Cutting Back

“Cutting Back”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

Years ago, when I first started gardening, I had a hard time cutting back leggy plants.  My mother would come to visit and say, “You need to cut back those _____.”  Fill in impatiens, coleus, etc.  I would answer that I didn’t feel confident enough to know how far to trim them back.  She would lean over and just snap things off and say something like “See, just like that.  It’s not like you’re doing something serious like brain surgery.  It’s just a leggy plant.”

I still hesitate sometimes to wack things back, but I find that it is not so hard anymore, and it really helps keep certain plants in shape or allows them to bloom more.  So, when Pam at Digging stated that she was trimming back her Mexican Bush Sage to make it more compact, I went to work on mine.  After I trimmed them back, I decided to try and root some.  So, I took six small cuttings, and, so far, they are surviving.  No wilting even in the hot temps we have been having lately.

I am thinking about taking some cuttings from other fall blooming plants also.  I definitely want to take cuttings of the wine sage since I only have one plant, and I want to ensure I always have plenty of that deep burgundy flowering sage.  I also want to take cuttings of the regular pineapple sage and the “Golden Delicious” pineapple sage to have more of those, too.

Sometimes, I try and propagate plants just to see if I can do it.  I have had a great deal of luck with dipping the cuttings in rooting hormone, and then making sure that the cuttings stay moist.  If I am successful with this propagation, I’ll have several free plants for my garden and some to give away.



  1. Pam/Digging said,

    June 24, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    Way to go on overcoming your cut-back reluctance. You won’t be sorry. Mexican bush sage always looks better in the fall when it’s not so floppy. And that’s cool that you were able to propagate the cuttings.

  2. Jan said,

    June 25, 2008 at 5:32 am

    Thanks, Pam, for your post. It is what encouraged me to cut mine back in mid summer so that it would look better in the fall. That is what I like about garden blogs; when you find out what other people are doing in their gardens, it helps you in your garden.

  3. Nancy Bond said,

    June 25, 2008 at 6:41 am

    I think propagation is a fun experiment, too, as is trying to start some plants from their seeds. 🙂 Good luck with your sage.

  4. Brenda Kula said,

    June 25, 2008 at 10:40 am

    Is that what you’re going to do with the pineapple sage? Just dip it in root hormone and keep it moist? Cause I end up buying one of these every year, and it dies in the winter. I would love to know how to keep one, but have no place to store plants in winter in this garden home. Also, I whack things back constantly. The only bad experience with that has been that I whacked some Boston ferns back too much and it killed them!

  5. Jan said,

    June 25, 2008 at 11:29 am

    I agree with you, Nancy. Just today, I gave a neighbor a Confederate Rose tree I rooted and a Crybaby tree I started from seed. Sometimes propagating plants are the only way to get certain plants because the nurseries don’t sell them anymore.

    Yes, Brenda, that is all I do. In fact, I think I have rooted pineapple sage in water. I don’t have a problem with mine overwintering. If it is going to be very cold, I just pile about ten inches of pine needles over it or cover with newspaper after I cut it back. You might be able to cut yours back just before a freeze and then try to root some. That way you wouldn’t have to have it in the house all winter.

  6. Mary Beth said,

    June 25, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    I also have a hard time trimming things when they are growing vigorously – ironically I am a ruthless pruner in the late winter – go figure. I think I’ll take some trimmers out after dinner and see if I can’t improve the look of a few things! Good post!

  7. Jan said,

    June 25, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    Thanks, Mary Beth. I agree it is hard to prune when plants are looking lush and full. I guess we just have to keep in mind how they will look in a month or more with no pruning – all leggy and thin – and get out those pruners and just do it.

  8. Rebecca said,

    November 1, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    I was looking for confirmation on overwintering my pineapple sage. I live in East Tennessee and have just today cut it back and covered it with mulch. This will be it’s second winter, but I could not remember if I cut it back last fall. It came out in the spring anyway, hallelujah! I relocated it to a small bed and needed to keep it trimmed back. Guess what??? No beautiful red blooms! That is until I just let it go, then it bloomed finally in late Sep. The hummingbirds really like my blooming pineapple sage!

  9. Jan said,

    November 2, 2008 at 4:59 am

    Pineapple sage is hardy to 20 degrees and is supposed to come back from the roots if freeze damaged. I am farther south than you are, but mine has survived for years now. I do mulch them well in winter. This sage is one of those plants that bloom in response to the amount of daylight hours. It is a short day bloomer which is why it blooms only in the early spring and fall and not the summer. I trimmed mine way back in June, and it sent out more shoots and made a ton of blooms this fall. I hope yours makes it through the winter.

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