All Things Gardening forum→What do I do for for fall clean-up?

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Name: Bria
Northern VA (Zone 7a)
Houseplants Birds
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Bschmuck
Oct 11, 2020 1:58 PM CST
Hi y'all! Look.

I'm new to this gardening stuff and the beds at my new-ish (2yrs) house have got me so overwhelmed.

I'm hoping someone loves to give plant advice and will tell me the MOST important thing to do for these plants (at least the ones I have identified so far) now that we're at the end of the season. I'm thinking cutting back, pruning, deadheading, mulching, composting, leave alone, etc.?

I spend hours reading, but feel like I can't possibly do it all. Please, help!

Peonies
Boxwoods
Japanese Laurel
Hosta
Ferns
Hardy begonia
Azalea
Butterfly bush
Swamp milkweed
Abelia
Oakleaf hydrangea
Salvia
Rudbeckia
Coneflower
Rose
Lilac trees
Daylilies
Stonecrop
Yucca
Liriope

Thanks for any input!




Name: Rj
Just S of the twin cities of M (Zone 4b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Plant Identifier Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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crawgarden
Oct 11, 2020 2:10 PM CST
Peonies I cut down leaving 3-4" of the stalk, when they have turned brown

Hosta, remove the leaves when they turn translucent and easy to pull

Ferns I just leave them alone

Swamp milkweed I leave them alone

Rudbeckia/coneflower leave for the birds and winter interest

Daylily, clean up the leaves when they are yellow,

Tall stonecrops, I leave the stalks for next years support

Zone 4b

Isaac Asimov, once wrote, “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”
Name: Bria
Northern VA (Zone 7a)
Houseplants Birds
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Bschmuck
Oct 11, 2020 4:00 PM CST
@crawgarden yes! This is exactly what I was looking for. Thank you!

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ElPolloDiablo
Oct 12, 2020 4:43 AM CST
Butterfly bush (Buddleja sp.): don't touch it now. If the plant has been in your garden for at least a couple of years, in late Winter/early Spring cut it back until it's about a couple of feet tall to encourage the production of larger flowers. If it's a new transplant, just remove damaged limbs (if any) and let it be for the time being.

Salvia. It depends on what Salvia it is. I have a few plants of Garden sage (S. officinalis) for cooking and in February I cut them back until there's just 4-5" and a few leaves left. While not strictly needed I have found that adding at this time an NPK fertilizer gives the leaves a much more defined taste down the road.

Roses. Depends on what you have, but they are usually pruned in Late winter when new shoots become apparent. Each type of rose (Thea hybrid, Bourbon, climber etc) has different pruning requirements and ramblers are only pruned to keep their growth in check. It's very important to give them plenty of fertilizer and that is usually done when the soil starts thawing at the end of the Winter.

Azalea/rhododendron. Just give them a foliar or liquid fertilizer at regular intervals and leave them be because they are growing the buds for next year blooming.

Differently from other hydrangeas oakleaves require minimal pruning, if any. I would just remove any suckers (unless you want your plant to spread) and apply a fertilizer when the soil thaws.

Japanese laurel requires pruning only if it's growing too much, and even them think it through because they are very slow growing bushes.

Pruning is as much an art as it's a science and it's about 30% training and 70% experience, and you never stop learning.

Finally one of the most important things you can do in the Fall is cleaning up. This mostly means raking up the fallen leaves and getting rid of them: besides being unsightly they are the perfect overwintering ground for all sorts of fungine diseases and quite a few pests as well. Composting unprocessed leaves takes years (literally) so you may want to either review your options or invest in a good quality chipper/shredder.
In the days of yore container cleaning was an important activity as well, especially given it was done with a brush and a bucked of hot water, but these days pressure washers make it a quick and easy job to be done just before the beginning of the growing season.

Anythting else, just ask.

The Saviour.
Name: seil
St Clair Shores, MI (Zone 6a)
Roses Garden Photography Region: Michigan
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seilMI
Oct 12, 2020 3:09 PM CST
Peonies, Butterfly bush and cone flowers can be cut back now or left for the birds over winter and cut back in the early spring.

Hydrangea and Lilacs should only be pruned back to keep in size and that should only be done immediately after they bloom and then left until after they bloom again the next spring. They only bloom on year old wood so if your prune them back in the late fall you cut off all the wood that would bloom next spring and you'll get no flowers.

Roses should only be pruned down in the fall if they are extremely tall and would possibly break in winter winds and then only to about 4 feet. Otherwise just leave them alone until early next spring. If you have climbers do not prune them at all except for dead wood. Stake and tie them securely so they do not whip in the wind. But you also need to know what kind of roses you have. Some roses bloom several times a year. Other roses will only bloom once a year. For the once a year roses you fallow the same rules as the hydrangeas and lilacs and only prune once when they finish their spring bloom.

Don't be daunted by any of it though. Most plants are pretty forgiving and even if you mess up they will survive and you'll get another chance next year! To prune or not to prune rarely kills anything. Fertilizer is pretty much the same thing. The most important thing for all plants is the right amount of sun exposure and WATER!

DonnaHamilton
Oct 14, 2020 6:59 AM CST
I have an area I live in with barely any shade and for the rest of the year, the plant is exposed to 100% sun.
I also have a leafy, handsome Victorian English grass, and I'd like to know more about it, including how to identify its variety and what to do if there's an outbreak, I need to decide what Insecticide for Grubs to use. What are some tips you've seen work well for you?
Name: Bria
Northern VA (Zone 7a)
Houseplants Birds
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Bschmuck
Oct 14, 2020 9:14 AM CST
@DonnaHamilton

Welcome! I'm sorry, but I don't know the answer to your question. I think you will have more response if you post your question into a new thread.

Good luck!
Name: Sue Taylor
Northumberland, UK
Charter ATP Member Bulbs Bookworm Amaryllis Houseplants Annuals
Garden Photography Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Foliage Fan Bee Lover Region: United Kingdom I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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kniphofia
Oct 14, 2020 9:31 AM CST
I leave tidying up until Spring. Enjoy the seedheads and dead stems which provide winter interest and habitat for wildlife.
Name: Paula Benyei
NYC suburbs (Zone 6b)
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Turbosaurus
Oct 18, 2020 6:52 PM CST
These are all plants meant for your zone, which is a good thing.
I have most of the plants you mention-

Boxwood should only be shaped early summer

peony, hosta fern rudbeckia, salvia, coneflower, and other perenials- cut back to near dirt, mow them with the lawn mower- the only thing I would do by hand is butterfly bush- they are so hard to keep neet- leave multiple branches near ground level - if you don't trim them they get sloppy-the best ay to do butterfly bush is trim every stem to just above a split- because you'll get two branches above each split.

azlia and rhoodendorn are ideally trimed first thing in spring to maintain their shape - but that will take off the blooms. Id rather have a little less than perfectly geometric shape and significant booms with a late spring post bloom trim: you have to pick one or the other- perfect shape (as you see it) or tremndous blooms.
I should explain: The bloom buds set in the fall at the tip of the branch dormant but ready for spring. New vegetative growth starts in spring, usually branching from the same node as the flower. If you cut first thing in the spring, you'll remove the forming buds flower buds, but all of the plants energy will go into forming new branches, lower down, where you cut. If you wait until after the blooms, all of the new foliage and branch buds will already be set at the same node as the flower, and you'll cut those off. Depends on what kind of trimming you want to do. If they are too big by half - cut back on the first nice day- because you'll want a lot of branching new growth to fill in and next year will be fabulous. If it's just a trim, I always wait.. then I end up with tall scraggly bushes, so every 5-7 years I sacrifice blooms to recover reasonable size.

mop head Hydrangea should be trimmed right around frost- once its cool and the remaining flowers stat to brown. Only take the tip becasue every leaf node from this year is a new growth spot that will flower next year- so just take the blooms and any dry canes out for max display next year. Any bud at a leaf join this year will flower next year, so try not to cut them off unless you've overloaded
The plural of anecdote is not data.
[Last edited by Turbosaurus - Oct 25, 2020 7:00 PM (+)]
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Name: Bob
Vernon N.J. (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member Bookworm Snakes Plant Database Moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Forum moderator
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NJBob
Oct 18, 2020 8:03 PM CST
Be careful about using a lawn mower to cut back plants. Used that method and spread HVX virus in my large Hosta bed.
Ferns have a better survival rate by not cutting back till right before they come back up. Also I find that Echinacea do better if you cut back no lower then 6 inches.
Name: Bria
Northern VA (Zone 7a)
Houseplants Birds
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Bschmuck
Oct 22, 2020 3:48 PM CST
Guys, do I leave the fallen leaves in my garden beds to overwinter??
Name: Rj
Just S of the twin cities of M (Zone 4b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Plant Identifier Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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crawgarden
Oct 22, 2020 3:53 PM CST
I leave the leaves in my bed
Isaac Asimov, once wrote, “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”
Name: Gary
Wyoming MN (Zone 4a)
hostasmore
Oct 22, 2020 3:54 PM CST
Me too.
Name: Paula Benyei
NYC suburbs (Zone 6b)
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Turbosaurus
Oct 25, 2020 7:15 PM CST
"Ferns have a better survival rate by not cutting back till right before they come back up".

Do you leave brown ferns until new heads appear in the spring? I've let them go wild and I've mowed them back, I've never noticed a difference in the next years growth. I'm interested in your experience. I cut them back when it gets at or near frost because they're ugly dead, but I've never seen a noticeable difference next year





"Also I find that Echinacea do better if you cut back no lower then 6 inches."
Mine don't care... I have edge beds with borders that I cant mow over and those that don't have borders that I do mow. For me, the ones I mow do better.. but it probably has more to do with drainage and sun exposure (and maybe mulching leaves with the mower while I'm cutting) that is the cause of different performance
The plural of anecdote is not data.
Name: Bob
Vernon N.J. (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member Bookworm Snakes Plant Database Moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Forum moderator
Heucheras Echinacea Hellebores The WITWIT Badge Dog Lover Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge)
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NJBob
Oct 25, 2020 8:36 PM CST
I have mostly different varieties of Painted ferns and have lost way less since not cutting back till I see the new growth starting . Also have not lost a Hellebore since doing them the same way.


With the more common Echinacea it does not seem to matter as much but with the more sensitive hybrids it helps to protect the crowns of the plants. But most important for them is being in an area that does not retain water in the Winter.
Name: Paula Benyei
NYC suburbs (Zone 6b)
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Turbosaurus
Oct 25, 2020 10:13 PM CST
So, Bob, you leave old brown ferns until spring? Not being judgemental...lot of brown stuff in my yard, it's Winter.
On the north side of my house, My ferns fill the space in between 8" pakisandra and 36" mop head hydrangea, growing below my 12' rhododendron.

Are you saying you have a better spring fern outcome if you don't cut your ferns? Are they part of a tiered bed? What exposure? What are your companion plants? I kind of fell into what works for me, but I'm very interested and would live to know if I can do better

If you have Fully perennial hellebore, you are my hero- I get 3 years of blooms tops... then my heart breaks when I see one or two little leaves struggle through- and I know they're never going to bloom ):
The plural of anecdote is not data.
Name: Bob
Vernon N.J. (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member Bookworm Snakes Plant Database Moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Forum moderator
Heucheras Echinacea Hellebores The WITWIT Badge Dog Lover Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge)
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NJBob
Oct 26, 2020 5:28 PM CST
The garden gets a bit more sun then I would like since I had to have a large Hemlock taken down from the front lawn. It is about 60 feet deep and goes from about 20 feet wide in the back to about 30 in the front. The front area is almost all Hosta with some Heuchera . Then a section with about 25 Hellebore with creeping jenny throughout them, most are about 2 feet wide now. The back 2/3 of the area has Purple Winter Creeper , Houttuynia ( big mistake , but can not get rid of the stuff ), liriotrope , black mondo grass and a good size patch of Mayapples. The ferns come up through the purple winter creeper. There are a couple of Hydrangea with some Heuchera , Heucherella Tiarella and some dolls eyes mixed throughout the garden. I know most times when you read up on Hellebore they call them shade plants but mine do much better with a good amount of sun , the largest one I have is there for over 20 years and is well over 3 feet wide getting covered with flowers and this one is in my full sun garden. They do not like acid soil like many other shade plants so I give them lime every year and a good dose of fert. just as they emerge sine they are pretty heavy feeders. I use osmocote on them.
Name: Rj
Just S of the twin cities of M (Zone 4b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Plant Identifier Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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crawgarden
Oct 26, 2020 8:01 PM CST
Like Bob, I also leave my ferns alone, come spring the old fern heads have just melted into the ground. My Hellebores are also going on 20+ years, I only clean them up in the spring.
Isaac Asimov, once wrote, “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”

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