Tracy H. Jackson is a contributing writer for State-by-State Gardening magazines.

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How to do that… Tidy Tips for Your Evergreens
by Tracy H. Jackson       #Pruning   #Winter


In late winter prune out broken, damaged, diseased and dead branches of your magnolia back to a live lateral, using a 45-degree cut on the branch being removed, adjacent to collar of a live lateral. You can also prune to the outer edge of the collar where the branch joins the trunk.

When we begin to leave winter behind, the time will be ripe to take a good look at the evergreens in our landscapes and begin to prepare them for the upcoming spring spurt of growth. Most of our evergreen plants fall into three general categories – those with needle-like leaves, those with scale-like leaves and broadleaf plants.

The first two categories are normally referred to as conifers. Yews and pines have needle-like foliage, while junipers and arborvitaes have scale-like foliage. Examples of broadleaf evergreens are hollies and magnolias. 

Addressing Winter Damage

Before beginning your examination of evergreens, be alert to several things, which could be present in and around your plants. First, look for winter damage. Where the winter has been harsh, broadleaf evergreens may exhibit broken branches or limbs, and leaf scorch; conifers may have splayed-out limbs (see picture), and any evergreen may exhibit branch dieback or loss of the central leader. When a particular plant shows similar damage each winter, such as leaf scorch, you should consider some form of protection from the wind, even if that means moving the plant.     


In late winter prune out broken, damaged, diseased and dea to collar of a live lateral. You can also prune to the outed branches of your magnolia back to a live lateral, using a 45-degree cut on the branch being removed, adjacentr edge of the collar where the branch joins the trunk.

Corrective Pruning And Cleanup

Often, winter damage to evergreens can be corrected with judicious pruning. Most evergreens will not “break buds” on old wood, so correcting branch dieback by removing the dead leaves only will not restore leaf growth to that limb. In those cases, removal of the entire limb back to the trunk or to a living lateral branch is the best method.

Tying a protruding support to the trunk, then bending a lateral branch vertically and tying it to the support for at least one growing season restore the loss of the central leader in most conifers. The bent branch will normally become a new central leader.

Some evergreens suffer from “congestion” of dead branches, leaves and litter around the trunk and the interior part of the plant. Dead branches should be cut back to the limb collar, and the litter should be removed from the interior of the tree, as well as from the ground under the branches. Plant litter left under the skirt of an evergreen is an inviting environment for destructive fungal growth whose spores can be easily transmitted to new growth on the host plant, or nearby plants.

Fertilizer Needs

Most evergreens like acidic soils. They also respond well to fertilizers that are formulated for acid-loving plants. Any good fertilizer so labeled can be used to stimulate growth in the spring. Granular fertilization may be started as early as March, as long as weather permits. (Check with your local extension office for the right time to begin fertilizing your evergreens.) Spread the granulated versions under the drip line of the plant, but not touching the trunk, in the amounts specified on the container. Liquid fertilizers are best applied on the ground as well, since foliar applications may result in leaf damage under certain temperature and humidity conditions. Treat your evergreens to at least 1.5 inches of water a week, and they will reward you with sumptuous growth and lustrous leaves all year!

From State-by-State Gardening February 2004. Photos by Tracy H. Jackson.

 

Posted: 01/09/13   RSS | Print

 

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