April Garden Tips

Santolina

Yellow SantolinaCut back before spring growth

Manzanita

Manzanita with pink budsPinch Manzanita tips to keep compact in early spring after flowering

Justicia Shrimp Plant

shrimp plant with red flowersprune down to about 1 foot in early spring every year

Three Carex Frosted Curls PlantsCarex Frosted Curls

Carex thrives in moist soil but will tolerate some drought once established. Cut back in spring by 1/3. Division is best done in the spring.

Boxwood Hedges

Japanese Boxwood Shrub FormAging Boxwood hedges can be a tricky entity to maintain at a property due to their role as rigid, formal plants to be kept green all year. One of the ways plants keep healthy is that they grow new growth and the old growth falls away. Once the boxwoods have reached their optimum size we have to let them grow a little and then cut them back to where they were. If we leave no new or very little new growth all we see after trimming is the old growth. That is why they look yellow especially after pruning. Also the constant shearing of the plant creates a condition were all the leaves to grow on the outside of the plant and not on the inside. To minimize this effect the timing of trimming is very important and it should be noted some down time for recovery is inevitable. What has prompted this note is that we, as the professional, failed to explain this when we were instructed to hold off on trimming at the beginning of spring. By performing a hard trim at the end of winter we are able to strongly control the shape of the plants and allow sunlight to penetrate the outer perimeter creating healthy, natural growth on the inside. (please observe where there are holes in the boxwood the new vigorous dark green growth coming from inside the plant). The reason for the timing is that there is vigorous foliar growth in spring creating minimal downtime.

Mexican False Heather shrub with pink flowersCuphea

If it was cold this winter your Cuphea plants might have lost some or much of their leaves. Garden View crews feed Cuphea with a high nitrogen fertilizer and they usually recover quickly.

Abutilon

Abutilon Flowers on wood fenceAbutilon takes pruning well. Tip prune young plants, to spur new growth and get a fuller shape. If yours starts to become tall and gangly, snipping it back to a leaf joint will encourage it to send out new branches. Abutilon can also be pruned back hard in the spring, if you want to control its size.

Abutilon is a heavy feeder. Keep up the fertilizer for maximum bloom.

Red bird of Paradise Tree Red Bird of Paradise

Red bird of paradise (left) should be pruned in late winter or early spring to the ground to form a more compact mound. Mexican bird of paradise and yellow bird of paradise can also be pruned at that time but should be pruned more sparingly (if at all).

Mexican Bird of Paradise

Prune before first flush of spring growth to remove any dead or damaged wood and wayward branches , remove lower limbs for treelike shape

Wisteria

Purple wisteria flowerThe best time to prune Wisteria (right) is after they finish flowering. New growth begins the foundation for next year’s blooms. This plant can take over an arbor or crush a house if it is not pruned. On any vine it is very important not to cut the main stock or everything after that point dies and you have a large mass of dead plant. By pruning regularly and heavily you can more easily identify the main stock and you can trim the lateral or side branches without damaging the main stock.

blue and purple hydrangeas Hydrangea - Don't Prune

Bigleaf type hydrangea (left) set their flower buds at the ends of the upright or lateral branches, during late summer to early fall. Pruning bigleaf hydrangea in the spring or even late fall, after the buds have been set, will remove the flower buds and any chance of getting flowers that season.

Bigleaf hydrangea should be pruned as soon as the flowers have faded. You should begin to see new growth coming in from the base of the plant. To keep the plant vigorous, selectively prune out the dead and weaker stems, both old and new. Don’t prune out all the old wood, since this is what will keep flowering as the new growth matures.

Purple Lantana flowersLantana

Lantana (right) responds to heavy pruning well. Take the opportunity to prune your lantana down by as much as to within 6-12 inches of ground level. Leaves will re-emerge in spring. Lantana isn't harmed at all by such a drastic pruning, and the result will be more compact lantana shrubs. Another benefit of pruning hard now is that the plants have time to grow and you will avoid pruning off much of the flowers.

Thin Fruits

Thinning fruits now, while they are the size of an olive or grape gives you fewer but larger fruits at harvest time, thinned limbs are also less likely to break under an overload of fruit. Thin nectarines, peaches, and Japanese plum about 4 to 6 inches apart. European plums don’t need to be thinned.

Rose of SharonRose of Sharon

Though it is naturally a multi-stemmed shrub, Rose of Sharon can be trained to have a single trunk, looking more like a tree. It can also be trained as an espalier or shaped into a hedge.

Prune as needed to maintain the shape desired. In winter or early spring, last season's growth should be pruned away, which will help produce bigger blooms.

Pink Camellia on shrub Camellias

Camellias like being fertilized in spring with a slower acting balanced fertilizer. There is still time to prune camellias before they set bud. Remember to remove dead flowers from the plant and the ground to reduce damp weather fungus diseases.

Green deciduous fern Deciduous Ferns

Cut the old dry fern fronds nearly to the ground. The new leaves called fiddleheads will emerge and be fresh and beautiful.

red and green banana treeBanana Trees

Before the banana tree fruits, prune so there is only one main stem. After it has been growing for 6-8 months, leave one sucker. This will replace the main stem in the next growing season. After the fruit is removed, cut the main stem down to 2.5'. Remove the rest of the stem in a few weeks, leaving the replacement sucker intact.

Banana trees need lots of water. However, you have to make sure they are not over-watered so you don't get root rot. The soil should be moist but not soggy at all times if possible.

Banana trees should also be fertilized very well. Use a balanced fertilizer once a month. Per the California Rare Fruit Growers organization: "Spread the fertilizer evenly around the plant in a circle extending 4 - 8 feet from the trunk. Do not allow the fertilizer to come in contact with the trunk. Feed container plants on the same monthly schedule using about half the rate for outside plants."

Purple Liriope flowers on plant Liriope

Clean the dead leaves out of your Liriope (left) plants now. They will be much more attractive and the new growth will fill in nicely.

Ficus nitida's in a line to form privacy hedge Ficus nitida Hedges and Trees

To keep this tree as a neat hedge it needs a pruning regularly, don’t let it get away from you and it will stay compact and reduce damage from roots. Garden View Crews do this 4 to 5 times a year to Indian Laurel Fig.

TASKS

Control Aphids

Puckered or curled leaves on new growth of shrubs and trees are one sign aphids have attacked. You have a choice of countermeasures. For relatively mild infestations, try blasting the insects off leaves with strong, stream of water from the hose. (Be sure to squirt tops and undersides of plant leaves.)

Control Snails, Slugs

Try handpicking snails at night with a flashlight. Chemical measures include spreading liquid or pellet bait according to label instructions. Be especially careful using these products where children or pets are likely to find them.

Feed and Mow Lawns

All kinds of lawn grasses respond to high nitrogen fertilizer applied this month. After feeding, deep-water lawns. Mowing heights at this time of year are 2 ½” for cool-season grasses (bents, blues, ryes, and fescues) and ½” to ¾” for warm season grasses including; Adalayd, Bermuda, St. Augustine and Zoysia.

Fertilize Most Plants

As soon as you see the first sign of active spring growth, reach for the plant food. Every plant in you garden will respond to fertilizer. Some special plants to pay attention to are Camellias and Azaleas (they need acid food). Citrus, Gardenias and Hibiscus benefit from an application of high nitrogen food. After feeding, be sure to deep-water plants to lessen the chance of fertilizer burn.

Water Deeply

In heavy soils, irrigate just enough to avoid runoff. Let water soak into ground and then irrigate again. The idea is to let the water penetrate deep into the plant root zones. Soak large shrubs of trees by letting water drip slowly in one area for several hours. Schedule lawn irrigation’s for morning or evening hours, when it is cooler and less windy.

Consider your garden’s water needs: you may decide the time has come to install a drip irrigation system.

Weed

Hoe, pull or spray weeds before they can flower and set seed. After weeding, mulch with an organic topping to discourage weeds and conserve soil moisture.

PLANTING

Finish Planting Azaleas

Shop for late blooming varieties of these backbone-landscaping shrubs. Select plants according to flower colors and forms as well as growth habit (upright, bushy, or sprawling) Plant in soil well amended with organic matter such as compost, peat moss or ground bark.

Plant Bedding Flowers

When winter annuals fade, pull them and replace with summer annuals, Nurseries stock six-packs, flats, and 4” pots of Ageratum, Asters, Coleus, Dahlias, Dianthus, Fibrous Begonias, Impatiens, Lobelias, Marigolds, Nicotiana and Petunias.

Plant Citrus

Dwarf or standard citrus trees can go in the ground now. To find the varieties best suited to your climate, consult the Sunset Western Garden Book.

Plant Subtropicals

Most frost-tender plants can go into the ground this month. Plant bananas, bougainvillea, Hibiscus, Natal Plums and Palms. Be sure to provide adequate water especially during hot spells, until plants get established.

Plant Vegetables

Gardeners on the coast can squeeze in one last crop of cool-season broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, leaf lettuce, and spinach. Plant heat-resistant varieties that are slow to bolt.

Inland gardeners can start seeds of beans, carrots, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, peppers, pumpkins, squash radishes and tomatoes. Coastal zone gardeners can also set out these plants or seeds now.