When I was a little girl, my dad had a very large garden. It took up an entire side of the backyard and by mid-summer it was full and lush and beautiful. At the end of the season, just before it snowed for the first time, dad would spend an entire Saturday in the garden “putting it to bed.”  

Prepping your perennials for winter, is important to ensuring a good crop the following year.  Don’t make the mistakes that will lead to harmed or dead perennials.  If you live in a cold winter area, here’s what you need to know about prepping perennials for winter to help them thrive next spring.

Mid-Summer: Don’t Fertilize!  Stop Fertilizing to slow the growth and harden off for winter. This is also a good time to check for signs of disease because the plants are growing slowly. Take care to allow the plants to enjoy their last full cycle, while slowly tapering down growth over time to prepare for winter. Continue to water regularly until it is time to turn the water off completely.

Fall: Don’t ignore your browned plants.  In the fall, cut back foliage by at least half, especially for perennials that have a large leaf production. Most can be cut to at low as 6 inches. This prevents mildew in the spring.  It also encourages gubs and other insects to find a better place to stay for the winter. Next, feed plants with a 4 to 6-inch layer of compost around all the beds. This will improve your soil structure for the next growing season. This is also the best time to move or divide perennials if you’d like to relocate.

First Frost: Don’t believe all plants can survive a winter.  After the first frost, and the leaves have started to turn yellow and die, this is an indication that perennials are entering their dormant phase. During this time, it is important to cut back the leaves and dig up bulbs that can’t survive the winter. This includes dahlias and gladiolus and other tender perennials. Store these in a cool, dry place until it is time for replanting.


Winter: Once winter has hit and the ground is completely frozen, most perennials will go completely dormant. Once this happens,add hay or boughs or something weightier to protect the perennials and insulate it against heavy snow.  

Although your garden spring and summer may only have a few months to show off its true splendor, the work it takes to produce beautiful beds continues all year long.  Hopefully these tips help you to create a beautiful spring.