General Tasks

  • Continue planting roses.
  • Continue pruning roses.
  • Plant deciduous trees and shrubs.
  • Sweep up leaves.
  • Protect tender shrubs from frost.
  • Stratify seeds to encourage germination.
  • Finish taking hardwood cuttings.
  • Layer clematis.
  • Trim deciduous hedges.

Managing Trees and Shrubs in November

Start planning the ornamental side of the garden for next year. This will include any major new tree and shrub plantings, along with bedding schemes and plants that you want to raise your self.

Slugs and snails can also be a problem as soon as wet weather sets in. Slug pellets give the best protection, but, if you have concerns about their safety for other animals, put them under a tile or slate so that only the intended victims can reach them.

Pruning Climbers

Any hardy climbers that have outgrown their position during the summer should be tidied up, cut back and tied in as necessary. They do not need pruning back hard now, only just enough to keep them within bounds and looking tidy.

white tree bark

From now until late March you can prune any climbers that flower on the current season's growth. This includes such plants as wisteria, honeysuckle and late flowering clematis, as follows:

Autumn Pruning of Wisteria

Following summer pruning (described in July), the pruned shoots, and any others that have grown since, should be cut back hard to within two buds of their point of origin. This will build up a good flowering spur system on the shrub.

Autumn Pruning of Honeysuckle

Where necessary, cut out any really old stems that are producing poor quality or few flowers. Tie in the long, new shoots that will carry next year's flowers and generally tidy up the plant. Don't be afraid to cut out large stems, as most vigorous varieties will soon make up for this in the following growing season.

Autumn Pruning of Clematis

Unless your clematis has grown out of control it shouldn't need to be pruned hard at this time. If you want to keep your clematis on the more manageable side, cut back all shoots to a fat and healthy bud 30-90 cm (l-3 ft) from the ground. Don't cut them all to the same length or the plant looks unnatural. This treatment will usually lead to an explosion of growth in the spring and long flowering in the summer.

Taking Care of Chrysanthemums in Autumn

Early flowering chrysanthemums should be lifted out of their flowering positions and planted in a cold-frame, or given equally effective protection for the winter. Quite a good system is to plant them in a line in the vegetable garden and cover them with cloches. Alternatively, they can be packed in boxes, their roots covered with moist compost, and kept like this in a shed until the spring.

Planting Roses And Shrubs

Start planting bare-rooted and root wrapped roses and shrubs as they become available. This is also a good time to plant container-grown plants. Prepare the sites well because the plants will be there for a long time and no amount of after care will make up for a bad start.

Work in plenty of compost or manure to the general area before digging out the hole. The planting hole must then be dug out to a sufficient depth and width to accommodate the root ball or the spread out root system (if bare rooted or root wrapped) of each shrub. If the plants are purchased in containers, the hole should be of a corresponding size with the container (which should be being removed before planting).

As you refill the hole, give bare-rooted or root-wrapped plants a shake so that the soil falls between the roots, eliminating any large air spaces. Next, firmly tread down the soil around the plant and continue filling the hole. If the ground is dry, give it a good watering from a can. For the best results, put down a mulch of bark or compost around the new plants.

Taking Care of Roses in Autumn

If you grow roses, the main task this month will be tidying them up for the winter. This does not involve heavy pruning, which is carried out in March. Ramblers should have already been attended to in July, after flowering.

Climbers should have all their dead heads removed, while their long shoots (irrespective of whether you intend keeping them) must be tied in to stop them being blown about and damaged.

Hybrid tea and floribunda bushes should also be given a final deadheading. At the same time, remove all developing flower buds to ensure that the plants are forced to start their annual winter rest, without which they would soon become worn out. Any long shoots must also be shortened back so that there is nothing which will be lashed about in the winter winds. Not only will the shoots suffer damage, but they will also cause the bush to rock about, damaging the roots and stem. Finally, firmly tread in all plants.

Pruning Deciduous Shrubs in Autumn

November is the start of the pruning season for many deciduous shrubs (those that lose their leaves). These include late flowering ceanothus and hypericum and other plants that have flowered since June on this season's shoots. In cold districts, pruning is best left until March to take account of any frost damage during the winter. No formal pruning is usually needed, the aim being to keep the shrubs of a manageable size and tidy. Any shoots or branches that are growing out of place should be removed now, together with any broken or damaged wood and branches causing overcrowding within the shrub.

If the plant is becoming leggy, with all the new growth at the top and the base being mainly woody and without flowers, one or two of the older branches can be cut back to encourage new growth.

Tidying-up Herbaceous Plants

Herbaceous plants should be tidied up now for the winter now by cutting down to the ground any whose leaves are dying down and going yellow.

Dividing, splitting and replanting of clump forming herbaceous perennials should be done around this time of year, every three years or so, to prevent the middle of the clumps becoming old and worn out. For details see our section on Propagating Plants by Division.

Taking Hardwood Cuttings

As described in the October section, this is a good time of year for taking hardwood (mature) cuttings of many shrubs, especially deciduous ones. For details see our section on Propagating Plants by Cuttings.

Next Page >> What to do in the Vegetable garden in November >>

Shrubs for November

For deciduous trees and shrubs see October, as autumn colour and decorative fruits persist into November

Many conifers and evergreens, especially those with variegated foliage, come into their own this month.

Trees and shrubs with attractive bark:

birch white bark


Cornus alba Sibirica

Cornus (dogwoods)

serrula tibetica copper peeling bark

Prunus serrula tibetica

Rubus cockburnianus stems

Rubus cockburnianus

silax alba stems

Salix alba

Evergreen trees and shrubs for winter colour:

Aucuba japonica variegated leaves

Aucuba japonica

Elaeagnus, variegated form


erica x darleyensis

Erica (various cultivars)

Fatsia japonica flower

Fatsia japonica

Ilex aquifolium

Ilex (Holly)

Viburnum tinus

Viburnum tinus

November Climbers

jasmine yellow flower

Jasminum nudiflorum

Next Page >> What to do in the Vegetable garden in November >>