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Pruning Perennials in the Fall

A Comprehensive Guide

As the colors of summer fade and the days grow shorter, it's time for gardeners to turn their attention to preparing their perennial gardens for the colder months ahead. One essential fall gardening task is cutting back perennials. This guide will delve into pruning various perennials, including Bee Balm, Blazing Star, Daylilies, Hostas, Irises, Lilies, and Garden Phlox.

Bee Balm (Monarda)

Bee Balm, Monarda, is a favorite of pollinators and garden enthusiasts. Its striking blooms and aromatic foliage make it a standout in any garden. When it comes to fall pruning, Bee Balm should be cut back to the ground after the first frost or when the foliage begins to wither and die. By doing so, you remove any potential disease or pest overwintering sites. Be sure to dispose of the cuttings properly to prevent the spread of disease.

Blazing Star (Liatris)

Blazing Star, or Liatris, is known for its tall, spiky blooms that attract butterflies and bees. In the fall, once the flowers have finished blooming and the foliage starts to turn brown, you can cut back the stems to about 4-6 inches above the ground. This helps maintain the plant's shape and encourages new growth in the spring. Blazing Star is a resilient perennial, and this simple maintenance task ensures its continued health and vigor.

Daylilies (Hemerocallis)

Daylilies, stunning, trumpet-shaped flowers, are popular in many gardens. Fall is the ideal time to tidy up these perennials. After the first frost, trim the foliage to about 2-3 inches above the soil line. Removing the spent foliage enhances the garden's appearance and prevents diseases from overwintering. Remember to divide and transplant overcrowded clumps of daylilies in the early fall for healthier, more prolific blooms in the following seasons.


Hostas are beloved for lush foliage and shade tolerance. They are hardy perennials that require minimal maintenance. After the first frost has blackened their leaves in the fall, it's time to cut back the foliage to ground level. This practice helps prevent slugs and other pests from overwintering in the leaves. Hostas can also benefit from division every few years to rejuvenate the plants and keep them from becoming overcrowded.


Irises are renowned for their elegant, sword-like leaves and striking flowers. Fall maintenance for irises involves cutting back the foliage to about 6 inches above the ground once it has turned brown and withered. This improves the garden's appearance and reduces the risk of iris borers and other pests. Additionally, dividing and replanting irises every few years is essential for maintaining their vitality and preventing overcrowding.


Lilies are a garden classic known for their fragrant and showy blooms. To prepare your lilies for winter, trim the stems to ground level in the fall after the first frost. This ensures the energy is directed back into the bulb for next year's growth. Lilies can also benefit from a layer of mulch to protect them during the cold months.

Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata)

With its vibrant clusters of fragrant flowers, Garden Phlox is a staple in many perennial gardens. Fall pruning of garden phlox involves removing spent flower heads and cutting back the stems to about 4-6 inches above the ground. This practice tidies up the plant and encourages a healthier, bushier growth in the following season. Be sure to remove any fallen leaves from around the base of the plant to prevent disease and pest issues.

Fall is a crucial season for gardeners to prepare their perennial gardens for the challenges of winter. Properly pruning perennials like Bee Balm, Blazing Star, Daylilies, Hostas, Irises, Lilies, and Garden Phlox is essential for their health and longevity. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your garden remains a thriving and beautiful oasis year after year. So, roll up your sleeves, grab your pruners, and get ready to give your perennials the care they deserve this fall.