‘The Chelsea Chop’: How to do gardener’s essential pruning method that ‘improves flowers’

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Gardening guru Polly Wilkinson told Britons how to do what she called “The Chelsea Chop”. What exactly is the Chelsea Chop? The garden designer explained how and when to do it. Polly runs a multi-award-winning garden design studio and will take part in both RHS Chelsea Flower Show and RHS Hampton Flower Show in 2022. She shares her expertise on her Instagram account @pollyanna_wilkinson. 

Polly said: “(The Chelsea Chop) improves flower performance, delays flowering, and keeps plants a little shorter and more compact.”

Its name is derived from the time of the year the chop takes place.

Polly went on: “When do we do it? Around the Chelsea flower show (hence the name) in mid to late May.”

But how does one to The Chelsea Chop? Polly explained there are two options.

She explained option one and said: “Cut the whole plant back by 30 to 50 percent.

“This will delay flowering for four to six weeks.”

However, there is another option for those who want to enjoy their flowers now.

Polly said: “Cut back half the plant by 30 to 50 percent and leave the other half.

“This means you get some flowers now and some in four to six weeks, extending the flowering period.”

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The garden expert added: “Be sure to use clean and sharp shears or secateurs.”

So, which plants can you use The Chelsea Chop on?

There are a number of them, but Polly recommends:

  • Echinacea
  • Helenium
  • Phlox
  • Asters
  • Achillea
  • Sedum
  • Nepeta
  • Campanula
  • Penstemons

Why should you cut back plants?

Cutting back plants can prevent the plants from getting “leggy”. What does this mean?

Leggy plants are those which have grown too long in certain shoots, with flowers growing at the end of long stems.

This can make plants floppy and will leave gardeners with fewer shoots and flowers.

By cutting back stems the plant will put its energy into growing new shoots and so overall will produce more flowers.

How should you fix a leggy plant?

A leggy plant is likely to be living in a space where it doesn’t get enough light, causing it to reach out for light and therefore causing a spindly appearance.

First, work out the best place to put your plant so its light needs are met.

Once you have done this, it’s time to cut back your plant.

How to cut back a leggy plant

  • Trim very long stems by a third and make sure to trim just above a node (which is the point where leaves grow)
  • Remove any spindly and unhealthy stems from around the base of the plant
  • Water your plant well

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