Ready to Put Those Perennials to Bed?

WAXAHACHIE, TX — Now is the time to seriously think about fall and cooler weather. Central Texas usually gets its first freeze between the 15th of November and Thanksgiving. Those great perennials (plants that come back each year) will be even better next year with a little care now. Those that bloom in the spring need to be checked to make sure they are not too crowded. If so, they need to be thinned so they can grow to be large and luscious again.

Our most common perennial is the iris. Although it is tough, it can always benefit from a little care. Three to four years is about the longest they can just sit without care if you want them to thrive and bloom heavily. They do not die, but have to struggle for every drop of water and food. A small handful of slow-release nitrogen on the irises will feed them through the winter and make them ready to “burst out” come spring. Be sure to pull the dead leaves and mulch back from the iris rhizomes to avoid rot and/or disease, which are typical for irises.

Brown “sticks” of much-loved blooming plants that freeze at the first cold snap need to be cut back severely — like into the ground. Leaving the dead foliage encourages disease, and you do not want that! Daisies, phlox and salvias can all be cut back without fear. A little balanced fertilizer and a light covering of mulch will protect the roots from cold and stimulate great growth next spring.

Crepe myrtles and other blooming shrubs should have been trimmed just for shaping in late September. They can also benefit from a check on their mulches. Make sure your sprinkler system is winterized or drained and turned off. You may need to water just a little bit in the driest winters, but not enough to merit the chance of frozen systems. The ice fountains are lovely, but only if they are in someone else’s yard!
Enjoy the cooler weather! Get your cameras ready and start taking pictures now — the Master Gardener photo contest is coming. More information will be provided next month on how to enter.

Written by Nancy Fenton, Master Gardener