Winter Pruning – What is Horticulture doing?

The Horticulture team, with the help of the Cobb Master Gardeners and other volunteers, has been busy with cut-backs in our Native Plant Gardens. Mid to late winter is an excellent time to prune out dead limbs and work on shaping up our shrubs and trees. For example, we recently worked on Viburnum and Vitex in Butterfly Garden.

We like to do cut-backs of herbacious perennials in early to mid-winter. We do this out of preference, not necessarily because it is essentially to the survival of the plant. We enjoy the way flower structures look in winter and we know we are leaving seed for birds. Eventually, the seed disperses or cold, ice or snow causes these flower stems to lodge (fall over). That’s our preferred time to do cut-backs on many of our native perennials.

The plants we wait until late winter to cut back are the grasses. The native ornamental grasses you’re most likely to see at CNC are switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium). In general, no ornamental grass should be cut back until late winter in order to preserve and protect the crown, from which new blades (which are technically leaves) will emerge in spring. If you cut too soon and we’re hit with a hard freeze, these grasses can be killed. So, if you have ornamental grasses at home, be sure to wait until late winter to cut them back.

We’re fortunate in the Atlanta metropolitan area to have a few mild days mixed in with the freezing cold days of winter and these are the days we spend out in the sun, cutting things back, and dreaming of spring!

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