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Brush sculpting in late spring

Trimming is not required for plants to be healthy. But when done strategically it can enhance the look of your summer landscape.

With recent rainfall, high humidity and mild temperatures from the mid-80s to low 90s, this year’s spring weather has been ideal for plant growth in Texas. Most plants are thriving and heavy with fresh foliage and flowers.

But all that extra springtime foliage can turn into a liability for your plants if (and when) the summer turns droughty.

June marks the inevitable transition from spring to summer, with temperatures expected to surge for the next five months. One way to help prepare your plants for summer is to remove some of the extra growth.

That said, trimming is not required for plants to be healthy. But when performed strategically it can improve the aesthetics of your summer landscape.

Some plants do better with a trim than others. For example, trimming overgrown frostweed now will cause it to produce a more compact form, with shorter stems and more visible flowers in fall — a good thing. But deadheading coneflowers in June might cause them to produce another round of heavy blooms — not a good thing with summer heat approaching.

  • Herbaceous hardy perennials, like sages, can be trimmed back by about a third. Removing foliage now will encourage some plants to produce new leaves and blooms.
  • Woody perennials should be left alone, as they put too much effort into growing branches for them to be removed simply for aesthetics.

Different landscapes and different garden styles dictate how much (if any) to trim. For more formal landscapes selectivity is best. Shade gardens may not require much trimming at all, but full-sun garden perennials can benefit from a strategic “haircut.”

In my own wildscape, I pretend to be a bison and use a string trimmer to brush sculpt some native perennials back to a healthy crown of about six inches.

Timing is also important. Ideally, you want to trim your summer garden before a good thunderstorm. Receiving a little natural moisture after pruning helps them heal and regrow some foliage, but the warm weather will prevent excessive regrowth.

Remember, trimming is always optional! Whether to trim (or not) is always based on the plant species, location and desired outcome. No matter how perfectly performed, trimming does damage plants and can stress them out. You do have to weigh the cost to your plants against the aesthetic benefit.

Each gardener will have a different threshold for how much to cut to prep the landscape for summer. If you’re wondering how much to trim, it’s best to err on the side of caution and trim less.

Cleveland Powell
Cleveland Powell
Cleveland Powell is a conservation planner for SAWS. He is enthusiastic about grass taxonomy and milkweed propagation. In his free time, Powell enjoys hiking around area parks in search of intriguing bugs, birds and plants.
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