Too often, perennial gardens in autumn go neglected. The enthusiasm, so urgent and robust in spring, has waned. When we think of the garden, we tend to think of life bursting forth in spring, or of the floral abundance of summer. But autumn, with its subtle beauty, has a charm all its own.
There are many perennial plants that offer interest late in the growing season.
Perennial Plants for Autumn Gardens
Preparing the Garden for Winter
Should I cut my perennials back in fall?
Herbaceous perennial plants will need to be cut to the ground before new growth begins in the spring. However, with few exceptions*, I recommend leaving perennials standing through the winter months. The reasons for this are threefold:
- Leaving the previous season’s growth intact offers some insulation and protection to the crown of the plant and can increase winter hardiness.
- Beneficial insects and native birds utilize the standing stems and seed-heads for food and shelter during the long, cold winter months.
- Perennials left standing provide at least a modicum of winter interest. Their tan foliage and seed heads offer a visual reminder of the growing season.
*Exceptions: diseased foliage should be removed and destroyed to avoid overwintering pathogens that can re-infect new foliage in spring
Should I remove the fallen leaves of my trees & shrubs?
Think of the cycle of nutrients that takes place in nature. Leaves fall and remain on the ground to decompose, adding organic matter and nutrients to the soil. While most gardeners won’t want to simply leave tree foliage where it falls, it is still possible to replicate this natural cycle.
A leaf mulcher or shredder will break leaves into small pieces, and they can then be applied as a mulch around trees, shrubs, and perennials. Again, diseased foliage should not be mulched but should rather be removed and destroyed.
Check out our article on Fall Cleanup vs. Spring Cleanup.