when to cut back last year's plants

Asked February 29, 2020, 4:52 PM EST

Based on what I've read about beneficial insects over-wintering on garden plants, I left coneflower, Black eyed Susans, and various perennials alone instead of cutting them back before winter. With the spring coming early, is it ok to cut them back now? Is there a rule of thumb? When do the good bugs emerge? Thanks.

Anne Arundel County Maryland

1 Response

Our beneficial insects are different in their life cycles. Studies look at some plants and some insects regarding overwintering. One suggestion is to have several areas depending upon location and your degree of neatness. If you want to do it now, prune the stalks down and let them lie in the area and clean up late spring so the pollinators can complete their lifecycle. For a messier area - leave the stalks and do not prune until later in the spring. You can also leave the stems lay on the ground for the season.
Below is a link from Penn State on pollinator friendly gardens. To protect overwintering pollinators, don’t cut down your perennial gardens until spring (early April), and keep beds of leaves intact through the winter.