When should we prune azaleas & crape myrtles (and other plants!)

Prune spring blooming azaleas after they bloom and crape myrtles in late winter before growth begins.

Info edited from Pruning ornamental plants in the landscape

Because flowering ornamentals form their flower buds at different times of year, pruning times must be adjusted accordingly. Many spring-flowering plants such as azalea, dogwood, forsythia, redbud and rhododendron set flower buds in the fall, so pruning during the fall or winter months eliminates or decreases their spring flower display. Plants that typically flower during the summer form flower buds on new growth and can be pruned during the winter with no effect on their flowering. Examples of this type of plant are crape myrtle and abelia.

As a general rule, plants that flower before May should be pruned after they bloom, while those that flower after May are considered summer-flowering and can be pruned just prior to spring growth. One exception to this rule is the oakleaf hydrangea, a summer-flowering shrub that forms flower buds the previous season. Another exception is late-flowering azalea cultivars, which bloom during May, June or even July. Prune both the oakleaf hydrangea and the azalea cultivars after they bloom. Table 1 provides suggested pruning times for other plants.

Table 1. Suggested Pruning Time for Common Flowering Trees, Shrubs and Vines

Prune after Flowering

Azalea Japanese Pieris
Beautybush Lilac
Bigleaf hydrangea Mockorange
Bradford Pear Oakleaf hydrangea
Bridalwreath Spirea Pearlbush
Clematis Pyracantha
Climbing roses Redbud
Crabapple Saucer Magnolia
Deutzia Star Magnolia
Dogwood Shrub Honeysuckle
Doublefile Vibernum Thunberg Spirea
Flowering Almond Vanhoutte Spirea
Flowering Cherry Weigelia
Flowering Quince Winter Daphne
Forsythia Wisteria
Japanese Kerria Witchhazel

Prune before Spring Growth Begins

Beautyberry Goldenrain Tree
Camellia Japanese Barberry
Chaste Tree (Vitex) Japanese Spirea
Cranberrybush Viburnum Mimosa
Crape myrtle Nandina
Floribunda roses Rose-of-Sharon (Althea)
Frangrant Tea Olive Sourwood
Grandiflora roses Anthony Waterer Spirea
Glossy Abelia Sweetshrub

Ornamental plants that are not grown for their showy flowers can be pruned during the late winter, spring or summer months. Avoid pruning during the fall or early winter because it may encourage tender new growth that is not sufficiently hardened to resist the winter cold.

Some shade and flowering trees tend to bleed or excrete large amounts of sap from pruning wounds. Among these trees are maple, birch, dogwood, beech, elm, willow, flowering plum and flowering cherry. Sap excreted from the tree is not harmful, but it is unsightly. To minimize bleeding, prune these trees after the leaves have matured. Leaves use plant sap when they expand, and the tree excretes less sap from the wound.

For more information, see the publication Pruning ornamental plants in the landscape.

Compost in 2015-A Guest Post by Mary Carol Sheffield

Resolve to live more sustainably in 2015 by creating a compost pile or bin to help reduce waste.

Worms in Compost - photo by Sharon Dowdy
Worms in Compost – photo by Sharon Dowdy

Many items thrown into the trash can be sorted out and composted and benefits go well beyond waste reduction. Compost can be used to improve garden soil and make landscapes and vegetable gardens more productive. With a little organization and a designated space, gardeners can amend their own soil through composting.

Start by finding a space where the compost can “cook.” The location should be in full sun, at least 3 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet, out of the way and with good drainage.

A compost container can be bought or built with materials like welded wire, fencing, pallets or blocks. Open spaces should be left on the container’s sides to allow good air circulation through the pile, and the bottom should be open to the ground.

Just like cooking a meal, cooking compost involves following a recipe. Almost any organic plant material

Compost bins at the North Fulton Annex Community Garden
Compost bins at the North Fulton Annex Community Garden

can be used for composting, including grass clippings, leaves, flowers, annual weeds, twigs, chopped brush, old vegetable plants, straw and sawdust.

Avoid composting diseased plants, weeds and seeds or invasive weeds, like morning glory. Vegetable peelings and coffee grounds can also be composted, but avoid adding meats, bones and fats that may attract animals.

For best decomposition, mix a variety of materials. Most compost piles are layered with whatever organic material is available at a given time. The smaller the pieces of organic matter, the faster they will decompose. Once a layer of organic matter is added, add a little garden soil or animal manure. This adds fungi, bacteria, insects and worms to the pile and helps speed up the decomposition process.

Keep the pile moist, but not too wet. To speed up the decomposition process and prevent odors, use a shovel to mix the pile once a month. Compost is completely “cooked” and ready when it looks like rich, crumbly earth and the original organic material is no longer recognizable.

With every mix of the pile, some ready-to-use compost should be available. This compost can be added to the soil before planting vegetables or trees, shrubs or flowers. It can also be used as mulch on the soil surface, or as a potting soil for container plants.

Completely cooked compost will slowly release nutrients into the soil, but don’t rely on it for fertilization. Your plants will still need to be fertilized appropriately.

For more on how to begin composting see University of Georgia Extension publication “Composting:  Recycling Landscape Trimmings.

Mary Carol Sheffield is the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agricultural and natural resources agent in Paulding County.   Mary Carol’s vegetable garden is small to match her children! They love to help her there and have their own kid size tools and gloves.

Happy gardening!


Begin shaping trees while they are young

This info edited from Pruning ornamental plants in the landscape

Pruning deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves in the winter)

Trees are like children; training at an early age will influence how they develop. Many people are reluctant to prune a young tree, particularly when it is nothing more than a single stem or a few scrawny branches, but this is precisely when pruning should begin.

Ideally, deciduous shade trees (those that lose their leaves during the winter) and flowering trees should have one central trunk (leader) and five to eight strong lateral branches along the main trunk. Major limbs should begin about 5 feet above the ground and have good spacing around the main trunk.

Once the framework (trunk and main branches) of the tree is established, some annual maintenance pruning will be required. Each tree is different in its growth habit, vigor and pruning requirements, but there are some general considerations that may help direct your pruning decisions:

  • A major limb growing at a narrow angle to the main trunk (less than a 45-degree angle) is likely to develop a weak crotch and may split during heavy winds and ice loads. Remove branches that have narrow crotch angles.
  • Remove branches that grow inward or threaten to rub against nearby branches (Figure 10).
Figure 10. Remove suckers originating from below-ground roots (a), low-growing branches that interfere with maintenance (b), upright growing shoots or watersprouts (c), branches that grow inward or rub other branches (d), and branches that compete with the central leader for dominance (e).
Figure 10. Remove suckers originating from below-ground roots (a), low-growing branches that interfere with maintenance (b), upright growing shoots or watersprouts (c), branches that grow inward or rub other branches (d), and branches that compete with the central leader for dominance (e).
  • Remove branches that grow downward from the main limbs which may interfere with mowing and other maintenance practices.
  • Prune branches damaged by insects, diseases, winter cold or storms below the damaged area. Prune branches of pear, pyracantha or loquat damaged by fireblight disease several inches below the infection. To prevent spreading the disease, sterilize pruning tools between cuts by dipping the blades in rubbing alcohol or a solution prepared from one part house-hold bleach to 10 parts water.
  • Trees such as Bradford pear, ornamental cherry, crabapple and ornamental plum form vigorous shoots (or suckers) at the base of the trunk and many upright succulent shoots (or watersprouts) along the main branches. These shoots starve the tree of valuable nutrients and detract from the tree’s overall appearance. Remove them while they are young.

Some trees develop upright shoots that compete with the main trunk for dominance. Remove these shoots if you want to maintain a conical or pyramidal growth habit.

Pruning evergreen trees

Broadleaf evergreens, like magnolias and hollies, usually require little or no pruning. In fact, most develop a naturally symmetric growth habit when left alone. Low-sweeping branches at ground level lend a natural southern charm to our landscapes.

You may want to prune some during the early life of the tree to balance the growth or to eliminate multiple trunks and/or multiple leader branches. Otherwise, routine annual pruning is not recommended.

For more information see Pruning ornamental plants in the landscape

Winter Insect Management Calendar


Information supplied by Kris Braman & Will Hudson, UGA Entomology Department

As you visit landscapes, scout for these insect pests this winter. Notify your client when you find damaging levels of insects or mites.

Click on the insect names to find information to help you identify & manage these pests. Notes after the insect’s name explain what you should do for each insect if control is necessary.

This publication offers help to manage landscape pests. –

For pesticide recommendations, see the Pest Control Handbook.


  • Southern red mite (azalea, camellia, holly) – Scout and spray a miticide for these pests
  • Armored scales (boxwood, camellia, holly, gardenia, etc.) –  Treat with dormant oil


  • Bagworms – Prune them out. These bags contain hundreds of eggs that may hatch next May
  • Maple borers – Prune out small branches with these pests. Improve health of the tree with proper care
  • Bagworm
    Bagworm, John-H. Ghent, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

    Lecanium scale – Treat with dormant oils

  • Spruce spider mite – Spray for these pests
  • Twig pruners and twig girdlers – Prune and destroy dead branches, and pick up and destroy fallen branches to prevent insect emergence next year.
Lecanium scale, Andrew J. Boone, South Carolina Forestry Commission
Lecanium scale, Andrew J. Boone, South Carolina Forestry Commission, Bugwood.org


Please share this information with others in the landscape & turf industry. For more information:

Call your local Extension Agent at (800) ASK-UGA1 or

Locate your local Extension Office at http://www.caes.uga.edu/extension/statewide.cfm

Pest Management Handbook (Follow all label directions when using any pesticide) – www.ent.uga.edu/pmh/

What I Love about my Georgia Community Garden

A Valentine's Day Tribute to Vegetables by Georgia Gardeners

Just in time for Valentine’s Day we asked community gardeners across the state of Georgia what they love about their community gardens.  We got some wonderful answers.

From a gardener in Kennesaw:  “The biggest event of the year for ‘Plant a Row for the Hungry’ is sweet potato dig davalentine_lace_9y.  We all enjoy guessing the weight of our harvest.”

From a gardener in Marietta:  “Hearing the kids talk about how much they love eating fresh vegetables – ‘kookombers!'”   Someone from Sawyer Road Elementary says that she also loves the students’ enthusiasm.

From a gardener in Athens:  “I love all the friends I have made at the garden.”  Fellowship and friendship were common themes in replies to our question.  Vicki from Green Meadows Community Garden wrote, “Meeting and gardening with so many different people I wouldn’t have met.  I especially enjoy sharing laughs and knowledge with my fellow gardeners.”  Patty Beckham from Spalding County says, “What I love about The Healthy Life Community Garden is the laughter and conversation among the gardeners as they harvest their beds, or plant new things.  It is a joy to see people having fun as they work side by side in such a beautiful setting.”

From a gardener in Atlanta:  “I love trying new foods.  Our garden has gardeners from many different cultural backgrounds.  We all grow different types of food.  It is fun to try new things.”  Gardeners in Stone Mountain also like the diversity of cultures and backgrounds represented in their garden.

I-Love-My-GardenCherokee County gardeners like having a garden spot while not having to deal with the care of a lawn and other outdoor maintenance required when owning a yard.  One gardener in Cobb County wrote, “It allows people a place to garden who may not have their own property where they could garden.  It shows that gardening is possible for everyone to do.”

Other people enjoy the restorative aspects of gardening.  Terri Carter of the Historic Mableton Community Garden wrote “I love Historic Mableton Garden because it is therapeutic.  When I find myself sad and frazzled I can go to the garden and listen to the birds singing and all the bees buzzing around.  I always feel better when I visit the garden.  I leave with a feeling of peace and well being.”  Debbie Ponder from the Reconnecting our Roots Community Garden also thinks along those lines.  She said, It will give our families a place to spend time together – give back and enjoy being a family.”

If you have spent any time at all in a community garden you know it is about more than growing food.  It is about learning, sharing, teaching, meeting other gardeners, and helping people.  It is clear from the answers we got that gardens are loved for all of these reasons.  Why do YOU love your community garden?

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Some Facts About Florida’s Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

Richard Levine is Communications Program Manager at the Entomological Society of America and editor of the Entomology Today Blog.
Richard Levine is Communications Program Manager at the Entomological Society of America and editor of the Entomology Today Blog.

Some Facts About Florida’s Genetically Modified Mosquitoes from an article in Entomology Today by Richard Levine

A deluge of news articles about the possible release of genetically-modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys swept the Internet. The modified mosquitoes, if approved, would be used to control mosquito populations without pesticides, and would lower the chances of Floridians being exposed to mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and chikungunya.

Some of the articles were somewhat alarmist. The Washington Post, for example, managed to use the words “Genetically modified killer mosquitoes” in its headline and later referred to them as “Frankenstein mosquitoes.”

Read entire article here.

What will sod supply and price be like in 2015?

2015 Sod Producers’ annual survey examines inventory and price

Clint Waltz, UGA Turf Specialist

GCIA 1In November 2014, the Georgia Urban Ag Council conducted their 21st consecutive survey of sod producers. The purpose of the survey was to determine inventory levels and projected price changes for spring 2015. The following is a survey overview. You can find the complete survey online here.

Survey overview:

  • Supply of warm-season turfgrasses is low, regardless of turfgrass or grower type.
  • The delivered price for all grasses is expected to increase.
  • Grass prices are at historic levels.
  • 2015 continues an eight year trend of increasing average prices for certified grass.
  • Freight rates per mile shipped to Atlanta, or within 100 miles of the farm, will increase.
  • Growers that report adding a fuel surcharge nearly doubled from 2014.
  • No grower expects to remove acres from turfgrass production.
  • More turfgrass acreage will come into production in 2015.


  • Get price quotes regularly.
  • If possible “book” or lock prices to ensure availability and price.

For more information:

Find the complete survey here.

Georgia Turf website

Signal words on labels give an estimate of pesticide toxicity

Information taken from the UGA publication Insecticide Basics for the Pest Management Professionalby Dan Suiter, UGA Department of Entomology, and Michael Scharf, Purdue University Department of EntomologyThe signal word found on every product’s label is based on test results from various oral, dermal, and inhalation toxicity tests, as well skin and eye corrosion assays in some cases. Signal words are placed on labels to convey a level of care that should be taken (especially personal protection) when handling and using a product—i.e., from purchase to disposal of the empty container (Table 1).

Table 1. Toxicological parameters related to signal words found on EPA-registered pesticide product labels.

Signal Word on Label Toxicity Category Acute-Oral LD50 for Rats Amount Needed to Kill an Average Sized Adult Notes
Danger-Poison Highly Toxic 50 or less Taste to a teaspoon Skull and Crossbones; Keep out of Reach of Children
Warning Moderately Toxic 50-500 One to six teaspoons Keep out of Reach of Children
Caution Slightly Toxic 500-5,000 One ounce to a pint Keep out of Reach of Children
Caution Relatively Non-Toxic >5,000 Greater than a pint Keep out of Reach of Children