Preparing Plants for Springtime

By Pat Naughton

  With the warmer weather of March, plants are beginning to start new growth.  Now is a good time get plants ready for springtime.

  To prune or not to prune, that is the question.  For flowering plants that bloom in spring pruning should be done after they have finished flowering.  These include Azaleas, Camellias, Forsythia, Quince, and Lorapetulum, which flower on buds formed the previous summer or fall.  Summer flower shrubs such as Lantana, Butterfly Bush, Rose, Sage, and Salvia, can be cut back to within 1 to 2 feet of the ground.  Fall blooming hydrangeas can be pruned back to any height where you want the new growth to begin.  Don’t cut below the first leaf joint.  The new growth will produce flowers.  When pruning roses start by removing any dead or damaged canes at least one inch below the dead area.  Then remove a third of the older canes.

  Divide perennials to stimulate new growth and prevent overcrowding.  Start by digging around the perimeter of the clump, giving plenty of room not to damage the roots.  Dig under the plant root ball and lift it out of the ground.  Try to pull the root stocks/tubers by hand.  It may be necessary to use a knife or shovel to separate the roots.  Peonies and dahlias grow from tubers which can be divided to start new plants.  Each tuberous root must have at least one eye (growing point) or sprout to produce a new plant. Eyes are found where the tuberous root and the stalk of last season’s plant join. If it is difficult to distinguish the dormant eyes, place clumps in a warm moist place for several weeks or plant in shallow trays to promote sprouting. Cut surfaces should be allowed to dry for several days or dusted with a fungicide.

  Cut back ornamental grasses before new growth begins.  Liriope can be clipped to within a couple of inches of the ground.  Sedges and Muhly Grass should be cut back to 6 inches above the ground.

  Cleanup the base of plants by removing any dead blooms and leaves.  Camellias are susceptible to flower blight which is cause by a fungus in the soil.  Replacing the mulch around plants will help to control the spread of soil fungus.

  It is a good time fertilize herbaceous ornamentals.  Herbaceous ornamentals are plants that have flexible stems and die back to the ground each year.  If you have not had a recent soil test, you may apply a balanced fertilizer like 10-10-10.  Just sprinkle a handful of fertilizer around the plant.  After six to eight weeks, switch to a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen, the first number, and higher in phosphorous and potassium, the second and third numbers.  This will promote flowering and root growth and limit the growth of foliage.  Repeat this feeding at the same interval over the growing season.



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