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McKay Nursery Company

Perennials and Grasses

Jan 15, 2014 12:01:50 AM

Written by

Web Admin

in Plant Care

We always encourage our customers to leave perennials and grasses up for the winter and prune them back to the ground in early spring. Why? Some people like to cut everything to the ground in fall. When you do that, you have nothing to look at all winter long (and winter can be long in our area). These plants have some much to offer, even in the winter. Color, texture, unique seed pods - and don't forget the importance of food and shelter for those birds that stick around for our cold, long winters. Here are some general tips to keep in mind for next winter. In the meantime, pay attention to the landscapes you see. Which ones are more interesting? The ones pruned to the ground, or the ones with ornamental grasses and perennials piercing the snow cover with a mosaic of textures.

  • As with all perennials, it is always best to clean up any foliage that was diseased this past growing season. Doing so will help eliminate re-infection next spring. Perennials love a fresh application of mulch in fall, as do most deciduous shrubs.
  • Newly planted perennials (especially newly planted in the fall) really need to be mulched very well when planted around the plants. Also mulch with evergreen boughs or marsh hay to prevent these plants from being heaved out of the ground by the freezing and thawing process. This is a necessary step to ensure good rooting in fall and to help overwinter the best. This is the reason we ask you to stop doing installations of perennials by the end of October - so the plants have a chance to root in before the ground freezes.

Suggestions for handling Established Perennials that we grow: how to treat them for winter.

  • Anemone - Cut back in fall or spring.
  • Aster - Leave up for fall, cut back in spring.
  • Astilbe - Leave up for fall if you like to see the dried flower heads, or cut back in fall or spring.
  • Brunnera - Pull off dried foliage after frost kills it. (Prevents any leaf disease from overwintering on plants.)
  • Butteryfly Bush (a woody ornamental that is treated as a perennial here) - Cut back in spring only please.
  • Caryopteris (a woody ornamental that is treated as a perennial here) - Trim back in spring only please.
  • Catmint - Leave up for fall, cut back in spring.
  • Columbine - Pull off dried foliage after frost kills it in either fall or early spring.
  • Coneflower - Best cut off in fall and remove all old foliage. (Prevents any leaf disease from overwintering on plants.)
  • Coreopsis - Leave up for fall (important) and cut back in spring (they hate to be cut in fall).
  • Daylily - Cut back and pull off all foliage in fall. (Prevents any leaf disease from overwintering on plants.)
  • Fern - Leave up for fall, cut back in spring.
  • Geranium - Cut back in fall or spring.
  • Goldenrod - Leave up for fall if wanted, cut back in either fall or spring.
  • Grasses - Please leave all up for fall and don't cut back until spring.
  • Heuchera (Coral Bells) - Best if left alone until spring. In spring, pull off only dried leaves, don't cut way back.
  • Hosta - Pull off old foliage after frost kills the leaves.
  • Iris - Cut back in fall or spring.
  • Ladysmantle - Cut back in fall or spring.
  • Lungwort - Cut back in fall or very early spring.
  • Peony - Cut back in fall.
  • Phlox - Cut back in fall and remove all old foliage. (Prevents any leaf disease from overwintering on plants.)
  • Rudbeckia - Cut back in fall or spring. (The seed heads are great little bird feeders, but if they had diseased foliage, it’s best to cut off and remove in fall.)
  • Russian Sage - Cut back in spring.
  • Salvia - Cut back in fall or spring.
  • Sedum - Cut back in fall or spring. (Look great in winter if you leave the taller varieties up.)
  • Veronica - Cut back in fall or spring.
  • Woadwaxen - Cut back in spring like you would a Spirea

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