The Q&A Archives: Pruning, Deadheading and Other Care of Perennials

Question: Can you please recommend a resource (either on-line or in written form), that explains in detail how to care for specific perennials. I am new to perennial gardening and have not had any luck in finding a resource that explains for example: how to dead head a carnation (do you pull the petals out or snap off the whole unit, just leaving the stem); whether or not you cut perennials down or let them just die; how each type of perennial can be divided; when they can be moved etc. Help -- I need detailed information on individual perennial care.

Answer: Beginning perennial gardeners are often bewildered by the variety of plants and strident recommendations about plant care (often contradictory) and the apparently specialized care every plant seems to require, but in practice there are some basic principles which seem to apply in many cases. Deadheading for instance always requires removing the entire flower so that the future seed capsule is removed, division of fibrous rooted plants is a fairly consistent procedure. Once you have observed your plants for a year or two much of it will make more sense, too. Remember that plants are made to grow and that there are varying degrees of assisting them to do that -- some gardeners follow a very laissez faire approach and others putter incessantly. It is a matter of personal style and enjoyment!

Here are some books you may find helpful.

Perennials for Dummies by Marcia Tatroe ISBN 0764550306; Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Perennials by Ellen Phillips and C. Colston Burrell ISBN: 0875965709; and The Well-Tended Perennial Garden : Planting & Pruning Techniques by Tracy Disabato-Aust, Steven M. Still ISBN: 0881924148.

Another approach is to find an experienced gardener who will show you these things -- there is no substitute for simply seeing it done once, or trying it yourself! Enjoy your garden!

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