What perennials not to cut back in fall?

Pat C
by Pat C

With the arrival of fall, I often find myself uncertain about the proper fall cleanup for perennials like Black-Eyed Susans and Coneflowers (Echinacea).

I've noticed that sometimes, my actions during this season can affect their chances of coming back in the following year.

Do you cut back perennials in the fall? Are there some that should be left alone? I would love advice on how to ensure I can enjoy these flowers again next season.

Fall flower garden cleanup

What perennials not to cut back in fall?

Do you cut back perennials in the fall?

  21 answers
  • Peg Peg on Sep 16, 2013
  • To ensure they come back and reseed themselves (as well as the birds) leave the plants alone until late winter or early spring and cut back all the dead flowers and stems. It looks messy but what the birds do not eat will fall to the ground and grow new babies.
  • Gail Salminen Gail Salminen on Sep 16, 2013
    @Pat C I usually leave them til spring, especially if I want them to spread. If there is aleady an abundance I trim through out the season - produces more flowers if you dead head along the way.
  • Melinda Melinda on Sep 16, 2013
    I cut the dead stuff back. Mulch your beds in the fall
  • Anna Anna on Sep 16, 2013
    I always leave them till spring. I tried cutting them back in the fall here in spokane, and lost all but 2. I never had cut them back before, but someone here(in spokane) told me I should. I always left them till spring in nebraska and never lost any, and always had new plants each year. Now, I leave them alone.
  • Pat C Pat C on Sep 16, 2013
    Thank you, everyone, for your help. I'll be going with the majority of the responses and leaving them as is. The birds will be happy too.
  • Pat C Pat C on Sep 16, 2013
    Makes sense to me...thank you.
  • Lori J Lori J on Sep 16, 2013
    I usually harvest seeds. I have the opposite problem and that is overseeding, so I cut back before seed heads form on all but a few. Those I harvest and save, for the year that nothing comes up.
  • Jerrie C Jerrie C on Sep 16, 2013
    Harvest the seeds and put them in the ground. I leave the plants and flowers for the birds. If you do not harvest and plant the seeds or if they do not reseed themselves, the plants will only last a couple of years. I have been doing this for 10 years with daisies, black eyed susans and cone flowers. I even split them in the fall and replant or share.
  • I leave mine as is over the winter - they look good in the snow and the birds love them. Plus the extra foliage helps insulate the roots.
  • White Oak Studio Designs White Oak Studio Designs on Sep 18, 2013
    I have both plants. I see that you have two choices. Either leave the stems and seed heads intact for the birds to eat and cut back in the spring or cut the stems back at the ground now to leave the leaves. The plants should come back just fine next spring. IF you do cut them back, try throwing the stems and heads into areas that you want new plants to grow (like a meadow or undeveloped boarder etc.) I do this each fall and often I get new plants springing up this way from the seeds. Or at the very least, make a compost pile and throw all your plant clipping into that. Eventually you will have nice soil from your compost pile to spread around your garden that will enrich you flowers and is non toxic!. LOTS of gardening tips on my blog; http://smallhouseunderabigsky.wordpress.com
  • Devon Cretella Devon Cretella on Sep 18, 2013
    I leave them too. They become like a little playground/snack bar for the birds in the winter! Cut them down in early spring to the new base growth.
  • Liliana Wells Liliana Wells on Sep 18, 2013
    Pat C - I love how you terraced your garden. I too havean incline but I don't know how to terrace to prevent soil runoff. Any ideas, hints, tutorials wouldmost welcome.
  • Debby Boyle Debby Boyle on Sep 18, 2013
    Leave them till spring. The birds have food all winter and the seeds drop and plants are thicker the next year!!
  • Elizabeth Paolucci Elizabeth Paolucci on Sep 18, 2013
    I would bend the tops to the ground to produce more flowers the next year.
  • Pat C Pat C on Sep 19, 2013
    Great idea...thanks.
  • Geri P Geri P on Sep 20, 2013
    I have the same plants (Black Eyed Susan's & Rubeckia) but wonder what I can do so they don't get so tall.....they get to be huge & just fall over.....I thought about cutting them back by about half just before they get flowers....am I crazy?
    • See 1 previous
    • Geri P Geri P on Sep 20, 2013
      @Pat C Sounds good...but I have so many it might be difficult.....I have a whole hillside I am trying to convert to flowers from burdock & they just go crazy.....but maybe I can do some of them...thanks!!
  • Brenda Barton Brenda Barton on Oct 26, 2013
    Do the Cone flowers ( Echinacea ) re-seed? This is my first year to have one. Would love to have lots more.
  • Mogie Mogie on Oct 11, 2023

    Don't cut back marginally hardy perennials like garden mums (Chrysanthemum spp.), anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), red-hot poker (Kniphofia uvaria), and Montauk daisy (Nipponanthemum nipponicum).

  • Betsy Betsy on Oct 11, 2023

    Hi Pat: I have a huge area in my front yard full of Cone Flowers, Black Eyed Susans, etc. What I do is leave all of my flowers up all winter so that the birds can eat the seeds when it gets really cold and food is scarce. I get an abundance of Wild Canaries, Sparrows and Cardinals, along with others, enjoying the seeds. It's so nice to know that I am helping them through the winter. In the spring, when the stalks get brittle, just bend them to the ground, push away from you, and lift. 9 times out of 10, the stalks will break off at the ground and you won't have sticks all over the place. If you do lift some of the greenery at the roots, just stick it back into the ground and cover the roots with dirt. They will grow back from the seeds that have been dropped and from the roots, so you will have a lot of plants and birds in the spring. Sure, it may not be the prettiest area, but when the birds come, it is :) And, you are helping out nature.

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Oct 12, 2023

    If in doubt, leave to nature to do it for you!