Gardening Tips and Highlights Waushara County Master Gardeners

What is the Chelsea Chop?

by Christine Yesko


Pretty much any gardening book that’s worth its salt mentions the Chelsea Chop, but most do only that.


The introduction of the concept is usually followed by some variation of this sentence: “Cut the plants back by a third or half to delay bloom and limit size.” The how, why, and what is rarely discussed.

The Chelsea Chop can be used to great effect if you’re trying to create peak season combinations. It often allows you to ensure that plants that don’t normally bloom in tandem with each other reach their peak at a similar time. The Chelsea Chop got its name from the famous garden show that takes place in England in late May, which is historically when the pruning method should be used. However, depending on where you live in the country, the chopping is best done in late spring or early summer, or when the plant has a fairly substantial amount of vegetative growth

Typically, plants aren’t as tall or leggy, so they may not need to be staked or supported. The flowers may be smaller but in many cases are more numerous. This happens because the removal of the top shoots enables the side shoots to branch out more.

You can’t do the chop on all summer-blooming plants-for instance, woody subshrubs don’t respond well. Also, if your spring has been dry, performing such a drastic pruning may do more harm than good to your plants, sending them into a shock that they may not recover from.

There are two ways to do this simple pruning. First, chop back clumps of perennials by one-third to one-half using shears. This will delay the flowering until later in summer and keep plants shorter and more compact. Second, cut only half the stems back on a plant, which will extend the season of flowering rather than delay it.

Some of the following plants benefit from this procedure: Garden flox, Yarrow, Aster, Coneflower, Black-eyed Susan, Goldenrod, and Shasta daisy.


This article was obtained from Fine