Pruning in the Late Summer Flower Garden - Prune Away!

Flower gardens in late summer in my part of the world can be likened to a slightly overripe peach: they are a little too juicy and softer than you would prefer.

They are, as Shakepeare's wrote, "too much of a good thing"....

Pink Chaos coleus, Double Impatiens (orchid) and euphorbia Diamond Frost

What, then, to do with that overflowing petunia, the overgrown mock orange, that out of control spirea?

Bring them back from sweet excess by judicious pruning. 'Judicious' is the operative word here,  but above all, PRUNE AWAY!

Clematis, Blue Salvia stalks and Vinca

At this time of year, do not be afraid to prune back, shape and rejuvenate. Of course, late pruning of spring flowering shrubs such as lilacs will mean sacrificing some of next year's flowers but if you are like me, the unkempt appearance now far outweighs the flower display 6 months hence.

Blue Angelonia, Cambridge Blue Angelonia, New Guinea pink Impatiens, blue star juniper
Of course, pruning purists would be aghast that I say to prune the forsythia now (you will be forsaking their spring flowers) but sometimes you just have to get things under control!

Anyway, I am pruning back and deadheading many flowering annuals, perennials and deciduous shrubs right now. Here are some tips:

Pruning Tip #1 - Get yourself a good quality pair of pruning shears. I love Felco #2 OR #6. This cast aluminum hand pruner is my pride and joy and I have lost just one set (which upset me no end).....

they are expensive so ask for one for the holidays - a great gift!

Pruning Tip #2 - Know the difference between Pruning and Deadheading...Pruning is cutting and deadheading is the removal of spent blooms to encourage another flush of flowers within the same season. Do them both right now. Roses are very appreciative of deadheading.

Tip #3 - Timing
Most plants go into hibernation in the winter and stop growing.  For deciduous trees (those that lose their leaves), their dormant period is usually the best time to prune.
However for many perennials and shrubs you can prune at various points during the year depending upon which they are. Most plants respond well to any type of gentle pruning and will be hurt only when extreme pruning has taken place.

One of my flower borders with arbor gate  (for a a client)- just pruned back as you can see from the front edge....

Obviously, adverse weather conditions - whether it be hot or cold - is not a good time to prune but watering and an app. of compost tea or similar can be a quick pick me up.... late summer / early autumn is a good time to prune and cut back and deadhead...

A great book that tells you all about flower and plant combinations for your flower borders is shown below - and make sure to check our Allen Becker - the Garden Guru's review of it on Amazon as well:


  1. Just bought my first Felco #6 this spring--quite an improvement on "Blackie," my ancient hand pruner.

    (I began to call many of my garden tools by their color LONG before I reaached the age of not remembering the names of things. My husband understood this perfectly, but my son has trouble with it. I have different carts and wagons-Reddy, Greenie, Blacky, Yellowie, and Blue Cart.)

    I am now deadheading my dahlias and landscape zinnias, then scattering their colorful heads in my barren and dry pear tree garden. Not especially effective, but it satisfies the child in me, the one who beheaded all mother's tulips right after thay came into bloom and were destined for the Sisters at the hospital where my mother worked. And the best bloom goes into the cats' outdoor water dish, a concrete cat.

    Pruning at this time of year is satisfying, even at some expense of bloom, as I never seem to have time to prune everything just when I should. Thanks for giving a professional okay.


  2. I guess I would have a problem pruning a beautiful Viburnum Carlesi right now and sacrificing those fragrant blooms or Henry's Garnet Sweetspire and giving up those panicles of white flowers.

    I am a big proponent about pruning at the correct time, or if you miss it, just leave it for a year. To me there is nothing that looks worse than a trimmed forsythia with a few yellow blooms sticking out here and there.

    I agree with the importance of deadheading for continual bloom (on certain plants) and have just pruned my roses back for hopefully more blooms.


  3. I love the idea that you name all your carts, etc.
    Naming tools sounds like a fun thing to do - I used to name my cars when i was young maybe now I will name my pruning shears, or better yet, my 100 ft. long tape measure.

  4. Gatsby gardens - you are absolutely right of course: carlesii is all about the flowers..without those, forget it.

    and forsythia hedges sans yellow are sad...

    but that instinct to clean up, clear out and chop is a strong one....

    as Buddha said - 'follow the middle way' (smile)....

  5. You read my mind! Every spring, I enthusiastically spend every possible moment out in my garden planning, moving plants, pruning and weeding. My determination to get outside transcends all obstacles, including interesting social opportunities. By
    By the end of July, I find the social opportunities too intriguing to miss, and the other obstacles have been put off for too long, so my garden becomes neglected.
    During one of my recent early morning strolls through my garden it became glaring obvious that all my plants were ominously overgrown and desperately in need of pruning. Thanks for letting me know that I am not alone in this.
    Maybe this weekend...if no one calls me!

  6. Pretty flowers! Seems your garden was so healthy. Wish I can have a healthy garden too. I'm been looking for interesting topic as this. Looking forward for your next post. Keep posting!


  7. Hey, nice site you have here! Keep up the excellent work!

    Garden Tools

  8. some great tips! Very informative,I enjoy your writing! I really enjoy reading every second of this article.. Thank you.

    Lija recently posted...FLOWER GARDENING TIPS


Post a Comment

Hi there! I would love to hear from you....

Popular Posts of all Time

Angelface Blue and Dark Violet Angelonia - a Flower that Keeps Giving

'Purple Smoke' - The best Baptisia

Getting in the 'Flow' by Gardening

No-Fail Tips for Turning Hydrangeas Blue!

Repurposed and Recycled - Creative Ideas for Garden Design

My one day Class Wednesday April 16 in NY - Jan Johnsen