Fall cutting back plants - Knowledgebase Question

Marblehead, Ma (Zone 6b)
I need some help, Please.
Avatar for GardenWalkerJJJ
Question by GardenWalkerJJJ
November 6, 2009
Would you please tell me how close to the ground I should be cutting back my perenials, eg, phlox, shasta daisies, asters, balloon plants, cone flowers, lupine, black-eyed susans, purple loosestrife, and, should I leave the cuttings on the ground over the winter, or clear them up. Thank you very much. Jody Magee

Answer from NGA
November 6, 2009
The safest approach is to wait until a heavy frost kills the tops of the plants and then cut them down to ground level and remove the dead stems and foliage (to reduce the possibility of insects or diseases overwintering). Once you've done that, you can spread fresh mulch over the tops of the flower beds. Compost, shredded leaves, etc. make good mulch materials. Pruning stimulates new growth so you'll want to make sure the plants are dormant before cutting back the foliage. Otherwise they will begin to grow again and the new growth won't have time to harden off before winter sets in. You'll end up having to prune them in the spring again! So, wait until the tops die down on their own, then cut and remove all the debris from your garden. Hope this clarifies things for you. Enjoy your garden!

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