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If you want your perennials to look their best throughout the summer, it's crucial to provide them with the proper care and maintenance earlier on in the year. Regularly watering them, especially during the hotter months, ensures that they receive adequate hydration to survive and thrive. Additionally, applying a balanced fertiliser will supply essential nutrients needed for healthy growth and vibrant blooms. Finally, deadheading spent flowers can encourage continuous blooming and keep your garden looking fresh and beautiful all summer long. Any waste from your perennial plants can go straight on the compost heap if you have one.

How to know when it’s time to prune

A general rule of thumb is to begin pruning once the plant has finished blooming or has gone dormant, depending on the specific species. Pay attention to any signs of wilting or browning, as this can indicate it is time for a trim. Begin by identifying the wilted or brown stems on your perennials and use a pair of sharp pruning shears or secateurs to cut them back to near the crown. Where the plant is still visibly dormant, you will need to adjust the amount you cut depending on the condition of the plant.

Wood perennials

If you have woody perennials, you are more likely going to cut them back later in the year around mid-spring. This allows the plant to establish a stronger root system and store more energy throughout the winter months, contributing to overall plant health. This also provides protection against unexpected late frosts, which can damage the tender new growth if pruning is done too early. Cut them back so there is about 6 – 7 inches of stem left. If you cut them back too close to the ground can cause them to die. If you are dealing with true herbaceous perennials, then these can be cut back straight to ground level as these naturally die during winter months.

Root cuttings

You can increase your stock of perennials by taking root cuttings, which should be taken around this time of year while your plants are dormant. Choose young roots around the thickness of a pencil and cut them off close to the crown with a sharp knife of secateurs. Pop your cuttings into pots filled with cuttings compost, then top dress with a 1cm layer of grit. Water them lightly and place the pots in a cold frame. In time, usually around the following spring, you’ll see signs of growth. Grow them on and plant them out the following year.

Dealing with the trimmings

Composting these trimmings is an excellent way to recycle valuable organic matter and maintain a healthy garden ecosystem. When adding the trimmed stems and foliage to your compost pile, be sure to mix them with green waste, such as grass clippings or vegetable scraps, to create a balanced, nutrient-rich mixture. Carefully dispose of any dead or diseased plant matter in the compost, as putting them back into the soil can help prevent the spread of harmful organisms. Remember to keep them watered regularly, especially during long dry periods and keep your eye on weeds and pests such as slugs and snails. 

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