‘Really easy’ trick to cut back ‘scrappy’ herbaceous perennials

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Herbaceous perennials die back over winter and remain dormant until spring. While it can be concerning to see an entire plant turn dull and empty, it is only the stems which die back – not the roots, meaning the plant can regenerate the following year. An expert at Newlands Nursery has shared a “really easy” way to prune your plants before winter.

How to prune herbaceous perennials

Herbaceous perennials are known for their non-woody stems and are not particularly demanding plants.

However, it is recommended that gardeners prune herbaceous plants after they finish flowering to improve their appearance and chances of flowering.

According to Alan, a gardening expert at Newlands Nursery, now is the perfect time to do it.

He said: “A lot of herbaceous plants – so that’s your perennials that die back in winter, are starting to die back and look very scrappy in the garden.

Alan added that many people often worry about pruning plants before they go dormant, but it is actually “really easy to deal with”.

In the video posted on Newlands Nursery Instagram page, the gardening expert demonstrated the easy pruning method using chives, mint, an allium and a comfrey plant.

Showing the comfrey plant, Allan explained: “This comfrey here starts dying back in winter. That dying back process is completely natural.

“The plant wants to go underground to protect itself against all the elements that the winter will throw at it and then sprout back in the spring. So all we do is we cut it back – and cut it back really hard to soil level.”

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With a clean pair of secateurs, he worked around the plant, cutting off the limp growth from the base.

He noted that even though there were some green leaves on the plant, you can still prune it.

This is because the plants will die back naturally anyway in preparation for fresh, new growth.

After cutting the old growth off, Alan added the leaves to a garden waste heap ready to compost.

The gardening expert explained that the potted perennials should be cut right back until the pot looks bare, adding that the same applies to herbaceous plants in the ground.

He said: “Come the spring, depending on the plant and where you are in the country – around the end of March early  April, maybe even earlier,  it will start sprouting through and you get fresh new growth.

“They do it naturally and you can just leave them but it tends to look a bit untidy and you don’t want any disease or anything, or the plants rotting, so it’s always best to cut them back like that.”

The mint and chives can be pruned in exactly the same way.

Simply work your way around and cut each stem back to ground level.

Alan added: “The plants really with thank you for it. They sprout back much better in the spring and the garden looks a lot neater through the garden as well.”

For some plants, you don’t even need a pair of secateurs to remove the old growth.

Instead, you can use your hands to remove the loose leaves and take a pair of clean scissors to tidy up the rest.

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