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An archive of gardening information assembled by Dr. Jerry Parsons to answer your questions - provided as a service by Texas Cooperative Extension

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Questions/Answers For "Pruning"

Question 1:

When do you prune roses? Climbing roses?

Answer:

Hybrid tea, Grandiflora and Floribunda roses require annual pruning in the spring just prior to bud break. If rose bushes are pruned too early, injury from late frost may make a second pruning necessary. Climbing roses should be pruned in the fall, any time after cold weather sets in. Old rambler roses should be pruned immediately after flowering.

Question 2:

I am trying to find information on pruning roses in Bexar County both hybrid tea roses and antique roses. I understand they are to be pruned in Feb. If I am totally wrong please let me know. I don't know how to send e-mail very well.

Answer:

The PLANTanswers Web site listed below has a good article on pruning. It has this to say about pruning roses: 'Pruning Roses - Rose plants need pruning to tidy up their appearance; control size; and improve their vigor, growing habits and bloom. Pruning methods vary according to the type of rose plant. In South and Central Texas, roses usually are cut back more severely than in North Texas. This is due to the longer growing season, resulting in larger bushes. To keep them in bounds, spring pruning usually is more drastic. Prune about 3 to 4 weeks before the average date of the last killing frost in your area. Roses have a very low chilling requirement to break dormancy. A few weeks of cold weather in December fulfills this requirement and new growth begins the first warm spell in January or February. If pruning is done too early, the new growth begins at the base of the plant. A sudden cold spell in late February or early March can severely damage or kill the plant. If pruning is delayed, the new growth will still be in the top of the unpruned canes and only upper portions of the bush will be damaged in a late freeze. An exception to this rule involves climbing roses which need to be pruned after flowering in early spring. Probably no other aspect of growing roses has aroused as many questions as has the subject of when and how to prune roses. By following a few simple rules you can improve their appearance and vigor and control the quality and quantity of the flowers. Pruning roses dates back to the nineteenth century when rose growers began to severely prune their plants to produce larger blooms for show. Unfortunately, plant longevity was of secondary importance to these exhibitors. Some fundamental practices of pruning roses correctly in all gardens, regardless of type, are: 1) remove any canes that have been damaged by insects, diseases or storms; 2) remove one of two canes which may be rubbing one another; or 3) remove canes that are spindly or smaller in diameter than the size of a pencil. After pruning, according to these general recommendations, cut hybrid teas, florabundas, grandifloras and polyanthas back to 12 inches for large flowers and 18 to 24 inches for many smaller sized flowers. Climbing roses generally are pruned to renew plant vigor by removing the old canes since the most productive and finest blooms on climbers are produced on canes that arise from the bottom of the plant the previous year. These newer canes produce more desirable growth and flowers. Since the canes may become quite long, it is necessary to prune them back so they are maintained in the desirable area. Old fashion or antique roses require much less pruning than modern roses. Left unpruned old fashion roses will naturally obtain a rounded shrub shape. Pruning of these roses should be confined to some shaping of the plant, removal of damaged branches, and judicious trimming back to encourage growth. On all roses, consider the cutting of the flowers as a form of pruning. When gathering roses, always leave at least two sets of leaves on the branch from which you cut the flower to insure plant vigor. When removing faded, spent flowers, cut only as far as the first five-leaflet leaf. When making cuts on the ends of branches, cut at 45 degree angles above an outside bud 1/2 inch above the bud with the lowest point on the side opposite the bud, but not below the bud itself. When removing branches, never leave stubs since these die and can cause problems on the plant later. Always remove branches by cutting to a lateral branch or bud, or back to the base of the rose plant. We generally recommend that roses (and most other shrubs be pruned in mid-February and use Valentine's Day as an easily remembered cue. As far as sending e-mail, just go to the PLANTanswers Index page listed second. On the left hand side of the page you will see the topic 'Email'. If you click on that, it will send you to a page with two pictures. Click on the good looking one (that's me, of course) and fill out the form that comes up. Then click on the button 'Send Mail'. That's all there is to it!

Question 3:

I have some large, healthy hydrangeas that refuse to bloom other than perhaps one large bloom per year. Any ideas on what the trouble might be?

Answer:

Hydrangeas require full sun and adequate moisture for best bloom. If you are meeting these needs, the only other obvious cause of lack of bloom is improperly timed pruning. Prune the plants immediately after bloom, so that new growth will be able to develop flower buds in the fall. Pruning in the spring or early summer removes the fall developed flower buds, preventing bloom for that year.

Question 4:

My neighbor has two lovely hibiscus plants but they have grown tall and sparse. She needs to know exactly how, where and when to cut them back. I understand this is the way they grow in the wild but she would prefer a bushier plant. Also, one plant tends to lose its buds before it has a chance to bloom.

Answer:

The hibiscus should be pruned back quite drastically to force new growth and bushiness. This needs to be done periodically to keep the plants from getting in the shape they are now in. It can be done anytime, but is best done just as you are bringing it outside from the winter protection. While this article does not address the pruning of tropical hibiscus it has lots of good information on pruning in general. It can be found at the PLANTanswers Web site listed below. There are a couple of reasons for a hibiscus to lose its buds before they open. She needs to check for thrips. Have her cut some of the buds open and tap them on a piece of white paper. If she sees tiny, slender insects crawling on the paper, the plant has thrips and they will keep the buds from opening. They can be controlled using a systemic insecticide such as Ortho's Orthene. Another reason that hibiscus will abort their blossoms is getting too dry. They do not like to dry out.

Question 5:

My hibiscus are still flowering nicely, but they are dropping many yellow leaves. I have fed them with Carl Poole's all summer (about every 3 weeks). Is it time to prune them back a bit to eliminate the yellow leaves?

Answer:

Your hibiscus are producing more yellow leaves because of the cooler weather. I am assuming that they are in containers and will need to be brought into a protected location when there is a danger of frost or freeze. I do not recommend pruning them at this time but if you put them in a sheltered location (and they need one with high light) so that they will not be damaged by a freeze, pruning will not hurt them. However, a pruning in the spring just before they start new growth is the preferred way.

Question 6:

When is it safe to prune my gardenias? They produced very few flowers this spring because I pruned them way back just before their first blooming this year & I'm afraid I chopped off the buds. The bush is strong & healthy but has grown too tall outside my kitchen window & is blocking my view. I'd like to prune it again but am not sure when it's safe to do so. They usually bloom two times here in this part of Georgia.

Answer:

Gardenias normally just have one rather long bloom period of about 3 months in the spring. Pruning should be done following this bloom. Now should be a good time to prune yours. However, since we cannot even grow gardenias here in the highly alkaline soil of South Central Texas, I feel that you should avail yourself of the services of your local Cooperative Extension Service and get their advice. They can be located in the blue pages of your phone book under County Government.

Question 7:

I have recently bought a home in Wellington TX, and have two very large pecan trees in the back yard. Some of the limbs sweep to the ground and is quiet lovely in appearance however, it probably should be pruned and I would like to know if you can e-mail or snail mail the instructions for pruning so that I will know a bit of information when I hire a professional tree surgeon.

Answer:

If the appearance of the limbs is pleasing there is no real need to take them off unless they are in the way or you want to raise the lower canopy of the tree. If so remove the limb all the way back to the main trunk of the tree. Do not make cuts in the middle of the limb. Also be sure to leave the collar close to the trunk of the tree when removing the limbs. The wounds do not need to be painted. Do this pruning during the dormant season; usually January. I hope this information proves useful.

Question 8:

My husband and I are looking at the possibility of establishing a Pecan orchard on approx. 20 acres south of Omaha, TX, about 1.5 miles. The soil is sandy loam and some silt loam and the water table is about 3-5 feet down and has running underground springs during a good part of the year, Land is currently in hay meadows and there are currently Desirable Trees(30) on the property and they produced an exceptional crop. The owner is old and he has not sprayed them well but the nuts were very good quality (some stink bug damage) and the trees are healthy and in need of some pruning. We would like some advice on spacing , cultivar, expected yields and at what age, as well as a good management program. Also, what is the marketability for both shelled, cracked, whole nuts in terms of dollars and where is market information obtained. Further, We are also in need of finding small harvest equipment, cracking, shelling and grading equipment as we progress. Also, is there any heat treating requirement of pecans prior to selling to the public and what are the handling and bagging laws for Texas.

Answer:

The key to being successful with pecans is the unit size. If one plants too many trees, the management requires too much labor and equipment to be successful. The folks who have done the best have been the ones who have maybe one or two acres of trees and they do everything themselves. They also shell the nuts and sell them directly to the consumer. Value added products such as speciality candies and gift boxes are also potential moneymakers. However, it is virtually impossible to plant a 20 acre orchard, purchase all needed equipment, wholesale pecans to a sheller and make money. There was a 15 acre orchard planted in our area who did everything right who has went out of the business, because he did not want to get into the shelling and value added business. So the key is not to get too big. You need to purchase the Pecan Handbook which is available for 15 dollars from:

Extension Horticulture
5 HFSB (2134)
College Station, TX 77843.

Send them a 15 dollar check and they will mail you one. It has all the do's and don'ts of planting pecans.

Since you are in East Texas, you will have to plant disease resistant varieties such as Desirable, Cheyenne, Cape Fear, Forkert, and Pawnee. These are all large pecans which shell fairly well. Desirable and Cape Fear do have thick shells though. Cheyenne is the easiest one to shell, but the tree has problems with aphids. There are no heat treating or bagging requirements as far as shelling pecans goes. The Texas Department of Agriculture handles such regulations. I would strongly encourage you to get the Handbook and study it closely before planting. Also, start small maybe 2 acres spaced 50 by 50 feet which will be 34 trees total.

Question 9:

I don't know the first thing about pruning. I have a beautiful Rose of Sharon tree we planted last year that is doing very well, however this year the branches have become so long they are drooping, almost in a complete arch. Is there a trick as to where to make your pruning cuts, best time of the year, etc?

Answer:

The Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is a very vigorous grower as you have realized. It should be pruned quite severely each year to keep its size in control and also to promote new growth as it blooms on the current years growth. I usually reduce the height of mine to about 1/2 each year just prior to the plant breaking dormancy and putting on new growth. Here in San Antonio we use mid-February as our target date for most spring pruning. I don't pay much attention as to where I cut each upright stem as the growth is going to be upright regardless. See the page in Aggie Horticulture below on pruning.

Question 10:

I need information on pruning the goldstar esperanza, and also on propagating the esparanza and bush lantana.

Answer:

The only pruning that the experanza needs is to keep the seed pods clipped off so that it will continue blooming. It will freeze to the ground if you get a freeze this winter. If not you may want to cut it down to about 6 inches above the ground in late February -early March, and it will rapidly grow back. Both the lantana and esperanza can be propagated using softwood cuttings.

Question 11:

Last spring I planted lots of perennials such as Shasta daisies, painted daisies, salvia, columbine, lantana, etc. Should I cut them back now or in the spring? I also need pruning advice for wisteria and bush & climbing roses. Also I have ivy geraniums that are still doing well, should I expect them to make it through the winter?

Answer:

The choice is really yours on the perennials as it is a question of looks. As soon as the perennials have frozen back to the ground, you may cut them back as drastically as you like. I like to leave enough that I at least know where they are for the rest of the winter. If the looks don't bother you, you can leave them until about mid February. You want to prune them back before the new growth emerges from the roots.

The ivy geranium will need protection from hard freezes. This PLANTanswers Web site is listed below and is a very good article on pruning. This is what it says about wisteria: Each year, prune stems of trumpet creepers and wisteria to promote new growth and flowers. Prune back the top of the plant to force out new branches. Give special attention to wisteria because considerable confusion exists about pruning and flowering. Pruning wisteria extensively during dormant season encourages rampant vegetative growth the next spring. Instead, in July prune out the long, straggly growth leaving those branches needed for climbing. This is more likely to induce flowering than anything else. Cut shoots back one-third to one-half their length, which includes the production of short spurs upon which next season's flower clusters are borne. Wisterias bloom abundantly if planted in well-drained soil and full sun, watered well the first growing season and pruned in the summer. This on climbing roses: Climbing roses generally are pruned to renew plant vigor by removing the old canes since the most productive and finest blooms on climbers are produced on canes that arise from the bottom of the plant the previous year. These newer canes produce more desirable growth and flowers. Since the canes may become quite long, it is necessary to prune them back so they are maintained in the desirable area. I would encourage you to read the entire article as it includes many general principles that should be followed in your pruning. Everything but the columbine should be cut to the ground now so they can resprout this spring. Columbines grow foliage in the winter and bloom in the spring. Generally, those perennials which bloom in the spring should be cut back in the winter. Those which bloom in the fall should be cut back in the spring or after spring bloom. Of course, care of the columbine is different.

Question 12:

I need information on pruning my fruit trees? I have apple, pear, and cherry. When is a good time to prune and how?

Answer:

Most of the information you are looking for can be found in the following PLANTanswers publication: Click on managing fruit crops to get to table one which list the pruning method for each crop. Since cherries rarely fruit in Texas, I would just let them grow. The best time to prune fruit trees is at budbreak in the spring. In this way the wounds start to heal over right away.

Question 13:

I need information on pruning the goldstar esperanza, and also on propagating the esparanza and bush lantana.

Answer:

The only pruning that the experanza needs is to keep the seed pods clipped off so that it will continue blooming. It will freeze to the ground if you get a freeze this winter. If not you may want to cut it down to about 6 inches above the ground in late February -early March, and it will rapidly grow back. Both the lantana and esperanza can be propagated using softwood cuttings.

Question 14:

My Texas sage bushes were planted a year ago. They have grown and look good so far, but I am wondering if they need to be pruned at all. They are a little 'straggly' looking, and I have seen many which are fuller and more shapely. Is that a result of pruning, or do they eventually get fuller and rounder looking? I appreciate any information you can give me.

Answer:

Texas Sage (Leucophyllum frutescens) does not normally need pruning. If just left to grow naturally, they will probably fill out quite nicely. However, you can increase the fullness by tipping back some of the branches to force more growth.

Question 15:

Please help me find information on pruning plants like compact abelia, dwarf & trailing lantana, bamboo, muhly grass, esperanza, dwarf oleander & Mexican oleander.

Answer:

You are probably not going to find recommendations for specific plants but rather guidelines for broad categories such as Shrubs and Perennials. See the article at the Web site listed below. On the ones you mention: The Compact Abelia shouldn't need pruning unless it has overgrown its habitat. If the Esperanza and Dwarf Oleander do not freeze to the ground, I recommend just cleaning out any freeze damage when new growth begins and you can ascertain what has been damaged. For the Lantana, Muhly Grass and Mexican Oleander (which I assume is the Milkweed, Asclepias curassavica), I recommend that you cut them back to the ground around mid February to prevent them from getting woody and ugly. They are all likely to freeze to the ground if you have freezing weather.

Question 16:

I need information on pruning the goldstar esperanza, and also on propagating the esparanza and bush lantana.

Answer:

The only pruning that the experanza needs is to keep the seed pods clipped off so that it will continue blooming. It will freeze to the ground if you get a freeze this winter. If not you may want to cut it down to about 6 inches above the ground in late February -early March, and it will rapidly grow back. Both the lantana and esperanza can be propagated using softwood cuttings.

Question 17:

We just moved to a new home with lots of amazing perennials. We inherited a climbing jasmine which is 3-4 years old, but the previous owner says it hasn't bloomed since the first year. I would love to have the fragrance because it is right outside my kitchen window. It gets good sun in the morning, bright light in the afternoon. Any ideas? Does it need a good feeding, pruning, etc.. or does it really need full sun all day to bloom well. The foliage is in beautiful shape - no signs of disease or insects. I'm in Norfolk, VA near the east coast.

Answer:

I do not know if you have one of the true jasmines (Jasminum spp.) or a vine that we commonly call Confederate or Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides). It doesn't make much difference as the culture requirements for all of them are basically the same. And they don't need much. Sun or partial shade, regular soil and fairly constant moisture. It's hard to say why your's is not blooming (since the previous owner said that it did bloom the first year). There are some such as Asiatic Jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum) that do not flower. Perhaps if you cut yours back (or at least pinched the growing tips) and fertilized it with one of the water soluble fertilizers such as MiracleGro, you can stimulate new growth and maybe some flowers.

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