Information on Pruning Outdoor Plants for the Fall


After the heat of summer, gardeners want to enjoy the garden as long as possible. Fall is the time to prune outdoor plants only to remove the raggedy remains of summer and prepare them for the coming winter.


Take 3- to 4-inch starts from the coleus and geraniums and harvest seeds from zinnias and marigolds. Then pull and add plants to the compost pile.


Peonies, lilies and other perennials should be pruned within an inch or 2 of the ground to deny rodents winter shelter. Some perennials, like mums that bloom all fall long, should be saved for last.


Prune flowering shrubs after flowering or during dormancy. Clean leggy growth out and shape summer-blooming shrubs like barberry and holly in late fall. Prune shrubs in late fall to avoid a flush of new growth.


Insects that carry bacteria and disease are searching for food and a winter home. Wait until late fall to prune only dead or diseased wood that threatens tree winter survival. Otherwise, wait until trees are fully dormant in late winter or early spring.


Some rose growers prune back climber canes; others bury them in mulch. Rose Magazine suggests that fall pruning be limited to trimming canes or branches that expose the plant to winter wind or storm damage. Reserve corrective pruning for early spring.


  • University of Rhode Island: Pruning Guide

Who Can Help

  • Iowa State University Extension: Fall Pruning
  • Pennsylvania State University: Pruning Herbaceous Perennials
  • Rose Magazine: Pruning Roses
Keywords: pruning, outdoor plants, fall

About this Author

Chicago native Laura Reynolds has been writing for 40 years. She attended American University (D.C.), Northern Illinois University and University of Illinois Chicago and has a B.S. in communications (theater). Originally a secondary school communications and history teacher, she's written one book and edited several others. She has 30 years of experience as a local official, including service as a municipal judge.