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Spring Cleaning

Shortly, our flowering perennials such as salvia, esperanza and lantana will awaken from their winter dormancy. Much like overgrown hair in need of a haircut, perennials need a good spring cleaning in the way of pruning.

We do this for three reasons: appearance, growth, and flowers. Some homeowners prefer a well manicured landscape, while others prefer an informal style. Both are acceptable and no one style is better than the other.

In either case, spring cleaning by pruning dead and live branches encourages new vigorous growth. The amount removed depends on the style desired. Experts vary on their recommendations. Some recommend pruning to the ground. Others use a fraction method, for example, prune by ½ or ¾ of its total height.

Yet, the main reason we prune at this time of the year is to encourage ample foliage. With increasing warm weather these perennials quickly respond to pruning with vigorous growth and new flowers.

When they’re appropriately matched to the landscape, perennials can provide color right into the winter. Exceptions to this rule include spring blooming perennials and shrubs such as mountain laurel. Wait until after the bloom to prune.

Mark Peterson
Mark Peterson
Mark A. Peterson is a conservation project coordinator for San Antonio Water System. With over 30 years of experience as an urban forester and arborist, Mark is probably the only person you know who actually prunes trees for fun. When not expounding on the benefits of trees and limited lawns, you’re likely to find him hiking San Antonio’s wilderness parks or expounding on the virtues of geography and history to his friends.
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