Cutting back herbaceous perennials
Herbaceous perennials bring colour and structure to your garden borders. These plants – like delphiniums, geraniums, lupins, paeonies and many more die back and grow back again each year.
Regular cutting back and deadheading can keep your beds looking neat and bright throughout the warmer seasons. But long-term maintenance can encourage full and healthy growth year after year.
Cutting back herbaceous perennials is just one way to do it…
How to cut back herbaceous perennials
There are a couple of ways to cut back perennials.
We’d recommend cutting the plant at the base of the stem. This will help to keep your beds looking neat and tidy, and ensures you’ve removed any traces of leaf spot or mildew.
If you have a lot of perennials in your borders, cut the plant a few inches above the base and ground level. This marks the spot where they’re located and prevents any damage to the root system during next season’s soil preparation and aeration. The remaining stems will die off during the winter and can be safely removed at the beginning of spring.
Most cut plant material can be added to the compost heap. But it’s important to separate and burn any diseased plant material after cutting – this ensures any mildew, stem rot or rust doesn’t spread.
When to cut back herbaceous perennials
We’d typically recommend cutting back herbaceous perennials when they start to die off naturally – ie when the leaves begin to turn yellow.
The ideal time will depend on the climate where you live. In the UK, it’s usually in the autumn – around October or November. Perennials often die later in warmer climates.
Don’t cut perennials back any earlier than this. It can hinder their full development. While the leaves are still green, plants still undertake photosynthesis – this helps the plant to grow healthily.
Regular cutting, pruning and deadheading is vital for healthy plant growth. Dedicated, long-term maintenance is, too! Looking for more gardening tips? See here for our expert advice on planting, pruning and other garden maintenance.