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A Fall Pruning Guide: What to Trim and What to Leave Until Spring

Salisbury Landscaping-Alberta-Fall Pruning Guide -pruning shrub in autumn

Get your garden ready for the cold season ahead. This blog is your guide for indicating which plants need pruning in the fall and which ones you can leave alone for winter interest in your landscape.

Why Prune in the Fall? 

With leaves gone, fall is the perfect time to examine your trees, shrubs, and vines and come up with a pruning routine or personal care guide for your garden. It’s the time to remove dead, damaged, dangerous, and diseased branches. But what plants should undergo pruning in the fall, and which ones should be left to complement your winter landscaping design? 

Salisbury Landscaping-Alberta-Fall Pruning Guide -cutting back hosta for autumn

What Plants and Shrubs Should I Cut Back in the Fall? 

1. Dead Plant Foliage

Fall is the perfect time to remove leaves and branches by pruning perennials down to 2-4 inches above the soil line. To ensure healthy plants next year, try to make crisp cuts without tears. Cut off blooms on perennials like peonies as they die—especially if the plant variety is susceptible to powdery mildew. Cleaning up the dead foliage will also give you more beautiful new growth when you start landscaping next season—starting as early as late winter to early spring! Plants to trim back in the fall include:

  • Iris 
  • Bee Balm 
  • Hollyhocks
  • Phlox
  • Catmint 
  • Peonies
  • Lilies
  • Blanket flower 
  • Columbine 
  • Hostas

2. Dead or Broken Limbs on Trees

In areas like Sherwood Park, which are vulnerable to heavy snow and ice, this is especially crucial. Don’t wait until bad weather to get rid of it if you know it’s time to go—prune back your dead or broken tree limbs now. Trees to prune in the fall using clean tools include:

  • Birch 
  • Cherry
  • Maple 

3. Fruit Bushes and Tender Herbs

Fruit bushes such as currants and gooseberries will benefit from thinning out. It is also a good time of year to prune your tender herbs such as lavender and rosemary, as they cannot survive winter pruning. 

Salisbury Landscaping-Alberta-Fall Pruning Guide -cut off hydrangea flowers

4. Rose Bushes and Shrubs

In the fall, dried rose buds can be used to add a delicious fragrance to your home by placing them in vases and other decor displays. When pruning roses, it’s generally best to wait until the end of winter or early spring. However, if your rose bushes are overgrown or large and your area is prone to heavy snowfalls, you may want to remove 2 to 4 inches for winter protection. 

5. Evergreens and Other Holiday Plants

To decorate both the inside and outside of your home for the holidays, or just in spirit of the fall season—prune evergreens, berried twigs, and rose stems to create natural wreaths out of live greenery and dried up rose buds. Get creative with it—just remember to situate your cuts carefully, as your pruning cuts will have an impact on future growth.

Salisbury Landscaping-Alberta-Fall Pruning Guide -red maple tree foliage in autumn

What Not To Prune in the Fall 

It is not advisable to prune every garden plant in the fall—especially if it’s wet or damp outside. It is best not to prune back certain plants in the fall to avoid these weather conditions, as they can make them more susceptible to disease. It will also interfere with the natural growth cycles of the plant season to season. 

Fall & Winter Decorative Plants 

You could be missing out on some gorgeous winter foliage by pruning in the fall. Plants you should avoid pruning back in autumn include:

  • Red twig dogwood
  • Ornamental grasses
  • Sedum 
  • Lilac 
  • Azalea 


Some trees don’t heal as well as others, so pruning may do more harm than good before winter. Trees to avoid pruning in the fall include: 

  • Crabapple 
  • Poplar 
  • Cedar 
  • Willow
Salisbury Landscaping-Alberta-Fall Pruning Guide -ornamental grass in the fall

It’s better to be safe than sorry when pruning for the winter as you want to make sure they have enough time to heal! Visit us at Salisbury Landscaping in Sherwood Park for all your winter landscaping needs!

Posted in Landscaping Tips

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