Tipton County Extension Master Gardeners




Winter Pruning tips                                                                                             

•  Miscanthus (maiden grass), Pennisetum (fountain grass), Muhlenbergia (muhly grass) and Nassella (Mexican feather grass) to 3-6” above the ground. Miscanthus can be burned if you live where you can and there are not plants nearby that will be damaged. Otherwise cut it and the others back with hedge shears, electric or gas hedge shears.  A chain saw will work on dense clumps of Miscanthus and tying a rope or a bungee cord around it first to keep it in bounds and make cleanup easier.

•  Liriope (monkey grass) before new growth appears.  Use a string trimmer or lawn mower with the blade raised high works for larger areas.

•  Hardy ferns - particularly evergreen forms like autumn, holly and Christmas before new growth appears.

•  Acorus (sweet flag) and Carex (sedge) only if the winter has browned the foliage.

•  Prune out older branches on Cornus sericea and C. sanguinea (red twig dogwood) to encourage new growth which will have the brightest color next winter.

•  Knock Out™ roses or other shrub roses that have gotten bigger than you desire can be cut back two-three feet shorter than the height you desire them to reach.

•  Be on the outlook for rose rosette, a virus that disfigures a rose’s stems, leaves and flowers. The symptoms are a witch’s broom affect, where the stems branch many times and the foliage and flowers look congested.  The affected growth is often more red than normal. There is no cure for infected plants.  Just pruning out affected growth has not been shown to be effective, so remove the entire plant, roots and all as soon as the virus is discovered to prevent spread to other plants.  Place plants in the trash, not the compost pile. To be on the safe side sterilize pruners and tools used on affected plants with bleach water or Clorox Cleanup before using on other plants. At this time there is no research saying that you should not replant a rose back in the same spot. There are a lot of unknowns about rose rosette. UT is conducting research on the virus at the Plateau Research and Education Center in Crossville, TN. Stay tuned for more information.

•  Dwarf yaupon hollies and summer flowering spireas such as ‘Gold Mound’, ‘Lemon Princess’,  ‘Anthony Waterer’, ‘Gold Flame’ and ‘Magic Carpet’ that have grown beyond their boundaries look best when pruned back before they fully leaf out or put on new spring growth. By pruning them now, once they leaf out they will not have that overly trimmed look.

•  Older branches on Callicarpa (beautyberry) to encourage new growth that produces more berries.

•  Rejuvenate overgrown Nandina, cutting back to a few inches on the outside, leaving taller canes in the center, staggering the heights.

•  Limb-up and remove crossed branches on trees, Vitex (chaste tree) and tree type crape myrtles as needed.  Never top trees or crape myrtles.  

•  Look closely at grafted plants and remove all growth below the graft.  Commonly grafted plants include witchhazels, redbuds, contorted filberts, weeping cherries, weeping mulberries, dogwoods, fruit trees, crabapples, grafted roses and Japanese maples.

•  Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ flowers on new wood.  To encourage stronger stem and tidy appearance cut stem anywhere from 3” – 12” from the ground. If you have several plants try them at different heights to determine what works best for you.

•  Forsythia should be pruned soon after it has finished blooming. Selectively cut old or unruly branches by reaching deeply into the shrub leaving no visible stub.  If desired, rejuvenate the entire plant by cutting it to the ground.

•  Longer branches on conifers (needled evergreen) that may have gotten too large can be cut back by reaching down into the plant and making the cut.

Other tips

•      Pull or carefully spot spray winter weeds in your landscape with Round-up.  Besides making the bed look better, doing so now will prevent them from going to seed, therefore making fewer weeds next year. 


•      Apply a pre- emergent herbicide to your lawn if you have had crabgrass and other summer weeds in the past.  Timing is important and a good indicator is to do it just as forsythia begins to show some color. Which is about now this year.


•      Remember it is not necessary to fertilize trees or shrubs.  If you are trying to encourage faster growth, a balanced granular fertilizer scattered on the soil surface is effective. Be careful not to overdo it.  Tree spikes or drilling fertilizer into the root zone is unnecessary and expensive.


•      Early spring is the best time to divide ornamental grasses.  As tough as they are, many resent being divided once they have flushed out a lot of new growth.  Fall divided grasses sometimes will freeze due to lack of establishment. 


•      Wait until the chance of frost has completely pasted to cut back any woody perennials, like rosemary, rue, lavender, Santolina andAartemisia.  If done before the danger of frost has passed, new growth may appear, and a freeze can kill that new growth and sometimes the entire plant.  


•      A great way to stay in touch with insect and disease happenings is to follow the UT Extension Soil, Plant Pest Center’s Facebook page. You will find a wealth of information on what is going on in the landscape.  http://www.facebook.com/SoilPlantPestCenter


•      Broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, lettuce, chard, onions and potatoes should be planted this month.


•      Root knot nematodes, a parasitic wormlike animal can be a undetected problems facing gardeners.  

  • Last Frost April 15 and First Frost November 15

  • Read the label on the Tag in the Plant Container and follow the Sun, Shade, Soil and Water instructions. If it says it will get 20 feet tall, it may take time but it WILL get 20 feet tall.​​