En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
1 rating

Monday - July 25, 2011

From: Mohnton, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Pruning
Title: Cutting back perennials in PA
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

Can you pinch back echinacea in the spring to produce a shorter plant? I have some that get too tall and fall over.

ANSWER:

Yes you can, but not this year.

There are a number of late-summer/fall blooming perennials that can be cut back by half in late spring/early summer.  As a result, they will be shorter and sturdier (less likely to need staking or fall over).  They will also be bushier and more floriferous.

I have had a similar problem in one of my perennial beds and tried it this year on:

Aconitum delphiniifolium (Larkspur-leaf monkshood)

Monarda didyma (Scarlet beebalm)

Phlox paniculata (Fall phlox)

So far, so good ... the monarda is blooming on schedule at a shorter height than usual and the other two seem to be budding.  I am in zone 5 and did it late in May ... you will want to do it a little earlier than that.

Besides these three and your Echinacea purpurea (Eastern purple coneflower), you can also give the same treatment to:

Eupatoriadelphus maculatus (Joe-pye weed)

Physostegia virginiana (Fall obedient plant)

Symphyotrichum oblongifolium (Aromatic aster)

and the tall sedum varieties.

 

From the Image Gallery


Larkspur-leaf monkshood
Aconitum delphiniifolium

Scarlet beebalm
Monarda didyma

Fall phlox
Phlox paniculata

Eastern purple coneflower
Echinacea purpurea

Joe-pye weed
Eupatoriadelphus maculatus

Fall obedient plant
Physostegia virginiana ssp. praemorsa

Aromatic aster
Symphyotrichum oblongifolium

More Pruning Questions

Branching on plants
March 14, 2008 - Hi Mr SmartyPlants, I would like to cause my cerus peruvinesus (sp?) to branch low to the ground and another plant to branch higher up..what causes branching & how can I duplicate this?
view the full question and answer

Ash tree dying back to lower sprouts in Kempner TX
June 19, 2010 - My 2 year old ash tree leaves dropped, appears dead, branches dying. New growth near base of tree. Do I cut upper trunk or remove entire tree? My other ash is doing well.
view the full question and answer

Care of Northern honeysuckle bush
April 26, 2009 - I have a honeysuckle bush, I have had it for about year to two years. I would like to know if I should cut the brown parts off. There are some vines that do not look good, but some of the branches ha...
view the full question and answer

Spanish Dagger plant interfering with walkway in Ingram TX
April 09, 2010 - I have a Spanish Dagger that is now 8 feet tall and about to fall over in a walkway. Due to the danger of these very sharp tips I need to either cut down the plant or try to root in and replant. If ...
view the full question and answer

Shaping of native hawthorns
October 21, 2007 - I have three young hawthorns that were propagated from a nearby Blackland prairie stand. If I limb them up, will that encourage them to branch more near the top, or will it just ruin the form altoget...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center