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Bloom · Berry

Below is a simple ‘shortlist’ of plants that are normally in bloom this month or are of interest for fruit, bark or foliage. See Bloom • Berry for comprehensive lists with links to photos and cultural information.

Perennials Shrubs Trees Vines
Crocus
Daffodil
Hyacinth
Periwinkle
Thrift
Tulip
Violet
Forsythia
Flowering quince
Spirea
Winter Honeysuckle
Flowering cherry
Flowering pear
Magnolias (star & saucer)
Carolina jessamine

Lawns

Weeds

The primary and most effective weed control tactic in a lawn is proper mowing. In fact, it has been estimated that regular mowing eliminates some 80 percent of weedy species.

— Michigan Cooperative Extension
  • Because the seeds of crabgrass and many other summer annual lawn weeds require light to germinate, keeping the turf dense and mowing no shorter than 3.5” (for cool-season lawns) reduces sprouting.
  • Because spring weather varies, it is best to use flowering as a cue for when to apply pre-emergent crabgrass control to exposed areas, such as lawn edges. Apply while forsythia is blooming, then reapply about 6 weeks later.
    • Because cool-season lawns need to rest for the summer, use a product that does not contain fertilizers.
    • Products containing dithiopyr also provide post-emergent control for young crabgrass.
    • Crabgrass Control in Home Lawns

Ornamental plants

Disease

  • Monitor camellias for leaf gall.
  • Begin your rose spray program as soon as first leaves appear. Better yet, plant one of the tough shrub roses that require little, if any, spraying. Consulting the local rose society is a good way to find roses that perform well here. In addition, some universities are trialing roses for good landscape performance without spraying or supplemental water:
    TX CES
    TN CES
    NC CES

Fertilizing

  • Be careful to avoid stimulating growth before reliable warm weather arrives, since new growth is especially sensitive to cold damage. It is safest to use slow-acting fertilizers, since these require warm soil to begin working.
  • In general, if trees, shrubs and perennials are growing at a rate that is acceptable to you, the foliage looks healthy and bloom is plentiful, there is no need to fertilize.
  • Poor bloom can be a sign that a perennial needs division (e.g. daylilies, iris) or that shade or root competition is now a factor. Trees grow, and even if your bed is not shaded, tree roots often extend far past the drip line — sometimes 3X the diameter of the tree canopy.
  • Unhealthy foliage on any plant may indicate problems other than a nutritional deficiency. See FERTILIZING for more information.

Maintenance

  • Trim back ornamental grasses, mondo grass and liriope before any new growth begins. If you prefer, let hungry rabbits trim your liriope and mondo grass for you.
  • Remove leaves from your beds to prevent them from smothering new foliage and rotting plant crowns and bark.

Mulching

  • Mulch used to conserve moisture and suppress weeds is best applied after the soil has warmed up in the spring. Cool, wet soils can slow seed germination, increase the decay of seeds and seedlings and increase disease pressure in perennial beds.
  • To stimulate plant growth in the spring, rake away the mulch to allow the ground temperature to increase. When plant growth has begun, the mulch should be returned to a depth of about 3”, keeping it away from plant crowns.

Planting

  • You can continue to plant perennial groundcovers and some trees and shrubs. Most trees and shrubs would prefer planting late next fall o winter, but slow-growing, fleshy-rooted woodies like magnolias and camellias are good candidates for spring planting.
  • Sow hardy annuals, scattering seeds directly where you want them to grow. The best germinators in cold, moist soil are annual phlox, Centaurea cyanus (bachelor’s button or cornflower), calendulas, Viola cornuta, Consolida sp., Nigella damascena (love-in-a-mist), Portulaca grandiflora (moss rose) and Lobularia maritima (sweet alyssum).

Propagating

You can divide perennials as the tips emerge.

  • Early spring is the best time to divide fall-blooming perennials, while spring and summer bloomers are best divided in autumn. To reduce dessication stress, hostas are best divided in fall. If dividing in spring, wait until the first flush of leaves has hardened.
  • Hardwood cuttings of many landscape plants like forsythia, flowering quince, weigela, crape myrtle, juniper, spirea and hydrangea can be taken this month.

Protecting

Protect plants from weather extremes. Wide swings in temperature make it difficult for plants to remain safely dormant.

Pruning

Winter pruning is used to remove diseased, dead or undesired branches. In addition, you can remove 1/5 to 1/3 of old flowering wood from summer-blooming deciduous shrubs.

  • Do not prune spring-blooming shrubs until after they bloom.
  • Because pruning stimulates new growth that is highly susceptible to frost and freeze damage, make sure that the plant to be pruned is still fully dormant.
  • It is usually safe to prune butterfly bushes to within 1–2 feet of the ground and to cut back hollow-stemmed perennials like hardy lantana and salvias later this month.

Sanitation

Remove spent flowers, but leave the foliage of spring-flowering bulbs to replenish the bulb for next year. Don’t braid, tie or otherwise damage the leaves, just let them die down naturally. Plant annuals and perennials like hostas among the bulbs to help disguise unsightly foliage.

Soil test

Consider waiting until the fall. There is now a charge of $4/sample for soil tests during the peak season of December–March.

Watering

Keep landscape plants watered.

  • Cold, dry winter winds quickly remove moisture from the soil and plant tissues, and newly-planted plants are especially susceptible to drying.
  • The only way to know when a plant needs water is to check the soil around its roots. Dig a few inches into the topsoil — if dry, water is needed.
  • Because water retains heat, watering just before a cold snap can help plant roots survive bitter temperatures.

Weeding

  • Apply pre-emergent weed control for annual weeds by the time dogwoods are in bloom.
  • Spray wild onion, wild garlic and winter annual weeds with a broadleaf herbicide. Follow the label directions carefully. Note that most of these products work best when air temperature is between 50–80°F.

Vegetables

  • Draw up a layout for your vegetable garden, keeping in mind the sun’s pattern and orient plants so that taller types don’t shade out shorter. Try to rotate vegetable crops so that the same varieties are not growing in the same spots year after year. A five-year rotation is ideal to reduce plant-specific pest and disease populations, but even a shorter rotation period would be beneficial. See VEGETABLES for details.
  • Continue to plant potatoes, broccoli and onion sets, and seeds of carrots, cabbage, onions, peas, radishes, rutabagas, spinach and turnips.

Fruits

  • Fertilize pecan trees at the rate of 4 pounds of 10-10-10 per inch in diameter of trunk. Spread the fertilizer under the limbs of the tree to the full extent of the drip line. Fertilize fig trees when the buds swell.
  • Spray all fruit trees with dormant oil to help eliminate some insects.

Wildlife

Expect deer and rabbits to look for food in your garden as their natural forage is scarce. Azaleas, camellias, yews and pansies are at risk, as well as other evergreen plants. It is very difficult to deter hungry deer, so the best protection is exclusion — a fence or “cages” made of wire fencing placed around individual plants. Deer-repellent sprays may be helpful, but are best used before browsing has begun and should be varied through the season to ensure that deer don’t learn to ignore the scent/taste. Most need to be reapplied after a rain.
Reducing deer damage [SC CES]
Minimizing deer damage first slide deceptive, discusses all aspects of deer management[Pender County]
Managing deer damage in Maryland comprehensiveMD CES

Landscape ideas

  • Enjoy spring-blooming perennials. Most woodland plants bloom before the tree canopy excludes light, but some sun plants bloom this early as well. Use the BLOOM · BERRY tab to find plants of interest. Each link has photos & plant information.
  • Shop for plants, but do some research before committing them to the ground. Many plants, even ones sold at locally owned retailers, are not always well-adapted to our growing conditions. Look for key words like “heat resistant” or “tolerates humidity.” In addition, because of financial pressures, many new varieties are rushed to market without adequate testing for performance under real-world garden conditions, in multiple geographic locations or for long enough to assess resilience in the face of weather vagaries. Talk to Master Gardener Volunteers for information on plants that are well-adapted to our area & visit ORNAMENTALS for detailed lists of suitable choices.
  • Design a native garden.

Links

Photo tours of the JC Raulston Arboretum
Spring-flowering bulbs SC CES

Houseplants

  • Start feeding houseplants again.
  • Watch for indoor insect pests. Most can be controlled easily with insecticidal soap.
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Lawn · Garden Moisture Index

Colors indicate inches of precipitation deficit/excess with a resolution of 4km.
Alabama State Climatologist Lawn/garden moisture index

This live feed maps the difference between recent garden-effective precipitation and the amount normally adequate for the time of year. Soil water-holding capacity is not considered, but the index still provides a good idea of current soil moisture.

Check drought conditions
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919 · 245 · 2061