To Prune or Not to Prune?

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Should you cut back your hardy perennials or leave them standing for winter interest?

Pruning tidies the garden, makes compost and mulch application easier and helps prevent disease in some plants.

On the other hand, leaving perennials standing maintains visual winter interest in the garden, supplies seed for birds and shelter for overwintering butterflies and provides cold protection for some plants.

Here are a few recommendations from the National Gardening Association, or NGA:

For many other plants, says the NGA, there are benefits and drawbacks to both pruning and leaving plants standing through the winter. The seedheads of coneflowers and
rudbeckias, for example, provide winter food for birds and cover for overwintering butterflies and beneficial insects. But if you decide to leave them standing, be prepared for self-sown seedling plants and more weeding and pruning in the spring.

Beth Stetenfeld is a McFarland-based editor, writer, master naturalist and creator of the gardening blog PlantPostings.com.