Fall is the perfect time to get out, enjoy the cool weather and maintain your perennial gardens. Whether you’re cutting perennials back, dividing varieties that have grown substantially, or digging up and moving plants that didn’t do well this past season – fall is the time to do it.
Although you may have the urge to cut everything down to the ground this fall, we recommend leaving several perennials standing through the fall and winter months. Sedum remains attractive all winter long, especially with a dusting of snow. Echinacea and Rudbeckia seeds are a tasty treat for birds. Some varieties, including Butterfly Weed and Coral Bells, don’t like to be cut back, as their foliage protects the plants through the winter.
Some perennials, such as Sedum, remain attractive throughout the winter months and can be left as is.
Having said that, it’s important to cut back most of the perennials in your garden, as they usually can’t tolerate the winter weather. They will also create an eye sore in the garden. We recommend cutting back perennials in your garden (except for the ones mentioned above) after the weather has cooled down significantly, but before the snow flies. Most varieties like to be cut down several inches from the ground. If the plant is diseased, remember not to compost the foliage.
The best rule to dividing plants is not to wait until the plant has outgrown its space so much that it looks like it’s dying. Divide healthy, large plants such as Iris and Daylilies that are ready to be moved to other spots in the garden.
The cooler temperatures in fall allow for the quickest reestablishment of your perennials after dividing and re-planting (or giving to a lucky friend). The plants will be able to establish new roots before the heat of summer arrives. Divide plants into smaller sections (about 20% of the original plant), as smaller plants actually have a better chance of survival. We don’t recommend dividing while a plant is in bloom, but if you have to, be extra conscious of watering and care.
After diving your plants, if you’re not planting right away, we recommend wetting the roots and storing them in a cool, shady spot, covering them with newspaper to keep them moist. When re-planting, add an organic fertilizer to help boost the new plant’s chances of growing strong in the garden.
We’ve all done it – planted a Peony too deep so it doesn’t bloom, or added a sun-loving variety where there’s too much shade. Fall is the perfect time to try to correct your past growing errors and dig up, re-plant and move existing perennials. Like dividing plants, fall is the perfect time to move and re-plant varieties because the cooler temperatures allow for the root structures to get established before the warm season.
Although Mulching isn’t necessary in the fall, if you’ve recently divided and re-planted small perennials, or have other new, tender additions to the fall garden, we recommend adding a layer of mulch to help protect them from the harsh winter.