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How to do the Chelsea Chop


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Mar 21, 2024
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How to do the Chelsea Chop

Are you looking to enhance the beauty of your flower beds and containers, and extend the flowering period in your garden? The Chelsea Chop might be the answer you have been searching for. This simple yet effective pruning method can help vigorous perennials produce sturdier flower stems, more numerous flowers, and have an extended flowering season.

What is the Chelsea Chop?

The Chelsea Chop is a pruning technique where you cut back certain perennials in late May, around the time of the Chelsea Flower Show. By doing so, you can delay the flowering of these plants from around four to six weeks. The nearer you cut to the plant’s flowering time, the greater the delay in flowering.

The Chelsea Chop also helps improve garden neatness by producing plants with more compact and robust growth, and smaller but more plentiful flowers. In other words, your garden will look tidier.

Which plants benefit from the Chelsea Chop?

Many tall border perennials benefit greatly from this pruning method, especially those with a tendency to flopping down in heavy rain. This is something we can all relate to; due to the deluge we have experienced this week. My list of candidates includes plants such as Achillea, Hylotelephium spectabile (formerly Sedum), Phlox, and Penstemon. Some more subjects for the Chelsea Chop include Campanula, Cota tinctoria (formerly Anthemis), Echinacea purpurea, Helenium, and hardy geraniums.

How to perform the Chelsea Chop.

Identify the plants in your garden that would benefit from this treatment, such as those mentioned above.

In late May, around the time of the Chelsea Garden Show, use clean and sharp bypass secateurs to cut back the stems of these plants by around one-third to one-half. The taller the variety grows the more it can be cut.

Prune your perennials to just above a set of leaves or buds, this will create a more compact plant. Softer plants like hardy geraniums can simply be given a close haircut using a sharp pair of garden shears.

Water plants well after pruning to help them recover, and to stimulate new growth regularly apply an all-purpose liquid plant food such as ‘Miracle-Gro’.

Variations on a theme.

If you prune all the stems of a clump then this will delay the flowering of the whole plant. However, if you cut back half of the stems then this will spread the flowering of the clump over a longer period of time. Where you have more than one specimen of the same variety, then you can cut one or two of the plants and leave the others untouched, this is another way of achieving an extended flowering period.

Timing is important.

Timing is crucial when it comes to performing the Chelsea Chop. Late May into early June is the ideal time to prune your perennials using this method, as it allows the plants time to recover and produce new growth before the peak of the flowering season. Plentiful coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show on BBC One and BBC Two is a great reminder that it’s time to do the Chelsea Chop!

Location matters too. The Chelsea Chop is great if you live in London and the Southeast, but I have been told that it is ‘not a good idea North of Carlisle’!

In conclusion.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced gardener, the Chelsea Chop is a simple pruning technique to enhance the beauty of your flower beds. By cutting back certain perennials in late May, you can keep your garden in bloom for more of the year. If you want to make the most of your flower borders and enjoy a longer display in your garden, why not give it a try this May?

Meanwhile, I am off to explore the beautiful flowers and glorious gardens at the RHS Chelsea Garden Show, and hopefully pick up some more tips and ideas to share with you in future blogs!

Further information:

Explore the World’s Greatest Flower Show:


Coverage of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024:


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