Pruning 101: How to Prune Annuals and Perennials

With so many different plants and rules, it can be difficult to remember when and how to properly prune your annuals and perennials. However, to maximize your blooms (and enjoyment), follow these tips to make the process simple and successful.


When to Prune

In general, begin pruning after the first display of flowers and stop pruning at the end of the plant's growing season, especially perennials. The closer you prune perennials to bloom time, the more likely there will be a delay in blooms. Throughout the growing season, prune liberally to create a compact and lush plant that will generate constant new growth or prune more conservatively if desiring a taller, less-full plant.

Pruning dead and spent flowers, foliage, and stems encourages healthier, fuller plants and more flowers. Depending on your goal and the condition of the plant, the two types of pruning are heading and thinning.



Heading promotes new blooms and a fuller appearance. Pinching or cutting off dead and spent flowers and foliage gets rid of the unsightly growth while forcing production of new stems, leaves, and flowers. For some plants, new flowers will not grow until spent flowers are removed. When the plant has multiple buds growing along the stems, cut just below spent flowers to create blooms further down the stems. If the plant has stems with singular flowers, you can cut the stem to the base of the plant. Heading annuals and perennials will produce more flowers that bloom for a longer period of time, and for perennials, this carries over to the next growing season.



Thinning greatly improves appearance and flower size, and helps prevent disease. Shape and reduce the size of overgrown and bulky plants by cutting unwanted stems to the base of the plant or where stems meet. Typically, it is good to remove up to one-third of the stems, especially in overcrowded areas where the foliage is beginning to discolor or die. If the plant is simply invading the space of surrounding plants in a bed, just cut outside stems to keep the plant in its place.

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