Expert: You May Not Want To Cut Back Perennials

Date posted - November 9, 2015

Northwest Iowa — With the colder weather soon to be upon us, many people are getting gardens and flowerbeds ready for winter.
ornamental grass_isu
We asked Consumer Horticulture specialist and Master Gardener Margaret Murphy at Iowa State University Extension if people should be cutting back plants in the home garden. In a nutshell, she says not necessarily.

She says most perennials, such as peonies, daylilies and hostas, can be cut back in November after a hard freeze has destroyed the above ground growth, but you may not want to.

Murphy says ornamental grasses also provide color, sound and movement to the winter landscape. But she says that if you want, you can cut them back after a killing frost to a 4 to 5-inch height.

She tells us what to do if with asparagus and rhubarb.

She says there are even some annual flowers that you can still enjoy for a while before cleaning them up. She does advise that you probably should clean out your containers if you have plants in them. Otherwise the soil may freeze and it may be difficult to clean them out at that point and you run the risk of breaking the containers.

If you have questions, you can call Murphy at 712-472-2576. More information can also be found by calling the ISU Hortline at 515-294-3108 or by emailing

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