Special to the OBSERVER
Every fall we talk about cleaning up the flower beds in preparation for winter. This is done to discourage insects and diseases from overwintering in the beds. If you aren't experiencing pest or disease problems, some of your perennial flowers actually like to be left alone until spring time. Here are a few that can be pruned in spring:
Artemisia Most Artemisia should be pruned in the spring, if pruned in the fall, new growth will be too tender and will be killed by winter temperatures.
Balloon Flower (Platycodon) If you have grown this striking flower, you don't want to make the mistake of digging it up in the spring. Leave some type of foliage or a marker where it is growing since it comes up late in the spring and you don't want to disturb it by mistake. Prune old growth once new growth has started.
Basket-of-Gold (Aurinia saxatilis) Yellow/gold flowers make this plant stunning and its foliage can also provide some green color during mild winters. If seeing green amidst all that white is important to you, try leaving this until spring pruning.
Black-eyed Susan Leaving the flower stalks for birds to feed on throughout the winter is a wonderful practice. Just clean up and prune in the spring.
Blue Mist Shrub (Caryopteris) This late summer bloomer likes to be pruned in the spring. Cut it back 6"-8" or by half its size. Caryopteris blooms on new growth. They are slow to begin growth in the spring, so don't give up on those seemingly bare twigs.
Gayfeather (Liatris spicata) Gorgeous spikes of flowers make this a desirable plant. Allow the flower spikes to remain as seed for birds during the winter and prune back the old stalks in the spring.
Italian Bugloss (Anchusa azurea) Right after flowering these plants are sheared and should then be left to grow the rest of the summer and pruned the following spring.
Lavender Cold affects lavender and makes over-wintering a tricky business. Don't prune late in the season. New growth will be killed by winter temperatures. In the spring, prune out any winter die back.
Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa) This is another plant that, if you remove all the foliage, you may not know where it is come spring. Leave the old foliage or a marker and prune old growth in the spring after the plant begins active growth.
Russian Sage Russian sage adds contrast with whitish stems and silver leaves. It is a plant that is sensitive to the cold, so leave the foliage in the fall. In the spring, when new growth starts, prune back to about 6"-8". Remove any dead woody sections.
Sedum If you left your sedum for winter interest, you need to prune out the dead foliage come spring.
Turtlehead Have you found it hard to over-winter your turtleheads? Try leaving the foliage and pruning the old growth in the spring.
If you refrain from pruning certain perennial flowers in the fall (under healthy conditions), whether for winter interest, bird food or the health of the plant, you can make your flower beds a year-round source of pleasure.
Colleen Cavagna, Cornell Cooperative Extension Community Educator