what to cut back and when

Asked March 20, 2018, 2:06 PM EDT

Hi there! I have left lots of native plants intact to overwinter, thinking their seeds can feed local wildlife. I especially have lots of native asters and grasses. At what point should I cut them back as spring approaches? And do I even NEED to cut them back? Thanks so much!!

Prince George's County Maryland

1 Response

You don't need to cut back native plans (no one does in the wild, right?) And it is a great idea to leave the stalks over the winter so wildlife can eat the seeds and overwinter in stalks or debris.

Most folks want a garden bed to look tidy in the spring. You can break off the dead stems whenever you want, really. Easiest to do before they gets mixed in with new shoots coming up. Also, if you like, you can throw the stalks somewhere that wildlife can still get at the seeds and use the stalks, such as on a brush pile. Mason bees, for example, nest in hollow stalks.