As we transition from winter to early spring, many residents in Hernando County may find their flowering shrubs displaying signs of winter weather wear and tear. However, there’s no need to worry. Late February into early March provides an ideal window to give these resilient plants the care they need through strategic pruning. Follow these guidelines to ensure your flowering shrubs recover beautifully and adorn your yard with vibrant blooms.
Assessing the Damage
Begin by assessing the extent of frost and freeze damage on your flowering shrubs. Look for discolored, wilted, or mushy foliage, and take note of branches that appear cracked, broken, or damaged. Be patient, as some plants may take time to reveal the full impact of cold damage.
Waiting for the Right Time
While the urge to start pruning may be strong, it’s crucial to wait until the threat of frost has passed. In Hernando County, February often marks the tail end of winter, but unpredictable weather patterns can pose a risk of cold weather through March. Wait for a clear forecast and stable temperatures before grabbing your pruning shears.
- Remove Dead or Damaged Wood: Trim back branches that are clearly dead or damaged. Make clean cuts just above a healthy bud or lateral branch to encourage new growth.
- Shape and Thin: Focus on shaping the overall structure of the shrub. Remove overcrowded or crossing branches to improve air circulation and sunlight penetration. Thinning out the canopy helps reduce the risk of disease and encourages a more vigorous, healthy plant.
- Encourage New Growth: Cut back to live, healthy buds to stimulate new growth. Flowering shrubs often respond well to rejuvenation pruning, producing fresh shoots and a more compact form.
- Avoid Drastic Measures: While removing damaged material is essential, avoid drastic pruning that may shock the plant. Gradual, moderate pruning is generally more beneficial for the shrub’s overall health.
- Fertilize and Mulch: After pruning, provide your shrubs with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer to support their recovery. Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base, keeping it a few inches away from the trunk to prevent moisture-related issues.
- Water Adequately: Ensure your shrubs receive sufficient water, especially during dry periods. Adequate hydration is crucial for their recovery and the development of new growth.
- Monitor for Pests and Diseases: Keep a watchful eye for signs of pests or diseases, as stressed plants may be more susceptible, and tender new growth can be attractive to insects. Early detection allows for prompt intervention and minimizes potential damage.
Header photo by Cat Wofford.
Note: All images and contents are the property of UF/IFAS.