The perennial windflowers are a diverse family of colorful plants that bloom in either the spring or fall. They belong to the family Ranunculaceae and are typically grown in USDA 4 to 8. With such a diversity, some varieties do possess specific pruning requirements, but in general it is best to wait until the foliage of windflowers has begun to yellow and die back before trimming the plants in the fall. During the growing season, further flowering may be encouraged by removing wilting/dying flowers regularly (deadheading).
When to Prune Windflowers
Overall, it is recommended to leave the foliage of windflowers intact until it dies and withers away naturally. After flowering, the foliage from the windflowers will continue to produce resources for next year’s growth, so pruning prior to dieback will weaken the plant. For spring-blooming varieties, the foliage left after flowering and dying back is usually insignificant and may not require pruning at all.
For fall-blooming varieties, it is best to remove foliage before the first frost (but if at all possible wait until the foliage turns yellow and dies). A good rule of thumb is to wait until the leaves separate from the corm/root clump with a gentle pull before removing foliage. If you experience difficulties with removing foliage by hand, shear it off as close to the ground as possible.
Deadheading flowers is the only pruning recommended for windflowers. Whether spring or fall flowering, removing flowers that have passed their prime and begun to whither will encourage the plant to devote more resources toward flowering versus seed production.
Why Prune Windflowers
The main reason to prune your windflowers is to tidy up and make way for next year’s growth. However, this is only to be done after the foliage dies back to allow the plant to continue to store resources and energy after flowering has concluded. After removing the leaves, it may be useful to lay them over the bulbs to create a mulch layer for protection over the winter.
The only reason to remove actively growing foliage is for disease or pest control. If there is a disease or pest control issue (for example foliar nematodes), you may be required to trim/remove any affected foliage or flowers and dispose of them immediately.
How to Prune Windflowers
Step 1 - Deadhead flowers
Once flowers begin to wilt and or loose petals, use a pair of shears or your fingernails to cut the flower off of the stem.
Step 2 - Wait for foliage to die back naturally
After the foliage has begun to yellow and die back, gently pull on a piece of foliage to see if it will detach from the root easily. If it does, then you may proceed with either removing the foliage by hand or shearing it off close to the ground.
Step 3 - Apply pruned foliage as mulch
After removing the leaves/foliage in the fall, it may be useful to lay them over the bulbs to create a mulch layer for protection over the winter. If the mulch layer is not at least 3 inches thick, you may need to find additional materials to use as mulch.
Windflower Pruning Tips
- Never remove active foliage. It will weaken the plant.
- If you can easily remove foliage from the root with a gentle pull, it is ready for pruning.
- If it freezes before your foliage dies back, then use shears to cut the foliage off near the ground.
- Foliage removed during pruning in the fall may be used as mulch over the winter.
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