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Pruning Perennials with Intention & Intuition

Perennial Plants

Are plants that live in perpetuity (essentially), meaning they remain evergreen or will wane in the winter and spring to life in, well, spring of course. Because of their longevity, they require a bit more upkeep (not too much) and care to keep them looking their best. If grown in a container, perennial plants will eventually grow to fill the whole container. Keep this in mind when planting these friends in a raised bed or in the ground. They will spread! Which can be great, if that's the intention. I like to plant all my perennials in pots but they do superbly in native soil, too.

Perennial Herbs Include...

  • Lavender, Rosemary, Oregano

  • Sage, Thyme, Chive

  • Mint, Lemon Balm, Verbena

  • Lovage, Marjoram, Savory

  • Chamomile, Sorrel, Lemongrass

  • And others... most herbs are perennial!

Perennial Vegetables Include...

  • Asparagus, Artichoke, Rhubarb, and others!

Perennial Fruits Include...

  • Strawberries, Blueberries, Blackberries, Raspberries, Elderberries

  • Citrus, Banana, Avocado

  • and others!

Pruning with Intention The overarching goal of pruning perennial plants is to remove what is no longer serving the plants you are growing in order to make room for new growth. Here are three easy tips for being an intentional pruning connoisseur -

  1. Prune in the cooler months, when the is not stressed from the summer heat. Fall and spring are the best times to prune. I have a slight preference to pruning in the fall.

  2. There are many different "camps" on this topic. Some folks like to cut their perennial herbs down to a nub above the soil. This feels a bit extreme to me, but can be very effective in re-shaping the plant's growth. In the other camp, are those who only remove 30% of the plants growth when they prune. I'm in the latter camp.

  3. Make clean cuts, and cut at the base of the main stalk of the plant. Any point of growth (like a branch or arm or leafing member of the plant) has energy expended and directed to it. Making clean cuts, at the base of the stalks tells the plant to heal the wound and redirect precious energy to other leafing parts.

After pruning feed your plants with an all-purpose plant food. Do you have some Compost Complete from Windcrest Organics on hand? Sprinkle a small handful around the base of each plant, water thoroughly. Below are some before and after pictures from a rosemary pruning from the fall.

Pruning with Intuition

Intention and intuition are two of the greatest, yet intangible, skills to foster when practicing food growing. There are things that will work for you, but not for others. There are methods that feel strange and extreme to you, while others embrace them with welcomed arms. This journey is all about finding what works for you, your plants and your space.

When you prune, you get to work in a little intuitive practice. Try to focus on the individual plant you're working with. Get in the grove. Think of pruning as a quick meditative practice. Your goal, in addition to the intentional tasks listed above, is to make a judgement call - to take this branch or not, to leave this leaf or not, to cut it all back or not.

Essentially, listen to your gut. If you hesitate, that means you should not cut. Embrace the intuition!

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