Garden Spring Clean


Woody Perennial Flowers & Plants

Some shrubby plants with woody stems need to be cut back in spring, as they only bloom on new branches. Prune in the spring to limit winter damage and to encourage new flowering branches but wait until danger of a hard frost is past. It's time to prune them buds start opening on the lower stem portions or new growth at the base of the plants. 

Evergreen and Semi-Evergreen Perennial Plants

Some perennial plants don’t quite go dormant, but may still need tidying up. Plants like Epimedium, Hellebores,Heuchera and bearded iris retain their leaves all winter. Spring is the time to trim back foliage and encourage new growth.

Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses can be cut back.  You don't need to wait for new growth. Cut grasses to within a few inches of the ground. They'll come back up when they're ready.


Spring rose care depends on your climate. Roses grown in warm climates, where roses never go dormant, benefit from a good pruning and the removal of the majority leaves, to shock the rose into thinking it was dormant. Where roses do go dormant, spring care should begin just as the leaf buds begin to plump up. 

Trees & Shrubs

Most spring flowering trees and shrubs set their flower buds in the summer or Autumn of previous year. Pruning them in the spring, before they've bloomed, would mean pruning off this year's flowers. Here's a list of spring bloomers to prune later in the spring. 

·         Azalea (Rhododendron species)

·         Beautybush (Kolkwitzia amabilis)

·         Bridal Wreath Spirea (Spirea x vanhouttei)

·         Flowering Crabapple (Malus species and cultivars)

·         Forsythia (forsythia x intermedia)

·         Hawthorn (Crataegus species and cultivars)

·         Hydrangea, Bigleaf (Hydrangea macrophylla)

·         Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)

·         Magnolia (Magnolia species and cultivars)

·         Mockorange (Philadelphus coronarius)


Most evergreens require little or no spring care other than some tidying up. Spring is a good time to fertilize evergreens, because they are actively growing at this time. However, if the soil is healthy and rich, you should only need to feed your evergreens about every other year.

Weeding and Composting

Early spring is the time to take action against weeds with some pro-active weeding. Damp soil makes it much easier to pull young weed seedlings. Don't try to compost weeds. They'll come back to haunt you. 

Most of what you clean up can go into your compost pile. It's best to start a new pile in spring and leave your old pile to flip and use. Dispose of any plant material that shows signs of disease and any seed heads, weeds or otherwise, that could become a problem. 

Soil & Fertilizer

It's advisable to test your soil before you start adding things to it. If you amended your soil in Autumn, check to see how balanced things are. Most plants enjoy a good feeding in the spring, when they're having their initial growth spurt. If you have rich, healthy soil, all you should need to do in the spring is a bit of top dressing with compost, manure or a complete slow release organic fertilizer. If you prefer using synthetic fertilizers, you can start applying it once your plants show signs of new growth. 

Dividing & Transplanting

Spring is the ideal time for dividing or transplanting. Try to do this as soon as possible after the plant emerges. Plants recover quickly from this abuse if you catch them early, when the weather is still mild and they're raring to grow. 

Mulching and Edging - The Finishing Touches

Mulch does many wonderful things for your garden: conserves water, cools plant roots, feeds the soil and smothers weeds. Wait until the soil warms up and dries out a bit, before replenishing your mulch. Be sure to keep it away from the stems and crowns of your plants and, if you’re hoping for some self-seeding volunteers, give them a chance to germinate before you cover the bed with mulch. 

The finishing touch in the spring is edging. A crisp edge makes a garden bed look polished. It also helps prevent your lawn from crawling into your flower bed. 

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