The Chelsea Chop

A person using pruning shears to cut a plant stem.

The Chelsea Chop is a pruning technique that can be used on some native wildflowers to delay or extend the flowering period, increase the number of blooms and to create shorter, bushier plants that won’t flop over. Ensure selected plants are healthy and thriving before deciding to use the Chelsea Chop.

Using sharp pruners or garden scissors, remove one-third to one-half of the stem, cutting just above a pair of healthy leaves. This will encourage multiple shoots to grow from the location of the cut. This trim delays the development of flower buds but you can expect flowers from the new shoots three to six weeks later than the plant’s normal bloom time.

Trim all the stems in a clump of perennials to delay the flowering time and to keep the clump shorter and bushier. Alternatively, cut back just a few stems in the clump to stagger and extend the flowering time. After cutting back your plants, ensure they’re watered well. For best results, this type of pruning should take place in late May or June.

Native Wildflowers That Respond Well

Some of the native wildflowers that respond well to this type of pruning are those that bloom late summer or early fall, including:

  • Asters (Symphyotrichum spp.)
  • Milkweeds
  • Goldenrods
  • Penstemons
  • Rudbeckias
  • Echinaceas
  • Monardas
  • Coreopsis

Some of our favourites to chop are blue giant hyssop, lance-leaved coreopsis, New England aster and cutleaf coneflower. For a full list of locally native species, refer to our Prairie Meadow Plant list.

Not everything should be trimmed. As a general rule, flowers that only bloom once such as irises and foxgloves should be left alone.

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