Examine plants before pruning.
image by Manny Proebster/sxc.hu
Pruning keeps your garden not only looking neat and well-tended, it also encourages continual blossoming in some plants and healthy foliage growth in others. Perennials, especially, require this treatment. They will be growing in your garden all season long, even after the flowers fade, plus they need the energy to produce new foliage and flowers next year. Many perennials need minor upkeep throughout the growing season and a severe pruning in the late summer or fall to prepare for winter dormancy and to avoid disease.
Check flower plants weekly during blooming season for wilted or withering flowers. Spent flowers must be removed before they go to seed so the plant will continue producing more flowers.
Deadhead the spent flowers and any seed pods that have formed on the plants when they are seen. Grasp the stem beneath the spent bloom between your forefinger and thumb and pinch it off. Or, use sharp gardening shears to cut it off.
Cut off spent stems on plants with long stalks, such as iris, directly above the nearest flower bud or lateral branch supporting a flower bud. Cut it off using sharp shears; remove the entire stem at the base of the plant once all buds have finished blooming.
Remove dying or damaged leaves throughout the growing season by cutting them off at the base of the plant.
Cut back the entire plant to 2 inches above the ground in autumn after the first freeze of the year. Cut off the foliage from bulb and rhizome flowering plants after the leaves die back naturally. Cut back tuberous plants, such as peonies or begonia, after the first freeze.
Dispose of all pruned plant materials but do not compost them. This prevents diseases from spreading in your garden.