Autumn is a busy season in the pruning calendar, the perfect time to remove old growth to get plants into shape. Many plants that have played a star role in borders in summer will need tidying up in autumn – cut back dead stems and top growth to prevent fungal diseases from setting in. Fruit bushes such as currants and gooseberries will benefit from thinning out, while perennials that lack decorative seed heads should be cut back to the ground. Autumn is also the time to prune tender plants such as lavender and rosemary, which won't withstand pruning in winter.
More on pruning:
- Seven pruning mistakes to avoid
- What to prune in summer
- 19 best secateurs: bypass, anvil and rachet
- How to prune euphorbias
- How to prune buddleja
Find out what to prune in autumn in out list, below.
Soft and bush fruit
Thin out blackcurrants, gooseberries and redcurrants, by pruning out the fruited stems. For redcurrants, cut the current season's growth to a pair of buds from the base. Prune summer-fruiting raspberries after they have fruited, by cutting the canes to the ground. If you haven’t pruned out the old stems of summer-fruiting raspberries, you can do that now as well, tying in the new canes for next year’s crop.
If your borders are full of tall and messy perennials, you can remove dead flower stems (and basal foliage if necessary) to tidy things up before winter. You can leave perennials in place for wildlife, especially if they have attractive seedheads. However, untidy perennials that lack decorative seedheads can be cut back, including the following: delphiniums, lupins, peonies, phlox, autumn asters.
Sun-loving shrubs that will not tolerate hard pruning in winter, such as:
Mediterranean shrubs like rosemary, lavender and cistus should be cut back after flowering but before winter. Clip the plantsback using secateurs, to tidy, deadhead and reshape them all in one go. Never cut back into old wood, as this can kill the plants. Leave tender French lavender until spring.
Tough, hardy yew can tolerate later pruning than most other hedging plants. If you want to clip your hedge only once a year, then do it in early autumn, as its outline will stay crisp all winter.