Thank you for this pruning guideline. Very informative and very timely. So helpful. Thank you so much. Looking forward to the Christmas shopping trip soon and the Open House.

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