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4010 Mt Diablo Blvd.
Lafayette, CA, 94549

Life is Beautiful Blog

Caring for Perennials This Fall

Blaire Benson

Perennials are some of our most rewarding plants, giving masses of colorful blooms and beautiful foliage. Perennials are typically non-woody plants that last in the garden for more than two years, and usually for many years. Most perennials are herbaceous, dying to the ground in winter, but growing back fresh and beautiful in spring. A few are evergreen or have a modest woody structure.

Some of our favorite perennials:

  • Evergreen
  • Acanthus
  • Day Lilies (some)
  • Euphorbia (many)
  • Ferns (many)
  • Germander
  • Penstemon
  • Shasta Daisy
  • Herbaceous
  • Agastache
  • Erigeron
  • Gaillardia
  • Hardy Geranium
  • Lamium
  • Nepeta
  • Rudbeckia
  • Salvia (many)
  • Semi-Woody
  • Autumn Sage
  • Lavender
  • Leonotus

Evergreen perennials don’t need to be cut to the ground, but to keep them tidy, remove shabby old growth and cut the remainder back to 6-12 inches.

Semi-woody perennials can be pruned hard, usually removing 1/3 to 2/3 of the old growth to keep them compact and fresh. The exception is lavenders, which are best pruned after their first flush of bloom in spring or summer.

 Essentials for fall care of perennials:

  • Keep watering. Because the days are shorter and we receive some morning dew, plus an occasional rain, cut back on your watering schedule a little, but continue watering your perennials until the rains come. Even drought tolerant plants need some water to keep them alive. It is important to water deeply and less often to encourage roots to go down where moisture stays longer. Newly planted perennials need special attention to make sure they don’t dry out completely.
  • Give your perennial a fall feeding. Use Black Forest compost mulch (3-4 inches on top of the soil), which feeds the perennial and keeps the weeds down, or use a fertilizer marked 0-10-10. We recommend Master Nursery Master Bloom or EB Stone Ultra Bloom Plant Food. Fall feeding increases the amount and size of summer flowers and helps grow strong roots.
  • Cut herbaceous perennials back in the late fall as they are going into dormancy and losing their leaves. Compost cuttings or put in the green waste to help keep insect pests from overwintering in the garden.
  • Divide perennials. Many perennials, including Shasta Daisies, Day Lilies and Achilleas appreciate being divided every 3-4 years. You can tell they need to be divided if the flowers are smaller than they were a year or two ago, if they have outgrown their location or if they have a bald spot with nothing growing in the middle of the clump. To divide perennials, dig them up, cut the clump in half or smaller and replant (using starter fertilizer) giving them space to grow, or share some with a friend.