How to Have a Phenomenal Fall

Fall is a whirlwind of dazzling color, cooler temps and sharing gratitude with family and friends. Our late blooming mums are just beginning to burst and pair well with ornamental cabbages and kales, pumpkins and gourds for hostess gifts or your own curb appeal. There is still time to slow down, enjoy the season and properly put your landscape, lawn and garden to bed for winter. To help you prep, our most frequently asked questions are answered here.

What can I do with all the leaves in my yard?

Fallen tree leaves make great garden mulch. Use your mower or a shredder to chop leaves up to the size of your thumbnail or smaller. Leaf mulch can insulate roses, be added to a compost pile, used as garden mulch in landscape beds, incorporated into edible garden beds and spread thinly on the lawn to decompose over the winter. Like trees in a forest, the fallen leaves provide nutrients to the soil and back into the roots of the plants. However, diseased leaves should be raked and bagged not composted or reused.

When is the right time to prune trees and shrubs?

After the leaves have fallen, trees and shrubs go dormant and it is easy to see the architecture of the plants. Crossing, dead, and diseased branches should be removed as soon as you spot them. December is the perfect time to remove water sprouts, suckers or shoots that form at the base of the tree. Pruning water sprouts and suckers will open up the tree for better air circulation and gives you the opportunity to shape the plant. As a rule, it’s best to prune flowering trees and shrubs right after they bloom in late spring versus pruning in fall when buds are forming.

But when do I prune my hydrangeas?

It seems like there are as many hydrangeas as there are stars in the sky these days. We like to leave the flowers up all the way through winter to add some nice winter textures to your garden. If you like to prune in fall, here's a quick guide on which ones are okay to prune in fall an which ones you should wait until spring.

  • Annabelle, Incrediball or any arborescens varieties can be pruned in late fall or early spring to 6-12". But you don't have to do anything but remove the spent flowers in spring. The old canes will help support the new growth of the plant.

  • Limelight, Quickfire, or any paniculata varieties should be pruned in early spring to control size. Spent flowers should also be removed in spring.

  • Tuff Stuff, Tiny Tuff Stuff or any of the serrata varieties should only be pruned immediately after they flower and then only if you need to shape them. These bloom on old wood, meaning flower buds are set on last year's growth, so if you prune in spring or fall you will be removing the flower buds for next year.

  • Oakleaf or quercifolia varieties bloom on old wood as well. In the spring you can prune out any dead stems after you see new growth. If you would like to prune to control its size, do it right after it is finished flowering to avoid removing next year's flower buds.

  • Endless Summer, BloomStruck or any macrophylla varieties should only be pruned in spring and only after you start to see new growth. At this point, you will just remove any dead stems. These varieties bloom on old and new wood so if you prune them in fall, you could be removing some of the following year's blooms.

How should I protect trees and shrubs from winter elements and animal damage?

Trees and shrubs planted within the last two years need to be watered before winter. Thin-barked trees and fruit trees benefit from trunk protection, especially when young, to keep critters away and protect from sun damage. A piece of white (not black) plastic corrugated tubing, slit lengthwise, works well to surround tree trunks. The sun heats black tubing, warming the trunk, causing the bark cells to expand and burst. Remove tree trunk protection in spring once buds begin to swell. A cylinder of chicken wire, graduated wire fencing or netting keeps critters away from young bushes. Granular repellants or sprays can also be used as a deterrent, but reapplication is necessary after each rain or snowfall.

How do I prepare my edible garden for winter?

After the first killing frost, remove and compost all disease-free plant material. Incorporate 2”-3” of organic matter or leave it on top for the earthworms to work and turn it under next spring. Working the soil amendments into garden beds now will allow you to get into the garden earlier in the spring.

Should I cut back my perennials for the winter?

It is best to wait until late winter or early spring to cut back perennials. Exceptions include plants prone to powdery mildew such as herbaceous peony, monarda, and tall phlox, and plants that aggressively reseed, such as sweet autumn clematis. Do not compost diseased plants. Butterfly bush, asters, foxglove and mums in particular benefit from foliage left over the winter to insulate the crown of the plants. Some plants such as Russian sage, caryopteris and fallopia will die if cut back in fall.

Unpruned perennial plants provide cover and food for birds as well as attractive color, texture and movement. The winter landscape is enhanced by the graceful plumes of ornamental grasses, the rich oranges, reds and browns of rose hips and the warm glow of dried hydrangea blossoms through fresh fallen snow.

How do I prepare my roses for winter?

Surround roses with chicken wire and fill with 8”-12” of loose mulch, leaf clippings or evergreen boughs. To protect grafted roses, mulch after the ground begins to freeze in December. The Growing Place Garden Mix combined with finely chopped leaves makes excellent rose mulch. Do not use styrofoam rose cones. They retain excessive moisture and heat, creating a perfect environment for fungus and rot. Remove the mulch when spring temperatures are consistently above freezing. If rabbits frequent your gardens, leave the chicken wire up for protection. Wait until spring to prune roses.

Can I leave perennials outside in containers for the winter?

We recommend removing perennials from containers and transplanting them in your garden before winter. Continue to water them as needed until the ground freezes. The second option is to bring containers into an unheated garage for the winter where they’ll go dormant but be protected from deep freezes.

Aurora Location

2000 Montgomery Road,

Aurora, IL 60504

Phone. 630-820-8088

Naperville Location

25w471 Plank Road,

Naperville, IL 60563

Phone. 630-355-4000

Spring Hours

March 30-June 30

Monday-Friday: 9am-7pm

Saturday: 9am-5pm

Sunday: 11am-5pm

Memorial Day Hours

Monday, May 27


Growing for the future with
right plantsĀ in right places.