In the Garden Month-by-Month
- Plants, especially those installed within the past 12 months, still need water in winter. Much winter "cold" damage is actually caused by lack of water. Check soil a few inches down to determine if watering is needed.
- During snow events, gently shake accumulating snow off of trees, shrubs and evergreens to avoid breakage.
- Perennials may become dislodged by frost-heave during cold snaps. Push gently back into place when soil is thawed.
- Keep Pansies deadheaded
- Soil test problem areas of lawn or garden beds
- In mild weather, cool season weeds such as henbit and chickweed can become problems. Keep an eye out for them and pull or treat with herbicide on warm days.
- Spray roses with sulfur-lime now to help control leaf diseases in summer
- If you’ve had issues with bagworms in the past, spray affected trees with horticultural dormant oil to smother overwintering eggs.
- If you store summer bulbs like Dahlias or Tuberous Begonias over winter, check them for signs of rot or shriveling.
- Regular rinsing of the leaves with water can help reduce winter insect problems on houseplants.
- Common problems are spider mites, mealy bugs and aphids. Treat with horticultural oil or soap, or a pesticide labeled for indoor use.
- Apply first round of pre-emergent herbicide to lawns. If applied in early February, you have time to reseed in 8-12 weeks.
- Fertilize established bulbs as they emerge.
- Fertilize fescue lawns around Valentine ’s Day. Excess or late fertilizing will increase your risk of Brown Patch disease.
- Spray for wild onion in lawns late Feb/early March using a product containing 2,4-D
- Pruning early bloomers now is possible, i.e. it won’t harm the plant, but you’ll miss out on blooms.
- Cut back Liriope and ornamental grasses.
- Keep up on watering if there is little rain or snow.
- Apply pre-emergent herbicides to shrub beds between March 15 and April 1, before mulching for the season.
- Apply crabgrass and broadleaf weed preventer to lawns if you haven't yet. If you have to choose between weed control and lawn reseeding at this point, go for the weed control. Get control of the weeds this season and reseed in fall.
- Apply HollyTone or Miracid to Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Pieris, Camellias and other acid-loving plants.
- Fertilize other established shrubs and trees with slow release or organic fertilizer if they have not been growing vigorously in the past year. Skip fertilizing if they have been growing vigorously, have good color and are healthy and bloom well. Excess fertilizer=more pruning for you.
- Divide overgrown perennials.
- Move shrubs or perennials that need relocating.
- Watch for ambrosia beetle borers in dogwoods, redbud, fruit trees and other young or stressed trees as weather warms up. Holes are the size of a pencil lead and may have sawdust around them. Spray trunks and branches with a permethrin insecticide weekly until trees leaf out.
- If bagworms were a problem last year, spray affected trees with BT to kill any caterpillars that may have hatched.
- There is still time to prune late season blooming shrubs if you didn't get to them in February.
- Sharpen your lawn mower blades. Sharp blades cause less damage to grass when cut so your lawn looks greener.
- Repot pot-bound houseplants. Use new pots, or clean used pots with a solution of 1 1/2 cups of bleach in a gallon of water. Use a bagged potting mix suitable for the plant type.
- Don’t work in plant beds if the soil is soggy-wet. This can cause compaction, which reduces the soil’s ability to hold oxygen and absorb water and nutrients. It also can cause clods that are difficult to break up. To test, squeeze a handful of soil. If it sticks together like clay, the soil is too wet. If it crumbles you’re good to go.
- Apply Weed & Feed to lawns if not previously fertilized with slow release fertilizer. Apply only after weeds have emerged.
- Watch for Lacebugs on Azaleas and Cotoneasters, especially in sunnier locations. They cause whitish, stippled leaves with tiny brown-black flecks on the undersides of the leaves. Control with systemic insecticides containing Acephate or Imidacloprid. Since lacebugs feed on the undersides of the leaves, non-systemic material such as horticultural oil and insecticidal soap must be applied there. Thorough coverage is essential, and make applications 7-14 days apart, or as directed on label.
- Remove faded tulip and daffodil flowers with scissors. Wait until foliage of spring blooming bulbs yellows before cutting off. Do not braid or bundle the leaves after flowers fade-as long as they are green they’re providing valuable nutrients to recharge the bulb.
- Check your irrigation system and adjust timing from last season.
- Spray roses for leaf spot prevention & insect control. To keep them clean all season, plan on spraying every 7-10 days.
- Apply deer or rabbit repellants to new plantings. Reapply as new growth emerges so it is protected, and/or after heavy rains.
- April is an excellent month to plant perennials, giving them some time to establish before heat sets in.
- Observe lawn for brown patch. Poor soil drainage, lack of air movement, shade, cloudy weather, dew, over-watering, and watering in the afternoon all favor prolonged leaf wetness and increased disease severity, as does over- or late-fertilization.
- Get mulch down to conserve soil moisture in the hot months ahead. Two to three inches will keep soil cooler and slow evaporation, reduce weeds, and supply organic material to the soil as it decomposes. Do not let mulch contact the stems of trees, shrubs or perennials.
- Watch Crape Myrtles for aphids and mildew, treat at the first sign and regularly through the summer.
- Watch for scale insects on shrubs.
- Divide Cannas.
- Stake taller perennials as they grow so summer storms don’t flatten them.
- Fertilize blooming shrubs after blooms fade.
- Prune Azaleas, Pieris and Rhododendrons as flowers fade. Complete all pruning on azaleas by July 4th so you don’t affect next year’s bloom.
- Spray in late May with horticultural oil to kill crawler stage of scales.
- Continue disease and insect control spray on roses every week to 10 days.
- Plant summer-blooming bulbs like Gladiolus, Caladiums, Calla lily and Dahlias.
- Set out any houseplants that summer outdoors when night temperatures are over 50 degrees.
- Place houseplants in a shady area to acclimate and not get sunburn. Most houseplants prefer bright shade, or a few hours of early AM sun after an acclimation period of 7-14 days.
- Raise mower height as weather heats up to protect grass.
- Watch for Brown Patch in lawns.
- Adjust irrigation for increasing heat.
- Heat makes mite populations skyrocket, so observe your plants regularly. Symptoms are tiny yellow or white dots that stipple the leaves, and in severe cases, webbing. Control with horticultural soap or oil.
- Leyland cypress, Juniper, Arborvitae and Cryptomeria should be observed for bagworms. Inspect for tiny worms and spray with BT (Dipel), Sevin, diazinon, or acephate (Orthene). Chemicals can’t penetrate the bags once the worms retreat within them. The only control at that point is to pick the bags by hand.
- Keep perennials and annuals deadheaded for extended bloom.
- Japanese beetles find your roses and hibiscus quite delicious, but they can affect other plants too. Control by knocking them into containers of soapy water, or spray with pesticides containing acephate or pyrethrins.
- Japanese beetle trap bags that use pheremones will attract every Japanese beetle in the neighborhood to your garden. Your neighbors will be thrilled-you won't be. Avoid using them.
- Pinch chrysanthemums for bushier growth and more blooms.
- Pinch any vigorous non-blooming annuals for bushier growth or to control height.
- Fertilize petunias for best bloom all season. A combination of slow release and weekly liquid feed in containers will result in knockout blooms.
- If Boxwoods, Azaleas, Camellias and other acid-loving plants develop leaf yellowing, use a liquid iron product according to package directions for quick green-up.
- Water newly planted trees and shrubs regularly for the first two weeks after planting, then weekly for the first year.
- If it’s really hot and dry, your shade trees will appreciate a few slow, deep waterings. The long-term effects of drought on large trees may not be evident for several years, so give them a little help when it’s hot.
- For all landscape plants and lawns, water as deeply and as infrequently as you can. Daily shallow watering promotes shallow roots that are susceptible to drought damage. Deep watering encourages deep roots and improves dry weather survival.
- Fescue naturally goes semi-dormant during extremes of hot and/or dry weather; it can survive 3 weeks without water. Water only when grass shows sign of wilt (footprints will show when grass is walked on). The most effective watering methods is to water to the point of runoff, turn off sprinkler to let water soak in, then water again, repeating until the root zone is wet. Unless the water reaches the roots where it is taken up by the plant, you waste both time and water. Water in early morning or late at night; late afternoon or early evening is the worst time to water as the grass stays wet for a longer time, encouraging diseases.
- Check evergreens for mites and other insects. Spray with horticultural oil. Watch temperatures and don't apply pesticides if temperatures approach 90.
- Keep your roses sprayed.
- Remove suckers and water sprouts from trees.
- If you plan to aerate your lawn, gradually reduce mower height to 3 ½” in preparation.
- Inspect any plants you had insect issues with earlier in the year in case there is a population explosion of survivors.
- Spray Bermuda grass with systemic herbicide in shrub and grass areas.
- Get back to planting if you took a break for the summer-it's a great time to plant trees and shrubs.
- Fertilize established lawns in mid-September.
- For lawn overseeding or renovation, start in September. This gives you time to fill in areas with poor germination.
- Keep reseeded areas moist (not wet) until seed germinates.
- Apply milky spore to lawns to kill Japanese beetle grubs in soil.
- Watch for fall web worms. They rarely cause fatal damage, but they’re unsightly. Control with BT or acephate sprays.
- Keep spraying roses. As nights begin to cool new flower buds will develop.
- Cut back perennials as leaves turn brown. Rake up all dead leaves from your beds to avoid carrying diseases over to next spring.
- Reseed any overseeded areas that have not germinated within four weeks of seeding.
- Remove annuals from beds and containers and replace with pansies and violas for winter color.
- Use deer or rabbit repellant on pansies and violas if you’ve had a problem before. Deer remember where a good buffet is.
- If you’re planning to overwinter any tender tropicals, bring them inside before frost. Bring in any houseplants that spent the summer outdoors before the temperatures drop below 50 degrees at night. Spray tropicals and houseplants with insecticidal soap or oil to kill any insects that may hitch a ride indoors.
- Keep falling leaves off of newly seeded lawns. Blow or rake very gently.
- Rake up and dispose of garden debris to minimize carrying diseases over to next year.
- Lift tender flowering tubers and bulbs Dahlias, Tuberous Begonias, Cannas, Calla lily, Gladiolus) after the first killing frost.
- Divide and transplant perennials, Peonies, groundcovers and bulbs.
- It’s a great month to plant trees and shrubs.
- Plant spring bulbs any time from now through mid January.
- November through January is the ideal time to transplant trees and shrubs.
- Fertilize Fescue lawns around Thanksgiving. You can also lime now.
- Cool season weeds may make a comeback as temperatures drop. Control them before they go to seed.
- Prune tall wax myrtle, roses or butterfly bushes that may suffer damage in ice or snow storms.
- Shut down your irrigation system, drain hoses and take in any hose fittings.
- Check any plants installed in the past year for water throughout winter. Plants need about half as much water in winter as they do when it’s warmer.
- Get your spring blooming bulbs in by the end of December for best results!
- Rake fallen leaves from perennials and shrubs.
- You can begin pruning trees and shrubs that are best pruned in winter beginning Dec. 15.
- If you haven't put it down yet, adding layer of mulch helps keep soil temperatures more even in winter, retains moisture, and protects plant roots.
- Avoid placing houseplants where they get drafts from heater vents. The extremely dry air can cause leaves to dry out and turn brown , even if you're watering the soil enough.
- Pebble trays or gentle misting can help houseplants better tolerate the dry air of your home. (But don't mist plants with fuzzy leaves, cactus, or succulents.)
SPRING PRUNING (Feb 15-May 31)
Prune early, before bloom (Feb)
- Paniculata (Tardiva, PeeGee, Limelight) and arborescens (Annabelle) hydrangeas. Do not prune Macrophylla Hydrangeas at this time.
- Butterfly bush
- St. John’s-wort
- Russian sage
- Burford Holly, Cleyera, Japanese Holly, Ligustrum, can be pruned now, including hard rejuvenation pruning
- Shrub Cornus (types grown for colorful stems)
- Most types of vines (some clematis should not be pruned before spring bloom)
- Sasanqua Camellias
- Bush roses (prune climbers after bloom)
- Ornamental grasses & Liriope
Prune later, after bloom
SUMMER PRUNING (June 1-August 15)
Prune evergreen shrubs
Finish pruning spring blooming shrubs by end of the month.
Prune climbing roses after bloom. Cut out diseased or dead canes, leaving four or five vigorous, young canes. Next year's blooms will form on shoots that grow from these canes.
Macrophylla Hydrangeas after bloom, only if necessary. They are best pruned by removing older stems to the ground rather than shortening stems.
Butterfly bush and Knockout Roses can be shaped any time after first flush of bloom to reduce size and keep tidy. They should re-bloom within 6 weeks.
Finish up any major pruning needed by end August 15. (Any plant with physical damage or disease can be pruned when damage is observed.)
Avoid most major pruning after August 15. Light shaping or removal of damage is acceptable.
WINTER PRUNING (Dec 15- Feb 15)
Shade trees, especially those that “bleed” at pruning
- Sweet Gum
- Red Maple
- Willow Oak
- Japanese Zelkova
- Live Oak
- Bradford Pear
- Magnolia grandiflora
- Shumard Oak
- Little-leaf Linden
- Honey Locust
- Evergreen Shrubs
You can begin pruning of Crape Myrtle & Boxwood in late January.
Prune fruit trees, grape vines and berries. Select the strongest and most vigorous branches to remain, pruning out diseased and weak branches. Find NCSU information on pruning fruit trees here.