Preparing Perennials for Winter

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

Fork it Over

Fork it Over

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

©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.

Keep Reading

Next Up

How to Plant Perennial Flowers & Plants

Perennials are the mainstay of the traditional flower garden. When planted correctly, they are long-lived.

The 10 Essential Steps to Planting Perennials

Get your perennials off to a solid start and they’ll reward you with many seasons of color.

Flower Power: Annuals vs. Perennials

Know the difference between the two so you can make the most of these gorgeous flowers in your garden.

How To Prepare for an Open House

Get It Sold host and home-staging expert Sabrina Soto shares her 15-tip checklist on what to do before opening your house to buyers.

5 Types of Neighbors and How to Handle Them

You can pick your friends, but not your family -- or your neighbors. Here’s what you need to know.

How to Plant a Poppy Container Garden

Learn how to plant a container garden for various types of poppies with this step-by-step gardening guide.

How to Plant a Kitchen Herb Garden

Have some extra space in your yard or garden? Plant a fresh and simple herb garden only steps away from the kitchen.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss Prefit in your favorite social media feeds.