The Q&A Archives: Pruning perennials

Question: We know almost nothing about gardening. Do we have to prune perennial flowers and how far down do we cut them if we do have to prune?

How far down do we prune rose bushes? Where the branch meets the stem, or down by the soil level (crown?)?

Answer: Herbaceous perennials will die down to ground level with the first hard freeze. When this happens you can simply cut the dead parts off at ground level and remove them from the garden. Once the debris is gone you can mulch over the soil with a few inches of compost or straw or pine boughs to help protect the roots of your plants. Woody perennials may or may not lose their leaves with the first heavy frost. If they lose their leaves, rake up and remove the leaves from the garden, then mulch around their bases to help insulate the roots; if they are evergreen and do not lose their leaves, all you need to do is spread a few inches of mulch beneath them to suppress winter weeds and to help insulate the soil.

Rose bushes should be pruned in the spring, just as the buds begin to swell on the vines. At that time, choose the healthiest looking 3-5 canes to keep and prune all the rest down as far as possible to completely remove them. The 3-5 canes you saved can then be pruned down to about knee-high. Prune to an outside facing bud, in the direction you want the plant to grow. New flowering shoots will be produced on these 3-5 canes. Pruned properly, your rose bush will have a vase-shape with an open center which will fill in as the season progresses.

Hope this answers all your questions!

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