Preparing Perennials for Winter

A few basic cleanup steps in late fall will help your perennial beds thrive next growing season.

From: National Gardening Association
Fork it Over

Fork it Over

©2008, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2008, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Fall is a good time to feed perennials by working in a thick layer of compost around the beds.

Materials Needed

  • pruners
  • shovel
  • compost
  • mulch or row cover

Step 1: Dig up Bulbs

After the first frost has struck and foliage begins to yellow and die, cut back the foliage, dig, and store tender perennial bulbs such as dahlias and gladiolus that can't survive the winter in the ground in a cold climate. When digging, be careful not to damage the underground bulb or tuber.

Step 2: Water and Cut Perennials Back

In dry-winter areas that don't freeze or have little snow, water perennials once a month to keep them alive and healthy. In all other areas, cut back on watering to help plants harden off in preparation for winter. On perennials that have finished for the season, cut back stems to 6 to 8 inches from the ground.

Step 3: Feed Plants

Fall is a good time to feed perennials by working in a 4- to 6-inch-thick layer of compost around the beds. The compost slowly breaks down, releasing nutrients to the plants and improving the soil structure.

Step 4: Mulch

After the ground freezes, remove old mulch and replace it with hay, evergreen boughs, or floating row covers. This extra layer protects tender perennials and helps catch and hold snow, which will also insulate the bed.

Step 5: Adapt Preparation for Your Area

In cold-winter areas, stop fertilizing perennials by midsummer to encourage them to slow their growth and harden off for winter. In warm-winter areas, fall is a good time to plant perennials; however, in winter check for signs of disease, especially during wet periods, since the plants are growing slowly and conditions are right for rotting to occur.

Next Up

Plant a Rose and Perennial Garden

Create a contemporary display using disease-resistant roses and pretty perennials for a modern mix of flowers and foliage.

Fall-Planted Perennials for Easy Spring Color

Get a head start on spring by planting in the fall.

Create a New Garden Border

Plant a bed of mixed perennials for a colorful, easy-care garden.

Protecting Garden Pots During Winter

Tender plants will die if their roots are locked in cold, wet soil in winter, but you can protect them during fall.

Tips for Late Fall to Winter Gardens

Say hello to indoor gardens and sharp evergreen plants as temperatures begin to drop.

How to Plant Bulbs in a Border

Most bulbs prefer free-draining soil, as they like to be fairly dry when dormant. 

Fall Gardens Reach for New Heights With Tatarian Asters

This late-blooming perennial flowers until frost.

Ideas for Winter Beds and Borders

You won't want to ignore your garden during cool winter months after seeing these stunning flowers and plants.

Maintaining a Perennial Garden

Perennial gardens require less maintenance than lawns, but they do need regular care to look their best and stay healthy. 

How to Design a Garden With Mums

Make your fall garden glow with jewel-colored mums.