Best Garden Advice: Shearing Perennials

Cut back in June, sedum is short, squat and blooming in October.

Last year, Don Engebretson suggested in Northern Gardener’s perennial column that gardeners shear back some tall, floppy perennials. He wasn’t recommending judicious pinching to encourage bloom and more side growth, but rather grabbing a big ole garden shears and lopping plants off about halfway from the top in late May or June.

His argument was that plants that have a tendency to flop – in my garden that would be Russian sage and tall sedum – will bloom at the time they usually bloom even if they are cut back. Nature programmed them to bloom then, Don said. And, cutting them back results in shorter, stouter stems, and therefore, less flopping. I was wary, but decided to give it a shot.

And, it worked! The Russian sage I cut back in mid-June is still standing tall in October. It bloomed beautifully in late summer and the stems show no signs of flopping over, even as the season winds to a close. The same is true of the sedum, which seemed to struggle after being cut back, but recovered and now are short, squat, and full of bloom.

Thanks for the great advice, Don!

What’s the best garden advice you picked up this year?



1 thought on “Best Garden Advice: Shearing Perennials

  1. Now I can finally have the Russian sage I’ve been wanting to include in our garden! I’d been avoiding it because of the “flopping factor.” It’s feathery habit will work wonders in a spot that needs some softening.
    The various patches of sedum were already in place when we bought the house. I like them, but not during their leggy, floppy phase.
    One solution to two problems. Thanks!

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