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Perennials: Fresh foliage on perennials - leave or cut back for winter?

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Forum: PerennialsReplies: 13, Views: 201
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Plainfield, NJ

December 1, 2010
11:47 AM

Post #8239390

Oddly, at the very end of Nov. there is still abundant fresh green foliage on my foxgloves (OK, I know that's not a perennial), centaurea montana, poppy, and rudbeckia. Should I cut it back, or leave it there for the winter? I thought of leaving the foliage so it can continue to absorb sunlight and do the photosynthesis thing - but if the plant _should_ go dormant, that would hinder it?
Any advice from you experienced gardeners? thanks in advance!
- Jan
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

December 1, 2010
12:07 PM

Post #8239421

I don't know if anything bad would happen if you cut them back at this point, but you certainly won't hurt anything by leaving them alone and letting nature take its course.
Saint Louis, MO
(Zone 6a)

December 1, 2010
5:32 PM

Post #8240010

I've heard perennials which are marginally hardy for your zone will overwinter better if foliage isn't cut back until late winter / early spring.
I don't bother cutting mine back, but just out of laziness, not out of conviction.
Woodinville, WA
(Zone 8b)

December 9, 2010
11:10 AM

Post #8251900

Some things (like roses) you need to prune sometimes to force them to go dormant. Others (like the subshrubs rosemary and lavender) are stimulated to grow when you cut them, so you shouldn't do it until spring when the new growth won't be damaged by frost.

I'd be inclined to leave them unless you've heard specifically that they need a cutting . . .
Danville, IN

December 11, 2010
4:58 PM

Post #8255194

Many plants, like foxgloves, shasta daisies, mums, and more will develop basal foliage in late summer and fall which should be left alone. I agree that the best thing to do when in doubt is to leave anything green alone for the winter. Just cut back to healthy foliage in the spring. It'll be obvious then what to leave and what to prune!
(Zone 4b)

December 12, 2010
9:24 AM

Post #8256029

Some varieties of digitalis (foxgloves) are hardy perennials. I'd leave yours till spring out of interest and see what happens.

December 13, 2010
5:25 AM

Post #8257380

I would not cut them back. Some marginal hardy plants, such as Gaura, will come through the winter as they are somewhat protected by the foliage.


Leesburg, FL
(Zone 9b)

December 13, 2010
6:48 AM

Post #8257512

I leave all my perennials... i find the birds eat what seeds are left in the spent blooms. I'll cut back in the spring.
Saint Bonifacius, MN
(Zone 4a)

December 21, 2010
7:32 PM

Post #8271699

Many Digitalis(foxglove) species are perennial and evergreen, even in my zone 4 garden. D. ferruginea is especially attractive when little else is green...

Louisville, KY

January 18, 2011
7:13 PM

Post #8318122

Poppies also put up new growth in the fall which increases during the winter.
Some 30 years ago I cut back some of my foxgloves. They promptly rotted.



Pittsford, NY
(Zone 6a)

January 22, 2011
3:32 AM

Post #8323625

I dont touch anything in the fall.
I cut back Oriental Poppies once. The plant never bloomed.
Hannibal, NY
(Zone 6a)

January 22, 2011
12:20 PM

Post #8324374

Me either. First of all, I really don't have time. And I like to leave the leaves for winter protection. I clean off dead leaves in the spring when I see new growth, weed around them, put some fertilizer down. All in one fell swoop.
Plainfield, NJ

November 25, 2011
10:08 AM

Post #8905087

It's a year later and I just logged in to post this question - and saw that I'd asked it last year! I'm amazed at how much green foliage I still have at the end of November. The only thing really brown is Joe Pye (Gateway), and Autumn Joy sedums. Looks like all I should cut back is the stems & leaves on anything that has turned brown, and I'll cut back the iris (many of their leaves are still green, but I'm concerned about borers).
Should I do anything with astors to put them to bed, so to speak, for winter?
Thanks for any advice.
- Jan (Zone 6)


Pittsford, NY
(Zone 6a)

November 25, 2011
12:17 PM

Post #8905319

Wait to cut Iris leaves. I think I asked about iris on the iris forum or maybe an iris member who said the plants look ratty all winter but take off really brown and dried leaves in spring. Iris are putting up their new parts ( increases) now.These will be blooms next season. Cutting them will eleminate blooms .

As for everything else.I cut me asters when they stop blooming anf the bottom leaves are dead about halff way up the stems. Sedums are cut too.

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