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Pruning questions abound

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If you want to keep the plants, it’s best to wait and prune them after the danger of a killing frost or freeze is over. On average, our last killing frost occurs around the middle of March. Some of these plants may look like “dead sticks” through the winter. But, the dead stems and leaves may help protect the lower portion of the plant from additional freezes.

Q. What’s the proper procedure for cutting back tender plants following cold injury? I’m dealing with begonias, Mexican heather, hibiscus and lantana.

 A. Some of the plants listed may not survive the winter in the more northern areas of our County. Come spring some tender ornamentals may be so weak that they are not worth trying to nurture back to health. Begonias, for example, are relatively inexpensive and most years you’d be better off buying new plants versus attempting to carry them through a winter. However, if the plants are in the ground in a protected area where it stays warmer, the roots may survive nicely with a fairly strong plant growing from the roots by late spring.

If you want to keep the plants, it’s best to wait and prune them after the danger of a killing frost or freeze is over. On average, our last killing frost occurs around the middle of March.

  • Eye M.D. of Niceville

Some of these plants may look like “dead sticks” through the winter. But, the dead stems and leaves may help protect the lower portion of the plant from additional freezes. So it’s best to leave them. Pruning too soon may stimulate young, tender growth that is much more likely to be injured by the next freeze. Our temperatures go back and forth all winter – one week is freezing, the next is spring-like. Waiting to prune allows you to make a better decision as to what has to be removed. Pruning now may result in the unnecessary removal of living plant shoots and stems. Come spring, what does not produce new growth can be removed (pruned).

Q. When can I prune my crape myrtle, plum and peach trees?

A. It’s a little early to prune crape myrtles, plums and peaches. The best time to prune all of the above is during late winter (late February – early March). This will be just before or right at the time these plants begin to grow.

Q. Is there a best or worst time to prune azaleas? I’ve already cut them back twice since early summer and they’re still going strong.

  • Eye M.D. of Niceville

A. Removal of a few unusually long branches to improve the plant’s appearance is okay now. But the major pruning of azaleas is best done shortly after the flowers begin to fade in late spring. Major pruning after June will interfere with flowering the following spring. Azaleas produce their flower buds, which will open the following spring, during late summer and fall. You can find the flower buds now tucked away in the leaves at the tip end of the shoots.

Larry Williams is the Extension horticulture agent with the Okaloosa County Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida. Contact Larry at 689-5850 or email lwilliams@myokaloosa.com.

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