ASK WENDY

Freezes still possible so hold off on pruning


February is the month to prune roses. They should be pruned back by one third. (Courtesy of Wendy Wilber)

Published: Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 8, 2013 at 4:26 p.m.

Q: I was wondering about the lack of freezes this winter so far and what effect this will have on the vegetation. The azaleas are almost in full bloom around town. But what about plants that are normally spring or fall perennials, those that have sort of died back and were not clipped (as hydrangeas), and the new growth that is proceeding on the seemingly dead areas of the plants? Should they be cut back anyway?

A: I still think we are going to get a few more freezes before our last frost date of March 10. So hold off on pruning perennials until then. You don't want to clip the old growth off and encourage a new flush of growth that will get burned back by a late freeze. For the hydrangeas, we normally prune those just after they have finished blooming, because depending on the variety, they normally flower on the older wood.

February is the month to prune roses, though. Prune your roses — even the knockout types — back by one-third. Remove any dead wood or crossing branches and reduce the height of the stems. This serious pruning of the roses will create a flush of growth and blooms. January and February also are the months to prune crape myrtles. Take it easy with the loppers on your crape myrtles, though. The recommended pruning method is tipping. Tipping (or tip pruning) is when cuts are made through smaller-diameter branches (typically one year old) on the outer edge of the plant canopy. Tipping is sometimes called "rounding over" or "pencil pruning" because cuts are made through stems about the diameter of a pencil. This method is very time consuming, but it creates an attractive tree. For more information on pruning all types of shrubs, visit the UF/IFAS website www.solutionsforyourlife.com

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Q: There is an interesting weed that is popping up in my lawn and mulched flower beds. It is about 3 to 4 inches tall and has five long leaves and a spike of white flowers. It is really cute; can I keep it or get rid of it?

A: The plant you are describing is probably a lawn orchid or Zeuxine strateumatica. It really is a tiny terrestrial orchid that shows up where you don't expect it in January and February. We mostly see it in lawns and landscapes. You might just see one here and there or more than a dozen growing in a cluster. This small bloomer from Asia shows up spontaneously and doesn't stay around long. It will fade away within a few weeks, and it may or may not return the following year. If you have more questions about what's going on in your lawn and landscape, contact the Alachua County Master Gardener volunteers at mag@alachuacounty.us.

Wendy Wilber is an extension agent with UF/IFAS. Email her at wlwilber@ifas.ufl.edu.

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