ARS Landscape Materials & Supply
Generally, after the first hard frost, the foliage of most perennials starts to die and wither. There are two philosophies on when to remove the dead foliage. One approach is to immediately remove the dead foliage. Many perennials will suffer no harm as a result, as long as you exercise great care when applying mulch. The other approach is waiting until spring to remove dead foliage. Always remove diseased foliage to discourage the spread of leaf-spot diseases and fungal problems.
Whether you decide to remove dead foliage in the fall or wait until spring, mulches provide the best protection for your perennials. Mulches do a better job of insulating plants when space is allowed for air to circulate. Mulch that packs down to a dense mass during winter can cause mildews and molds to form. Shredded leaves from deciduous trees and pine boughs from discarded Christmas trees offer great winter protection. Good organic compost used as mulch is also effective and can be used as a soil amendment in the spring.
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