What Not to Cut Back This Fall

Posted on October 2nd, 2021

Fall is here which means cool weather and frosty mornings are headed our way. Unfortunately for your plants, there’s no heater or jacket that can help keep them warm, and as a result, some of your plants will begin to look a little sad once temperatures start to drop. If you’re like many gardeners, that means it’s time to hack everything back! Well…maybe not. If you have any of these plants listed below, you’ll want to avoid cutting them to the ground later this fall, or in some cases, cutting them back at all.

  • Azaleas:  prune these once they’re past flower, but before the fourth of July.
  • Rose of Sharon: likes to be left alone for the coming winter and instead cleaned up in the early spring.
  • Lavender: Wait until March! Cut out any dead wood at the end of winter to ensure the best new flush for your lavender plants.
  • Montauk Daisy: (Nipponanthemum)  Cut this woody perennial back to six inches from the ground this fall, rather than all the way to the ground.
  • Russian Sage: (Perovskia) If the shape or health of the plant has been compromised, cut it back aggressively this fall, to roughly six inches. If not, leave it alone until early to mid-spring, removing any dead wood and cutting back to where you see new growth emerging. Remember, it’s a late-breaking plant, so give your sage a little extra time to start growing.
  • Rhododendron: like azaleas, rhododendrons can be pruned once they’re past flower, but before the fourth of July.
  • Roses: like to be left alone for the coming winter, and instead cleaned up in the early spring.
  • Geum: Remove any damaged or dead foliage now, but leave the majority of the plant for the winter. You can repeat this process again in April, removing any leaves with winter injury, and even divide it around April or early May, every three to four years, but if you need to cut it all the way back, wait until after it’s past flower.
  • Perennial Hibiscus: cut this plant back to about six inches from the ground this fall… not because it will grow from the stump, but rather to keep a marker for you to remember you have this plant. Perennial hibiscus won’t be back in your garden until at least June!
  • Summer and Fall blooming Clematis:  Wait until spring to clean up any dead wood on these plants, once you start seeing a little new growth. 
  • Ornamental Grasses:  Keep these around all winter to protect the base of the plant, where the new growth will emerge in spring. Don’t cut them back until March at the earliest, or April at the latest. 
  • Panicled Hydrangeas: like to be left alone for the coming winter, and cleaned up in the early spring.
  • Lilacs: prune after they’re past flower, but before the fourth of July.
  • Evergreens: can be pruned in mid-spring after the plants have begun to flush lush new growth.