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Cutting back perennials

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by GreenMonster, Sep 8, 2004.

  1. GreenMonster

    GreenMonster LawnSite Silver Member
    from NH
    Posts: 2,702

    Spring or Fall?

    I've always "heard" perennials should be cut back in the fall, but I did several spring clean-ups where we had to cut back last year's. Everything we cut back in the spring seemed to come up without any issues.

    Does it really make a difference?
  2. NNJLandman

    NNJLandman LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,306

    For certain perennials you can cut them back and leave maybe an inch or two left on the bottem, i know for grasses we cut them down to the ground. Pick away the dead stuff.

  3. Turfdude

    Turfdude LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,900

    Many clients will want grasses to be left until the spring as they provide something for the wildlife. I know that some of my clients ask us to leave the heads of sedums and black-eyed Susans (rudbeka) go until the spring as they provide food for birds.
  4. GreenMonster

    GreenMonster LawnSite Silver Member
    from NH
    Posts: 2,702

    I wasn't really thinking about grasses, more like sedum, rubekia, shastas, astilbe, phlox, etc. etc.

    I didn't think about them as a food source.
  5. Coffeecraver

    Coffeecraver LawnSite Senior Member
    from VA.
    Posts: 793

    As long as they are green and clean cut them back to 4-6"
    they will continue to feed the plant.

    If they are ugly and brown,cut them down
    It would be eaiser to mulch the beds for the winter.

    Leave the grasses until March so they may add winter interest
    Then cut them back to about 2 1/2' rounding them out

    Gas powered hedge trimmers work the best for that job.
    When the new growth starts it will have a nice shape.
  6. D Felix

    D Felix LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,898

    I don't think it matters when you cut them back, as long as you take only dead/dying material off.

    And, Norm, hedge trimmers actually aren't the best thing to use for grasses: the best thing I've found is a chainsaw, believe it or not. I started a thread a while back about it, I'll have to revive it now that's its getting close to fall clean-up time. The trick with a chainsaw is to use the TOP of the bar, not the bottom like you normally do.:)

    And wrapping the grass with duct tape before cutting helps speed up clean up too.

  7. Grassmechanic

    Grassmechanic LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,697

    Most perennials are cut back in the fall. If the customer wants winter interest, then they can wait to be pruned back before the new growth emerges in the spring. Personally, I cut back everything in the fall. It leaves a much cleaner landscape to deal with in the spring and you have less areas for harboring unwanted pests (rabbits, mice, voles, etc).
  8. Russ

    Russ LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 539

    Excellent advise as usual. I've used the tape and chainsaw on grasses for years and it is the fastest easiest method I've found.
  9. Coffeecraver

    Coffeecraver LawnSite Senior Member
    from VA.
    Posts: 793

    I have never tried a chain saw for grasses

    I have always cut them with a gas hedge trimmer,and shape them.

    I'll give the saw a try.
  10. GreenMonster

    GreenMonster LawnSite Silver Member
    from NH
    Posts: 2,702

    lol, I can just picture you guys out there with your hard hat/ear muff/face shield, logging chaps, and big ol' boots with the logging heel cutting down ornamental grasses!

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