Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


May 12, 2014

PLATEAU GARDENING: Pruning damaged shrubs

CROSSVILLE — Remove dead, diseased or damaged branches as needed, but if pruning to shape or limit size, wait until the time of year best suited to that particular landscape plant. The University of Tennessee home and garden publication "PB1619 Best Management Practices for Pruning Landscape Trees, Shrubs and Ground Covers" is a free booklet with drawings and photos which explains how and when to prune. Get one at your local UT Extension office or online by typing the link into the web browser on your computer.             

Narrowleaf/needled evergreens: Buds for new shoots (latent or dormant buds) along branches of woody-stemmed plants typically grow after the dominant bud at the tip is cut off or damaged. That growth produces new branching near the cut and a fuller look. However, most needled evergreens don’t produce secondary branching if pruning cuts are made past the point where there are green needles. Latent buds are only on the green tips. Pruning needled evergreens at the brown part toward the trunk/ main stem sparks no re-growth just a bare, brown stick. The safest course is to make your cut within the green (needled) area or to remove that branch all the way back to the trunk.

Whorled-branch conifers are the least forgiving. Those species are Fir (Abies), Cedar (Cedrus), Cryptomeria, Larch (Larix), Spruce (Picea) and pine (Pinus). Random-branching needled evergreens may have dormant buds a bit further back on the stem. Included in this group are Cypress (Cupressus), False Cypress, Leyland Cypress, Hemlock (Tsuga), Juniper and Arborvitae (Thuga). Yew (Taxus) are an exception. Yews have dormant buds on bare wood. You can safely cut them back as severely as hollies or boxwoods.

Azaleas and native plants: Two nursery-bought deciduous azaleas in my landscape died — a red re-blooming Encore Azalea ‘Rouge’ and an unknown variety with white flowers both in place 6 years or more. Wild deciduous azaleas on our lot look good. There are orange early-summer bloomers in the woods by the potting shed as well as pink-and-white spring-flowering ones by   the lake shore. Not all of our wild woodland plants were un-harmed this winter, however. The New Jersey Tea bush (Ceanothus americanus) which grows at the edge of the woods near our mailbox had quite a bit of winter-kill to prune out, but the remaining "green" branches began putting out new leaves around May 1.

Knockout Roses: Two Knock Out rose bushes in a bed at the front of our house seemed dead earlier but now show signs of life at their bases. Shrub roses are not grafted, so these Knock Outs should grow true from the roots. I plan to let them do that while deciding whether that spot is still right for roses. When the original Knock Out roses won the All-America Rose Selection award in 2000 many gardeners like me who previously refused to cultivate roses because of the spraying and fuss, decided to give these "carefree" shrub roses a try. However, all roses need some care. Providing the right conditions is crucial to maintaining healthy Knock Out roses.

While resistant to diseases, they are not immune. Knock Out roses should have well-drained soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5, a sprinkling of slow-release fertilizer every four to six weeks, six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily, at least one foot of space between plants for air circulation and be irrigated in a manner that avoids wet foliage. Fungal diseases that could affect them but can be prevented and/or treated include rust, black spot, gray mold (Botrytis blight), powdery mildew and stem canker. My roses have good soil but are only fertilized in springtime, get too little sun because trees to the southeast grew and now shade them, spread more than expected so they now crowd each other and nearby plants. My mistakes in care led to weaker less vigorous rose bushes which were more easily damaged by a cold winter. Treat your Knock Out roses right.

• • •

Plateau Gardening written by Master Gardeners for gardeners in Tennessee’s Upper Cumberland Region. Contact UT Extension Cumberland County at P.O. Box 483, Crossville, TN 38557 (484-6743) answers to horticulture questions, free publications and to learn about the Master Gardener program. Send email comments or yard and garden inquiries to Master Gardener Rae (

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