As you transition your yard from fall to winter, you may be thinking about doing some garden cleaning. Before you reach for your pruning shears and rake, consider all the benefits and beauty of leaving healthy perennials for winter.
The seed heads of many perennials, such as cornflowers, rudbeckia, liatris, and beebalm, attract seed-eating songbirds such as finches, sparrows, chickadee, juncos, and jays to winter gardens. Adds movement and color to your winter garden. Best of all, you don’t need to replenish and clean this natural food source.
Many of these plants provide a home for beneficial insects, including native bees and other pollinators. Many of these insects overwinter in or near the stems of perennials.
Native plants have evolved alongside many of these insects, birds and wildlife. Most of them provide home and food for native insects, songbirds and wildlife. Purple coneflower, liatris, rudbeckia, sunflower, asters, goldenrod, yucca, and joe pie weed are just a few of these native plants you may be growing.
Leave evergreen or semi-evergreen perennials in your garden and enjoy the autumn leaves in winter. Keep an eye out for green leaves at the base of perennials such as yarrow, shasta daisy, and milk thistle, and don’t disturb them.
Leave borderline hardy perennials intact to increase your chances of surviving a harsher-than-usual winter. We provide materials.
Remove plants that are infested with disease or pests. Removing this from your garden in the fall will reduce the risk of having these problems next year. Please contact your local authority for disposal options.
Remove hosta leaves when the autumn colors fade and the leaves die back, reducing the risk of leaf nematodes overwintering in the plant crown.
When cutting back perennials in the fall, wait for a few severe frosts.In mild climates, wait until the leaves turn brown and dry completely. This causes the plant to store all the energy it produces in its roots for healthy growth next spring.
Use sharp bypass pruners to make a clean cut to the stem. Soak in rubbing alcohol or spray with disinfectant spray to disinfect tools and prevent the spread of disease.
Rake leaves on the surface of the soil around the plant, not on the curb of the garden. Fall leaves make an excellent mulch that moderates soil temperature, suppresses weeds, retains moisture, and improves soil as it decomposes.
Wait until spring temperatures are regularly in the 50s to finish removing perennials. This gives overwintering insects a chance to leave their winter homes. It also provides the food that songbirds need in the spring before many plants begin to produce seeds and fruits.
With your winter garden in place, you can relax and start planning your spring garden.