It’s already started. Most mornings the grass on the lawn is tinged with the grey, tell-tale sparkle of frost. For this reason some areas in your garden may looking a little haggard and are ready to be pruned down and cleaned up in preparation for winter. You first need to ensure the plant you are pruning should be pruned in the fall, as honestly many plants would prefer to be left alone at this time of year. There’s something about this time of year though that gives folks an itchy trigger finger when it comes to pruning. Understandably though as certain plants need to be cut down as a killing frost will turn them into unsightly brown lumps in your garden. Herbaceous perennials (a plant that dies back to the ground every winter only to remerge in Spring)and ornamental grasses are the plants that can be safely cut back and cleaned up, but you really need to be careful with larger shrubs or bushes. Below we have included a short list of what should and should not be pruned in the Fall. We can appreciate the temptation to start lopping everything back but there is a good reason why you want to careful. Many early spring flowering plants have already formed their spring flower buds and if you lop off their branches now you’ll end up with no flowers next spring. It’s also important to prune on a cool dry day, as wet environments breed disease and if it gets too warm the sap will start to climb up the plant and when temperatures drop at night it will damage the plant further. Anything that you do decide to prune, make sure you are making the right cut. This image well illustrates the correct way to cut branches.

DO NOT PRUNE

Azalea

Flowering cherry, peach, plum, pear, crabapple

Forsythia

Lilac

Loropetalum

Oakleaf hydrangea

Rhododendron

Saucer or star magnolia

Spirea

Viburnum

 

Plants that are OK to prune in the fall:

Angel’s trumpet

‘Annabelle’, ‘Limelight’, and PG hydrangea

Butterfly bush

Cape plumbago

Chaste tree

Crepe myrtle*

Gardenia

Goldenrain tree

Hibiscus

‘Knockout’ and most shrub roses

Pomegranate

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