How To Prune Perennial Plants

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This article provides tips and instructions for how to prune and deadhead perennial plants.
by Brett · All Zones · Pruning · 0 Comments · August 29, 2010 · 12,681 views

Below are general instructions for pruning and deadheading most types of perennial plants. It's important to know the pruning needs of each specific variety of plant in your garden.

Deadheading Perennial Plants

How To Deadhead

Deadheading is a simple task which takes a few minutes however adds days and sometimes weeks to your flowering display. If you've never dead-headed before here's how go about it:

First, keep a watchful eye on your flowering plants, paying close attention to blooms that are past their best. Once a flower has started to fade remove it from the plant with a quick snip from your pruners, alternatively, if stems are thin or soft, knip it off with your thumb and forefinger. When doing this try to remove just the spent flower leaving the new buds beneath intact.

The Many Benefits of Deadheading

Your beds and borders now look neater due to the lack of fading blooms, but how else has this deadheading process helped? By removing the spent flowers we have prevented the plant from setting seed which, if it did, would trigger the production of a hormone which causes flowering to shut down completely. So, by our slight tinkering with Mother Nature, we can often force the plant to put its energies into a second flush of flower production instead of seed production. Bear in mind that your planting should have a plentiful supply of nutrients to give a secondary flowering.

Cutting Back

Many perennial plants can benefit from a shearing or cut back during the season. Lantana and verbena responds well to a mid-summer shearing, and will bloom heavier after doing so. Garden phlox and other perennials will produce a second flush of flowers when cut halfway back and fertilized after blooming.

At any time during the warm season it is okay to cut back dead or ugly foliage.

Use the Search feature at the top of every page of this website to find any specific plant. Once at the Plant File for that plant you will often find specific pruning instructions.

Winterizing Your Perennial Garden

When winter has arrived, and your perennials have either died back or stopped growing, you can first remove all dead foliage and then apply an inch or two of compost or mulch around plants. Leaves work great for mulch as well.


WARNING: DO NOT prune lantana back during the Fall. Doing so insures death of the plant. The time to hard prune lantana is in mid to late Spring when new growth begins to emerge. At this time, prune back all dead stems to a point just above where new growth is emerging.

If you clean dead flower stems from your daylilies you might get a repeat bloom.

Cut butterfly bush back in late Winter to 6 to 36 inches from ground and deadhead flowers throughout the summer to encourage heavier flowering.

DO NOT kill the ants that visit your peonies. The ants eat the sticky residue that forms on peony buds allowing the flower to open.

Let me know if you have any other pruning tips and I'll add them to this list!


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