Claremore Daily Progress

April 12, 2014

Pruning what needs it, marking where spring flowering bulbs

John Haase
OSU Extension


Lots of questions are asked earlier in late winter through April on when the “best time” is to prune certain shrubs-especially ones that bloom during the spring and summer.
Rules of Thumb:
1) If it blooms before May, prune in or before August-(before the spring flower buds form for next year). This includes: Azaleas, hydrangeas, forsythia, flowering quince, and especially dogwoods and redbuds.
2) If it blooms later, depending on “some” factors, prune in March and early spring --when the new foliage is first coming out. (Don’t what until the plants are completely full of leaves). We are talking mainly about shrubs that bloom in late spring, summer and into the fall: Roses, Crapemyrtle, Rose of Sharon, Ornamental Grasses, Abelia,  (other plants that bloom on current year’s growth)
There are a couple in particular that actually do better if they get a “burr-type” haircut, rather than just selective pruning. 
They are popular flowering shrubs that gardeners are planting many more of- for attracting butterflies, native bees, and colorful moths:
Pruning Butterfly Bush
Butterfly bush is a fairly hardy shrub, but in hard winters it can die back to the ground. This year, many gardeners will experience die back of most of  their butterfly bushes. To determine if the stems are dead, simply break or cut them near the tip. 
Dead tissue will be brittle and brown. If the tissue is dead, continue cutting back the stem until you find green tissue. Make the final cut just above a bud. 
You may find it necessary to cut the plant all the way back to the ground. Fear not, while the aerial portions of the plant may succumb to freeze damage, the roots are much hardier. Your shrub will rebound vigorously. In fact, you may have to follow up with a little pruning to shape the plant and thin the new stems.
Marking Bulbs for Transplant
There are times when it becomes necessary to dig and move bulbs in the garden. Perhaps they have multiplied to the point where division is necessary, or you have installed new plantings that require the bulbs be moved. Unfortunately, the best time to move bulbs is after they go dormant, when they are no longer visible in the garden. 
Taking the time to mark plants now and even identify the varieties, will save a lot of headache later. A simple marking technique is to use plastic knives. Clear plastic virtually disappears in the landscape, yet is sturdy enough to stay in place. Write a description or the variety name on the knife with permanent marker. 
Taking photographs will also be helpful, not only in locating and identifying the bulbs, but also in visualizing where they will be moved. Taking a few moments to mark plants now will prevent you from losing your bulbs as the garden matures.