Cornell Cooperative Extension

July 2, 2012

Sometimes less is more in gardening


Some of the plants in my garden that are either ready to pull out, or will be ready in the next week or two, include Dame’s rocket, Johnny jump-up, oxeye daisy, forget-me-not, columbine and annual poppy.

And then there are the early blooming perennials that need dead-heading, which is the removal of spent flower heads. Since perennials usually bloom for only a couple of weeks, it’s their foliage that ends up being what you see during most of the season. 

By cutting perennials back after blooming, you can remove any faded leaves and encourage young, healthy leaves to grow. Most perennials do well with a light pruning after flowering to tidy them up, but some, including lupines, delphinium and centaurea (perennial bachelor button) do best when cut right to the ground. These will produce lush foliage to fill in and set off your other perennials for the rest of the summer. 

Once a perennial has bloomed, go ahead an experiment a bit with pruning it. The flower show is over for the summer so you really can’t go wrong. And chances are good it will end up looking a whole lot better.

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