As Fall turns to Winter our trees and shrubs become dormant and we
naturally think “it’s time to prune”. CAUTION! You are entering a DANGER ZONE! Pruning improperly can destroy what nature
has taken years to create.
Cutting dead looking stems off shrubs can eliminate all flowers
the following year. Pruning the wrong
branches from trees can negatively affect their structure, overall beauty and decrease
Ask questions, do a bit of research before grabbing the clippers
or pruning saw.
This is the first of several articles offering “easy to follow”
suggestions on pruning popular shrubs and trees. Following these instructions will reward you
with healthy, blooming trees and shrubs for years to come.
Let’s talk Hydrangeas.
These beautiful shrubs brighten up the shady spots in our yards with multiple blooms on each plant during the spring, summer and into fall. But if pruned incorrectly they will flower very little or not at all.
First step is to identify what type of Hydrangea you have. Most hydrangea varieties bloom on last year’s
growth – stems or branches that grew this year, will bear flowers next
year. This is common for mophead,
lacecap and oakleaf hydrangeas.
– Mopheadsare known for their round balls of either white, pink or blue blooms.
– Lacecapsare a flatter, multi-blooming flower resembling flat caps with frilly edges.
– Oakleaf are recognized by their distinctive leaves shaped like those of an oak tree.
These 3 types should be pruned after blooming (late summer/early
fall). These bloom for several months so
you may need to selectively prune shoots that have already bloomed while
leaving others to finish blooming through the season.
If you prune these types of hydrangeas back to the ground in winter,
you will not have flowers the following year.
Reblooming Varieties: If your hydrangea is one of the newer reblooming varieties (Endless Summer series, Forever & Ever series) they bloom on both current season’s growth as well as previous years branches. These varieties should not be cut to the ground either – this will delay blooms.
How to Prune
1. Start by removing dead or damaged stems first.
2. If the plant is too large, cut the oldest shoots to the ground, giving the younger, smaller shoots more room to grow. This will shorten and thin out the plant.
3. Cut back stems to just above a pair of healthy buds.
4. Varieties that bloom on old wood should be pruned immediately after they flower
Tip: We suggest planting hydrangeas with non-deciduous shrubs in your landscape. This will allow the focus to shift from the hydrangeas to these other shrubs during the winter months.
By pruning at the correct time of year and using the correct
pruning methods your Hydrangeas should reward you with a bounty of colorful
blooms from spring through early fall.
NOW is the best time to plant
trees, shrubs and vines. Winter is the
second best – so get to digging!
Summer’s heat is over, the
soil is still warm – actually warmer than in the spring – and the
soaking rains of winter will soon arrive. This means deep root
growth will occur quickly on shrubs and trees planted in the cooler months of
Why is deep root growth important?
Roots gather nutrients and water for plants and trees, so the better the root system the more nutrients and water the plant receives – thus appearing lusher and healthier. Plants planted now get a head start since they are able to concentrate their energy mostly on root growth during the cooler months.
Healthier plants are the result of planting in the fall.
The same plant planted in spring gets a slower start due to spending energy on both root growth, foliage and flower growth. Also, the cool weather planted plants are better established when summer arrives and can better deal with the heat, largely due to the well-established root system.
With winter coming up quickly, most succulents will need
some sort of protection against the chilly air, or just brought inside where
temperatures aren’t so low. However, these 5 succulents are ‘cool’ with the
cool air and will be just fine when Jack Frost pays East Texas a visit!
With colorful pink, green, or white modified leaves (that
look like flowers!) and its blue-green foliage, this low-maintenance perennial
is perfect for your beds, borders, or containers. Euphorbia is tough and offers
outstanding heat and drought resistance. Instead of showy flower petals,
euphorbia has modified leaves, called bracts. This plant is a vigorous grower,
reaching 1-3 feet in height and 2 feet in width at maturity, so it can quickly
fill a garden space.
Hens & Chicks
Sempervivum are succulent, rosette forming plants belonging
to the Crassulaceae family. They are commonly known as Hens & Chicks, and
are called this because of the high number of offspring they produce — thus, a
Hen and all her Chicks! The main attraction of these plants is their colorful
rosettes of leaves. The rosettes are most striking in the spring and summer but
even in the winter when growth stops, many varieties remain attractively
‘Autumn Joy’ Sedum
Sedums have become one of the most popular hardy plants in
our area. What’s not to like? They are easy to grow; their thick, succulent
leaves make them drought tolerant and they grow in full sun to light shade.
Tall, upright sedums form clumps of foliage with massive flower heads which
develop in summer and bloom in the fall and then provide food for the birds
during the winter.
Delosperma (Also known as Ice Plant)
Best grown in FULL SUN, Delosperma is an easy-to-grow
herbaceous perennial. It can tolerate dry soil, shallow-rocky soil, and even
full-on droughts. Glossy red-purple flowers bloom continuously from early
summer until fall, and stand out against its fleshy, emerald-green leaves. The
bright flower color paired with the long-blooming season and evergreen foliage
makes ‘Ice Plant’ an easy choice as a groundcover or for a rock garden. A
vigorous grower, Delosperma can reach 3-6 inches in height and a spread of 24
inches (or more!) at maturity.
‘Ogon’ Stonecrop Sedum
A small mass of brilliant, evergreen, solid yellow-gold, succulent foliage flushed with pink provides a bold color accent in rock gardens, along rock walls, or in mixed succulent containers. Makes an excellent pathway filler or ground cover. Does BEST in partial sun, reaching a spread of 8-12 inches at maturity.
Elephant Ear Plants and Banana Trees with their large leaves
add a tropical or coastal feel to our landscape. Grown in ground or in
containers these perennials can be enjoyed year after year in our yards.
Their foliage is affected by freezing temps and heavy frost turning their leaves dark brown to black almost overnight, but the underground tuber is not affected on many species – so they are still very much alive!
Only the foliage has died back, the tubers (bulb and root ball underground) are still kickin’. In our climate, the tubers are winter hardy, so removing them from the garden in fall or early winter and replanting them in the spring is not necessary.
Over the past 30 years our area has experienced 2 periods of prolonged excessive cold (consistent low temps in the 20s and teens) that caused serious damage to most Elephant Ears and Banana Trees, resulting in some to not come back. No one can control or guess what Mother Nature will do, but under normal conditions these plants overwinter well.
Overwintering Elephant Ears Tips
– You can prepare them for winter prior to inclement weather when it is more pleasant to work outdoors, or you can wait and cut them back after the foliage turns black.
– Some gardeners believe it is best to let the stems die back naturally versus cutting them which could lead to rot. I’ve done this both ways and have not noticed a difference.
– When cutting the stems off be careful of the milky sap, it can be a skin irritant. My husband discovered this the hard way, he had itchy skin for several days where the sap came in to contact with his skin, whereas it didn’t have that effect on me.
– After cutting or allowing them to die back cover the plant with a small mound of mulch, leaves, grass cuttings – something to help protect it from the cold.
– When spring arrives, remove some of the protective layer so the sun can help heat the soil. Once our soil is 60 to 65 degrees you should see new growth emerging.
Banana Tree Tips
– Just like the Elephant Ears you can prepare them for winter prior to the arrival of inclement weather or wait until the foliage turns black.
– Again, like the Elephant Ears, be careful of the milky sap, it can be a skin irritant.
– You can cut each leaf frond from the trunk and then remove the trunk itself or cut the whole tree down fronds intact. (I suggest removing the fronds first if it is a large tree, they can be quite heavy and bulky to move otherwise.)
– Cut the trunk down close to the ground and cover the plant with a small mound of much, leaves or grass cuttings to help protect it from the cold.
– When spring arrives, remove some of the protective layer so the sun can help heat the soil. You will see a new plant emerge from the edge of the tuber once the ground temperature has warmed up to 60 – 65 degrees.