Ask a master gardener: Pruning, mulch, hedges and groundcovers

  • Published: Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Q.  My various, leafy and grassy groundcovers are starting to sprout out, but they have all the old, nasty-looking growth left over from last year.  What’s the easiest way to tidy these up?  
Answer by Master Gardener Mark Bernskoetter.  

Most groundcovers have a lot of spent growth this time of year.  The larger, woody groundcovers, like creeping junipers, can be pruned if there are dead areas.  For groundcovers such as liriope and other, short grassy or leafy plants, you can mow them down.  Set your lawn mower to the tallest blade height and run it through the groundcover.  This will invigorate the growth while cleaning up the debris.  


Q. We moved into a house this year with a hedge.  What suggestions do you have for shaping it up? 
Answer by Master Gardener Mark Bernskoetter.  

Evergreen and deciduous hedges may be sheared now. When pruning, make the top narrower than the base, sort of like a pyramid.  This allows more sunlight to read all the limbs and keep growth lush.  


Q. When do I pull back my winter mulch which has been protecting my roses and other perennials?  Is there anything else I can do for them now that will help them do well?  
Answer by Master Gardener Mark Bernskoetter.  

Winter mulches should be removed now. You will probably find there is sprouting going on as you inspect the plant.  Prune away dead wood and any dead debris from last year.   If you loosen the surface soil around the plants, you can top dress with some compost or other organic matter which will provide several benefits to the plants this growing season. You may want to wait until late April to May for any other necessary pruning to shape up the plants or fertilizing to get them kickstarted for summer.  

Q. When do I prune my forsythia and lilacs?
Answer by Master Gardener Mark Bernskoetter.  

Spring-flowering shrubs are best pruned right after they finish blooming in the spring.  Shortly after blooming, these early bloomers put on new growth that will bloom next year.  So, if you wait too long after blooming or wait until next winter to prune, you will end up cutting off the blooms for next spring.  Keep in mind, if you start pruning your forsythia, you are probably setting yourself a course to continue doing this pretty much every year.  Ideally, forsythia have sufficient room when they are planted to grow more naturally and avoid much, if any, pruning.  Lilac can be pruned by removing dead or diseased limbs and up to ? of the trunks in an established stand.  Remove the largest trunks, as this helps keep the plant healthier and more vigorous growing.  

Readers can pose questions or get more information by calling 417-874-2963 and talking to one of the trained volunteers staffing the Mas¬ter Gardener Hotline at the University of Missouri Extension Center in Greene County located inside the Botanical Center, 2400 S. Scenic Ave., Springfield, MO 65807.
 

Writer: Kelly McGowan

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