There's time for winter pruning

March 01, 1992|By Nancy Brachey | Nancy Brachey,Knight-Ridder News Service

There is still time to get the winter pruning done. The hollies and other evergreens await, as do the monkey grass, the crape myrtles, the pampas grass.

People ask me when can they prune this or that plant. The simple answer is you can prune most anything most anytime. That does not mean you should prune your plants any old time.

The goal should be to prune most ornamentals (except azaleas, camellias, spirea, forsythia and others that bloom in spring) before they start growing.

That gives you a wealth of time between the first frost in mid-to-late autumn and the warmer days of early-to-mid March. But pruned shrubbery, except for the most modest type of trimming, looks just that: pruned. And that's why it is better to wait closer to spring, when fresh new growth will unfold.

Since the spring spurt is the major new growth on some ornamentals -- boxwood and Japanese hollies, for example -- if you wait until spring you will end up cutting off the year's new growth.

Chinese and Burford hollies valued for their striking red berries pose a different problem. The flowers and subsequently the berries appear on the previous year's growth. Cut that off and you reduce this spring's flowers and next winter's berries.

So if you must prune large, overgrown hollies, prune them a lot, drastically -- one-third of the plant is drastic -- if necessary.

You will sacrifice all or most of this year's flowers and berries, but you will be able to let the plant grow for some years before it needs another major pruning. It's the gentle trimming every winter that makes people wonder why their Burford holly never produces any berries.

Diseased red-tips are another category of plants that should benefit from major pruning this month. Not only do fungus-riddled leaves look bad, they likely bear the fungus that will spread to new growth by splashing raindrops.

Red-tips are capable of vigorous growth, so do not be afraid to prune them quite hard and remove a large amount of the diseased leaves. And don't let the infected prunings lie on the ground. Get rid of them and protect the new growth with a fungicide such as Funginex until mid-June. This is crucial for the plants in wet weather, when you should spray every 10 days or so.

Broad-leaf ligustrum (which I used to disdain but since the siege of red-tip fungus I now respect) is vigorous but often overgrown. Drastic pruning can help a leggy plant recover its appearance.

Summer-flowering deciduous plants, Rose-of-Sharon, butterfly bush and crape myrtle all must be pruned before new growth starts. The new growth will produce this year's flowers.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.