When To Cut My Lenten Roses Back?

Q: We have lots of very healthy Lenten roses and autumn ferns. My husband wants to cut off all the leaves and fronds from the plants. I think they look great just the way they are. Is there any reason to cut them back? 

A: I’m on your side. I think Lenten rose plants look their best in mid-winter if the beds are sheared to the ground in the first couple weeks of November. That is the time when the old leaves are beginning to become black and spotted, before the new green leaves have appeared. The beds will look ragged for a couple weeks but by early December the new green foliage will look great. I don’t think autumn ferns ever need shearing. Some of the older fronds will turn brown during the year but they fall on the ground pretty quickly and are hidden by the new fronds.