Shasta Daisy Pruning – Tips On Cutting Back Shasta Daisies
By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
I love the predictability of perennials. Shasta daisies are one of these that consistently shows up year after year. Proper year end care of your plants will ensure a bountiful supply of rayed blooms, and this includes cutting back Shasta daisies. You should know when to prune Shasta daisy and some tips on the method for healthiest plants.
How Do I Prune Shasta Daisies?
I hear the question, “how do I prune Shasta daisies,” quite frequently. These robust flowers are easy to grow and maintain, asking little of you other than occasional water, moderately fertile soil and sunshine. There are a couple of reasons for Shasta daisy pruning, including preventing the plant from freely seeding, but also to enhance plant growth. Gardeners with large patches of the plants also know to divide them every few years to increase the number of plants and create a healthier clump.
The Shasta daisy reseeds prolifically and, over time, a small crop of the plants will become a large stand. Over the years, the stand will become bare in the center and the side stems will be leggy and fall over. To prevent this, divide the stand every 3 years and replant the peripheral pieces. Pruning during this process is confined to simply shortening the stems for ease of handling.
Pruning is also useful to give the perennial bed a tidier appearance for winter and allow new growth in spring to push up without the barrier of old spent stems. Cutting back Shasta daisies as the blooms fade will help prevent random baby Shasta spreading in all directions. This deadheading also preserves the appearance of the plant.
When to Prune Shasta Daisy Plants
There are many factors regarding pruning that are crucial to a successful outcome. Tools and skill are important but when to prune Shasta daisy is even more vital. This is because the goals for pruning vary from season to season.
During the growing period, deadheading, which is a form of Shasta daisy pruning, helps keep seeding in check and plants looking their best.
In spring, just before you divide your plants, pruning a Shasta daisy to 6 inches (15 cm.) from the ground will facilitate handling and get the plant ready for new growth.
In the fall, cutting back the stems to 2 inches (5 cm.) from the ground after the foliage has yellowed is a common practice. You may also choose to leave those dying stems in place to provide winter protection for the plant. In such cases, remove the dead stems in early spring to make way for new growth.
Tips on Pruning a Shasta Daisy
In any pruning or trimming, you should manage the hygiene of your tools. Sharp pruning shears or trimmers will make cleaner cuts that invite less damage and disease. Tools should be frequently sterilized between pruning different types of plants. A 25% bleach solution is generally sufficient to remove any pathogens from your blades. Soak tools for several minutes, wipe with a clean cloth and allow to air dry.
Shasta daisies can withstand trimming at any point to remove spent flowers, dead or diseased stems and minimize seeding. It is also important to pinch the tops of stems when they are 6 inches (15 cm.) tall. This promotes fuller plants and more blooms.
The deadheading process will also encourage more flowers. However, if you are lazy like me, you can also ignore these hardy garden stars and just let them do their thing. The result will be a naturalized stand of numerous statuesque white flowers that will return year after year like an old friend.
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Read more about Shasta Daisies
How to Prepare Shasta Daisies for Winter
Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum × superbum) are low-maintenance perennials in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 to 9, according to North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension. Shasta daisy care in the winter includes mulching and pruning back the plant. This helps to ensure the plant will come back the following year and display bright spring and summer blooms that feature white petals surrounding a yellow center.
SHASTA DAISY BASICS
From spring to fall, some with repeat bloom.
2 to 5 inches in diameter
Varies by species. Most will bloom from early through late summer.
Introduced to the garden world in 1901, the Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum ×superbum) is a hybrid combining the best qualities of the oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare), English field daisy (Leucanthemum maximum) and Portuguese field daisy (Leucanthemum lacustre). It was bred by American horticulturist Luther Burbank as an easy-care ornamental alternative for the home garden. He aptly named his showy new flower after the snow-capped Mount Shasta, located not far from his home in northern California. Learn more about the history of the Shasta daisy.
English Daisy Varieties
Varieties of English Daisy include:
- Galaxy: This series produces red, white, or rose flowers with a yellow eye growing as a dense carpet.
- Pomponette: These plants produce flowers in a mix of colors with quilled petals and an almost spherical shape.
- Tasso Pink: Bubblegum-pink pompon blooms are features of this heirloom type.
- Habanera Red Tips: This striking variety produces white pompons with red tips and a swirl of petals at the center where the eye would be.
With the arrival of spring, these are the plants that you want to add to your pruning list:
Amsonia (Amsonia hubrichtii)
Amsonia, also known as blue star, prefers to be thrown into a high-sun environment where it can go wild growing.
Leave these standing over the winter to add some interest to the garden and encourage self-seeding.
Another icon of meadows and roadsides in the country, aster is a tough plant that wants to be left alone over the winter.
Allow it to enjoy the snow and the cold while adding some cold-season interest to the garden. For whatever reason, aster thrives on being left alone over the winter.
This lovely perennial comes in many varieties. Chinese Aster (Callistephus chinensis) and New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) our two of our favorites.
I would have voted for astilbe if it ran for president. Delicate and pleasantly-colored foliage pairs with spires of colorful flowers. Better yet, it’s a plant that requires minimal care and maintenance.
The old foliage helps protect the plant from winter damage and requires minimal cleanup in the spring.
Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorus)
Beautifully hued and delicate flowers adorn these beauties.
Balloon flowers grow well in clumps, and are eager to self-seed. This means that it’s best to leave balloon flowers standing throughout the winter. They also add some interesting winter form to your garden!
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
If you have somebody close their eyes and imagine the first flower that comes to mind, chances are that it’s a black-eyed Susan. Wonderfully reliable and eager to take root in many places, black-eyed Susans are also vigorous self-seeders.
If you leave them standing in the winter they’ll offer a food source to birds. Clean up the debris in the springtime.
Butterfly Bush (Buddleja)
An icon in the garden, butterfly bushes offer a wild growth habit highlighted with brightly colored conical flowers.
Leave these standing over the winter, and watch for the first signs of new growth popping out before cutting this vigorous plant back to a height of about one foot in the spring.
The image here was taken on August 16th, and the plant itself was cut back on March 15th. That’s a lot of growth!
Although there are a tremendous variety of coneflowers out there, most of these hybrids seem to revert or reseed back to their true purple color. That’s no problem, because these long-lasting flowers are vital food sources for various types of of wildlife over the winter months.
Leave them standing and enjoy their snow-capped flower heads being pecked apart by eager birds in need of a meal.
Coral Bells (Heuchera)
Coral bells are a great companion to many perennial plants and can even stand on their own in the interest department. However, they are prone to ground heaving, when the frost pushes a plant up and above the surface.
Leave the foliage intact on coral bells to guarantee an extra level of protection from the cold.
A perennial tolerant of just about any harsh conditions you can throw at it, coreopsis is one tough plant.
Leave the flowers and foliage intact over the winter. Also commonly known as calliopsis and tickseed, coreopsis prefers being undisturbed until springtime.
Make sure to read our coreopsis growing guide to get complete care instructions.
The icon of summertime, it’s important to recognize the difference between Montauk daisies and Shasta daisies.
Montauk daisies (Nipponanthemum nipponicum), which genreally open later in the year, should be treated more like a woody shrub than a perennial. Leave them alone over the winter and only cut back dead stems.
Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum × superbum), on the other hand, respond better to being left alone over the winter, and then having last year’s growth removed in early spring.
Dianthus barbatus or sweet william is a common variety.
You can usually leave this softly-hued perennial in place during the winter. These don’t produce much in the way of foliage or mess, and will only require a quick and light cleanup in the spring.
Certainly one of the more dramatic entries in the garden, gardeners will often cut back the flower stalk of a foxglove after it finishes blooming.
The rest of the plant can be ignored until springtime, when a quick touch-up cleaning is all that’s required.
Gaura (Oenothera lindheimeri)
Lovely flowers on spindly growth are an attractive element in the garden, but gaura is hardly a long-lived perennial.
Also known as Lindheimer’s clockweed, Lindheimer’s beeblossom, or Indian feather, the best chance to have these make a return appearance next year is to leave them undisturbed over the winter, so that they may self-seed.
Cut liatris (aka blazing star or gayfeather) back to the ground in the winter.
Most of these have difficulty reflowering, or simply won’t, so leaving the seedheads attached during the early stages of the cold season allows the seeds to disperse and replenish the plant next year.
Probably the most well-known plant to have in the garden, these are sometimes referred to as plantain lilies or giboshi. Hosta is a vigorous and incredibly hardy perennial. I’ve dug them up and divided them in July, then sipped a cool mojito and admired their blooms in August.
Still, hosta prefers to have its leaves left alone over the winter, to serve as a mulch for the roots. Remove the old, shriveled material in the spring to make room for new growth.
Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium)
Let’s be honest – if a plant has the word “weed” in its name, it probably doesn’t require much care.
Lucky for us, joe-pye weed is also an eager self-seeder, and offers lovely foliage that is beloved by local wildlife.
You can let joe-pye weed stand throughout the winter and cut it back in the spring… or you could leave it standing. Joe-pye don’t care!
Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina)
Watch out for those spiky flower stalks on this silver-hued, low-growing perennial! Lamb’s ear is just as easygoing in the winter as it is the rest of the year.
You can completely ignore it over the winter, and give it a quick cleanup in the springtime.
Like a handful of other perennials on this list, lavender is more sensitive to soggy soil than it is to the winter cold.
To ensure that this fragrant staple in that sunny corner of your yard makes it back next year, wait to prune it until after the last hard frost, to protect new growth that is particularly sensitive to the cold.
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
These guys remind me of dusty miller, and for that their soft-hued, blue-green foliage is welcome in my garden!
Leave it standing throughout the winter and cut it back in the springtime.
I have a lot of experience planting plumbago, but that’s because it has a difficult time making it through the winters, and because it seems to disappear in the spring! It sometimes goes by the common name leadwort.
The only trick I’ve found to knowing exactly where my plumbago will appear again is to leave the old foliage attached throughout the winter.
Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
After coming up with a plant list for this guide, I’ve realized how much I love the silvery-blue-hued perennials, and Russian sage is at the top of that list.
If you have room to let this guy grow, it will provide a beautiful and reliable wall of blue.
Like lavender, the new growth is sensitive and does not react well to winter cold. Wait to cut back until after the last hard frost, or when you see new growth starting in the spring.
“Hey, you said to cut these back in the fall!” You are correct, attentive reader – but fall cutbacks are for the woody salvia.
The softer-stemmed salvias that thrive in warmer climates prefer to be cut back in the spring, because their new growth is sensitive to cold.
Want to know more? Get your questions answered with our detailed salvia growing guide.
With a tough common name like “stonecrop,” it’s no wonder that these guys like to be left alone in the winter. Lucky for us, they offer some winter interest in the garden.
Sedum is one of the first plants to push out new growth in the spring, so when you see those new rosettes forming, you’ll know spring has sprung.