How to Prune Herbaceous Perennials with Pots & Trowels

It’s time to start cutting down some of your herbaceous perennials. At the end of the season, as you walk around your garden or allotment, you’ll see your flowering plants looking a little less fabulous. Herbaceous perennials die down to the ground and then bounce back to life in the spring, that’s why it’s important to keep them tidy and prune your plants at the right time.

In a recent Pots & Trowels video, Martin Fish shared some expert advice to help you prune and prepare your perennial beds for the next season of growth in the garden.

When to Prune Back Herbaceous Borders

There are often two schools of thought around the best time to prune back herbaceous borders. Some people like to get this done in the autumn and clear all the borders well before winter hits. However, some gardeners like to wait until the spring, and prune early in the year after the frost has been.

It can be best to work in between these two extremes. Rather than having a strict pruning schedule, depending on the type of plant, you could prune some herbaceous perennials in the autumn and leave other plants until the spring.

A big part of this decision can depend on the colour and foliage left on the plants in question, or how much structure they add to the garden can influence your pruning decision too. Some perennials can provide height or depth and you may want to retain them even after the flowers have gone. For example, phlomis russeliana, which offers stunning flowers in the summer, dries to a paper-like dried flowers in the winter, providing a beautiful visual in the bleaker colder months.

Leaving some foliage and old stems also means you’re leaving hiding places for insects and pollinators, giving them somewhere to hide over winter, so the decision of when to prune is up to you.

How to Prune Herbaceous Perennials

The best way to prune your herbaceous perennials is with shears or secateurs. When it’s a long, tall stem, shears often work best as you can cut your plants down to ground level and keep them at an equal height. Using the Darlac Lightweight Shear can help you snip, prune and shape your perennials in no time. With extra-long carbon steel blades for a greater cut capacity and long handles for extra reach, these shears can be used for extended periods of time without causing jarring or fatigue. Perfect for those with large border plants to prune.

Make a scissor action with your shears and slice the plants close to the ground. It’s a simple job, but a worthwhile one. Pull out the cuttings as you go to be sure you can see what you’re doing.

If you find some stems haven’t broken down with the shears, try a pair of secateurs. These work well but may just take a little more time. The Darlac Dual Action Pruner will give you that extra support you need for strong stems as its ratchet mechanism kicks in, meaning you need to apply less pressure to get the same cut.

When pruning to the base of a plant, you might even find you’ll be able to see some new green shoots. These will be ready and waiting for the spring.

What to do with Herbaceous Perennial Trimmings

Once you’ve done the hard part of trimming and shearing your herbaceous perennials, it’s time to gather up the long stems. You can cut these into small pieces and add them to the compost heap. This could, however, be a long job depending on how big your garden is and how big your plant was.

The next best option is to place your stems through a shredder. This will chop them into tiny pieces that you can throw onto the compost heap. These cuttings will mix nicely with the existing mixture of leaves, grass, and dead plants to mulch up and decompose.

Remember, if you’ve been walking on your beds and trampling down some plants as you prune, it’s a good idea to go through with a fork and loosen the soil. This will remove any footprints and buries any remaining pieces of bark, stems or weeds, loosening the soil so that when it rains the moisture can get down into the soil. You can then leave these beds over winter. However, you could mulch your beds with garden compost or wait for the spring when everything starts to grow. You’ll soon be looking at a stunning garden full of herbaceous perennials in the summer.

Where to Buy Darlac Tools

Whenever you decide to prune your herbaceous perennials, we’ve got the right garden tool to help make your job as easy as possible. Shears, secateurs, forks – we can provide you with every tool you need. You can find our products in store from your local garden centre – find your local Darlac stockist here.  

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