How to overwinter perennial flowers

rust colored mums

Perennials are the low-maintenance gardener’s best friend. Unlike annuals which only last one season, perennials bloom for multiple years. Common perennial flowers include: coneflowers, daylilies, mums and hosta. Perennials require minimal care in-season, and are easy to overwinter after the season has ended.

End-of-season nursery sales are a great opportunity to purchase discount perennials. 

Digging and dividing perennial stock

purple coneflower
Purple coneflower

Over time, garden beds become crowded with fewer and less vibrant blooms. Dig up and divide perennial stock every 3-4 years to keep your flowers at peak performance.

Fall is the best time to dig and divide perennial stock. Keep the strongest rootstock; discard any damaged portions. Replant roots with greater room to spread or share with gardener friends.

To cut or not to cut

In fall perennials become dormant. During dormancy you can cut perennial foliage back or leave perennials standing.


Pruning perennials in fall helps combat foliar disease and keeps the garden looking tidy over winter. Leaving perennials standing over winter provides tasty seeds and cover for winter wildlife.

I opt to leave perennials standing over winter and prune at the first signs of new growth in spring. Follow whatever schedule works best for you and your garden. Just make sure to give perennials a good pruning at least once a year.

Additional fall perennial maintenance tips

  • If you applied fertilizer in spring it is not necessary to fertilize in fall.
  • Remove plant supports in fall and stow.
  • When cutting back, leave 2-3 inches foliage standing.
  • Apply a thick, protective layer of mulch to insulate roots.

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