Thursday, October 1, 2015

Pruning Daylilies

Herbaceous pruning (cutting the foliage of perennial plants) has a few uses. Often, it is used to delay the bloom of a plant, or to make it have better branching instead of just one main stem. This is known across the pond as the "Chelsea Chop", because gardeners in the UK can plan on cutting their perennials around time of the Chelsea Flower Show. (The show is usually held at the end of May.)

Another good reason for pruning perennial foliage occurs later in the season. During the hot months of July and August, perennial foliage often starts to look old and tattered. For many years, I sighed and assumed that yellowing leaves meant my garden was passing into its fall foliage already.

Before: Hemerocallis waiting for their trim in the Front Woodland


A few years ago, I started experimenting with cutting back (also known as "dead-leafing") my hardy Geraniums, lamb's ears (Stachys byzantine), lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis) and Hosta. Even that took a bit of courage at first, but my plants looked better for it!

Then I read Tracy DiSabato-Aust's thorough treatment on herbaceous pruning in her book, The Well-Tended Perennial Garden. New challenge: the bold step of cutting some plants to the ground. This was supposed to regenerate their foliage. But would it really work?

After: Post chop. Hedge shears made quick work of the entire Front Woodland.
I love daylilies early in the year. Their flowers are beautiful (sometimes scented!), their foliage covers the ground quickly in early spring and they are generally undemanding. Once they are done blooming however, I begin to despise their tattered appearance. In past years, I have torn off just the yellowing leaves under the base of my daylilies (Hemerocallis). This year, I decided to be brave and cut down the entire foliage clump when they had finished blooming.

After: Front Woodland with Hemerocallis nubs.
 I was very pleased with the overall appearance of the Front Woodland once I had cut the daylily foliage down at the end of July. It looked kept. Rather a satisfying bit of restraint at the most jungle-like time of year.  And with the Sedum 'Acre' ground cover in this garden, there was less bare mulch seen than I anticipated. I rather hate bare mulch. Better than dirt, yes, but that is what drives me to cover it with plants instead.

And for those of you wondering: Just a couple of weeks later, they are sending up new foliage. We have had some rain this week, which has helped them to recover quickly. The hope is that they will have new, fresh looking foliage all the way til frost.

Before: Cherry Corner
In the case of our Cherry Corner Garden, my decision to chop the daylilies worked out even better. The Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) were barely visible at all above the mess of foliage. Once it has been cut down, I was delighted to be able to see the yellow flowers dancing above the annuals. This is the best this garden has looked yet at this time of year. 


After: Wow! I could not tell there were that many Black-eyed Susans back there!
All that was left was a wheelbarrow load of foliage. After a long afternoon/morning of herbaceous pruning, I usually park this sucker in the garage and deal with unloading it later. Are you as lazy as I am?

Happy pruning!

Editor's Note: 
This article is a re-post from a few year ago from our first garden, Gilmore Gardens. Even though I am now creating our new garden at Havenwood, I am still clipping those daylilies after they flower. It makes such a difference in the garden for late summer!
Thanks for visiting! 
~Julie 

Follow me on Instagram or Twitter to see more of what I have been up to in my gardens and my garden designs.

10 comments:

  1. Like you I was rather apprehensive about cutting back some plants but I too was surprised at just how much of a difference it makes to the look of the garden. Although I had never considered doing it with the daylilies. I comb out the yellow foliage with my fingers to tidy them up but next year, I am going to follow your lead - they really do make a huge difference don't they?
    Would it be rude of me to add a few more example of plants that recover well given the chop after flowering. Astrantia, Sanguisorba, and Polemonium do equally well given a chop right back to the ground.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Angie,
      Not rude at all! I am an American after all ;)

      Yes, Astrantia and Polemonium have done well after a chop. Also "dead-leafing" my hardy Geraniums, lamb's ears (Stachys byzantine), lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis) and Hosta. Pretty much any herbaceous perennial that finishes a large flowering by the beginning of August will do well to be cut to the ground & set to regenerate for nicer fall foliage.

      Thank you so much for adding to the conversation. And for your visit!
      ~Julie

      Delete
  2. Surprisingly, after flowering I cut back Alchemillas, Geraniums and some other plants, except daylilies, I really never thought of it. Thanks for the tip for next year, I will not forget.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad it was helpful, Janneke!

      Your garden is so lovely already. I am pleased to be able to help!
      ~Julie

      Delete
  3. Here in southern Oklahoma, the leaves will die off not long after they have finished blooming. I drag out all the dead leaves and before I know it, there are new plants popping up. They wont bloom this late in the year, but they do look much neater.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wonderful Sheila!

      I do find that the "reblooming" types are more likely to rebloom... like Hemerocallis 'Stella d' Oro', but rebloom is not the ultimate goal for my chop. Just tidying it up for the rest of the summer/autumn season.

      Thank you for your visit!!
      ~Julie

      Delete
  4. It was because of this original post from a couple of years ago that I started chopping by daylilies...so glad you posted this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Margaret! So glad it has worked for you.
      ~Julie

      Delete
  5. Thank you very much for (re) posting this! I love plants that give a show, then I can cut back and make room for the next show, I did not know I could do this to daylilies (which I feel I need to grow to cover up fading tulips). And thanks to comments above, I have a longer list of "disappearing' foliage!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you enjoyed it, ShellE!

      Yes, there are many herbaceous perennials that will benefit from being cut back mid to late season. If you just top your foxgloves, biennial or perennial, they will often rebloom nicely.

      This also goes for any flowering ANNUALS too, of course! Once they have given a good bloom, they will often look better after a "haircut" to get their new buds growing. This is true if they are in the ground, in pots or in hanging baskets. An old nursery-worker trick for you ;)

      Thanks for visiting!
      ~Julie

      Delete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...