Late Autumn Gardening Checklist

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, autumn colour, autumn garden, small flowering shrub

Late autumn gardening checklist? Is it late autumn? Well…

  • At 2am on 29 October in the UK British Summertime went back to Greenwich Meantime
  • In the USA daylight saving time was back in place at 2am on November 5
  • We’re more than halfway between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice.

I think it’s safe to assume that its late autumn.

You have a reasonably free weekend and the weather is ok. The garden is calling you.

So what should be on your late autumn gardening checklist? The hints and tips I’ve given you below fall into the ‘do these now or it really will be too late’ category . For more relaxed gardening tips check out our other blog posts (there are links below) or ask for a copy of Plews News.


Late Autumn Gardening Checklist – the softies

There’s definitely an autumnal nip in the air these mornings, so attending to heat lovers first is a good plan.



Check out you haven’t left any of your houseplants outside. You know, the ones you put in the garden for their summer holiday. They should have come inside by now. Did you check them over?

  • pick off dead leaves
  • be sure baby slugs aren’t hiding on the bottom of the pot
  • bring them in slowly to the warmth; a staged approach is less of a shock to the plant


Tender perennials

These break down into sub-categories –


Tender tuberous perennials

Tender tuberous perennials such as Dahlias and Chocolate Cosmos. For details on overwintering these stalwarts of the late autumn border, check out Understanding Dahlias.

red semi double flowered dahlia, orange and yellow flowered helenium, herbaceous perennial, tuberous perennial

Tender Herbaceous Perennials

Herbaceous Perennials from warmer climates, such as Pelargoniums, aka pot geraniums, Plectranthus, Tangerine Sage

If you put the pots into your flower borders, you may now find that the roots have grown through into the soil. Pulling the pot away will cause the plant stress, so you have two choices.

  • Re-pot it into a larger pot straight away and bring inside the greenhouse / shed / conservatory. Take off the older leaves to reduce respiration and help the plant survive the change of uprooting.
  • Cut the top growth back quite hard; and depending on how many roots are protruding, cut these as well. Leave the plant in its pot, in a dark, frost free place such as a garage or cellar.

It’s possibly not too late to take cuttings of these tender perennials if you haven’t already done so. I have successfully propagated with cuttings taken after a mild autumn.

pink pelargonium, white petunia in container

Of course, you also have the choice of treating these two types of tender perennials as annuals. If time is short or space is tight it may be your better option to compost them when they’ve finished flowering. Although bringing one or two ‘special favourites’ to overwinter indoors will give you a head start next year.


Larger tender perennials

Larger tender perennials and those which are not reliably hardy across the UK, such as tree ferns and Musa banjo. This is the banana plant which is hardy in parts of the country. Still a good idea to have planted it in a warm, wind free spot, of course.

If you have one of these perennials as a mature plant in the border, then the general consensus is to wrap it up for winter.

Hessian and horticultural fleece are used, sometimes with an extra layer of bracken or newspaper for insulation. A framework of canes and wire mesh surrounds the Musa banjoo, which has had the foliage removed. Dicksonia Antarctica – tree ferns – should have the crown insulated and covered with plastic to keep the worst of the weather from the growing tip. Although they can survive snowy weather, just to be perverse! dicksonia antarctica, snow covered


Tender Fruit trees

If you have a fig tree, then wrapping up the embryonic fruits that will mature and ripen next year may be a good idea of hard frosts are likely.

Citrus fruit trees should be taken into a greenhouse or conservatory.

lemon tree, exotic garden, hampton court palace garden, historic gardens

If in pots, peach trees and nectarines are best moved under cover. If in the ground, then covering with horticultural fleece is recommended. You should also protect them from the worst of the wet to reduce the likelihood of peach leaf curl.


Tender Perennial Climbers

These would be perennial climbers like Eccremocarpus, the glory flower benefit from having their lower stems and roots protected with bracken held in place by fleece.


Tender Shrubs

Shrubs such as Callistemon and Clerodendrum may benefit from a horticultural fleece shawl too.

Callistemon rugulosus, bottle brush plant

You know your garden, and whether there are frost pockets; whether some of your plants are borderline hardy. Or whether the plants are fine unless we have a long hard spell of frost and snow.


Late Autumn Gardening Checklist – spring flowering bulbs

Spring is only four months away. If you’d like Daffodils in March, you need to get planting!

As for Snowdrops in February…that’s even closer. I’d suggest a bit of bulb forcing. Or buy them ‘in the green’, ie in leaf come the new year.


Late Autumn Gardening Checklist – cutting back and clearing up

Even with a smaller garden, its less daunting to approach task this border by border; section by section.

Not everything needs to be cut back now. Focus on removing the straggly plants, which will shift the focus to those which still have decorative value.

box, carex, gravel garden, patchwork gardens, york quilt museum, buxus sempervirens, ornamental grasses

We’re not talking about a careful trim of every stem. Take a clump of stems in your hand and cut, leaving about 4-6” of stem. This helps to identify where and what the plants are throughout winter and is particularly useful when you have mulched.

Be sure to remove all diseased leaves which have fallen from deciduous trees and shrubs. Burn or compost off site.

Other leaves and soft stem prunings can be left on the border as a light mulch. If you feel this looks untidy, then top dress with well-rotted garden compost.

Using a mulch has many benefits. Laid onto bare soil and around plants it helps to keep in the summer’s warmth. It will help protect plant roots and basal growth from most frosts.

Late Autumn Gardening Checklist – lawns

A tidy, well-aerated lawn not only makes your winter garden look neater, but improves the health of the grass.
Not all of these are rush jobs, but should be carried out before heavy rain and frosts make working on the lawn an impossible task.

If leaves are left, they will kill the grass. Mow your lawn when dry, which is an easy way of collecting up the leaves and shredding them ready to be added to the compost heap.

leaves - grass clippings - compost

Are there any compacted areas? A session of spiking to improve aeration and drainage is as good as any gym workout! Use a garden fork or a aeration fork with hollow tines.
Give the lawn a brisk rake over, to stand the grass up and get rid of any thatch.
You could also re-cut the edges with a half-moon edger to give a neat finish.


Late Autumn Gardening Checklist – more tasks?

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Related Gardening articles you may enjoy from our Award Winning Blog

Why do leaves fall? And other Autumn Gardening Questions
Greenhouses and cold frames – autumn maintenance
Garden Ponds in Autumn
Autumn Gardening Tasks – Lifting Perennial Tubers
Autumn Gardening Tasks – Herbaceous Perennials


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