Allen D. Owings | 4/22/2005 9:08:40 PM
February and March signal the beginning of spring in many parts of Louisiana – at least when it pertains to getting things done in the home landscape, according to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Allen Owings.
February is a time to plant roses, conduct any pruning that needs to be done and continue maintenance of cool-season bedding plants. Adding new bedding plants and shrubs to your landscape and fertilizing some spring flowering plants can be done in early March through mid-April, depending on where you are located in the state.
Owings says ground covers should be planted in late winter and early spring. "We also need to be aware of maintaining proper cultural practices in the landscape to lead to success with our landscape plants this year," he notes.
Summer-flowering shrubs and evergreen shrubs need to be pruned in March; however, spring-flowering shrubs such as azaleas, spiraea, forsythia and flowering quince should be pruned after flowering, which usually is March through mid-April.
Owings recommends preserving the natural form of the plant when pruning and having a reason to prune. Prune from within the center rather than shearing the plant. Be sure to prune azaleas, if needed, by the end of June to preserve next year's flower buds.
Most shrubs can be fertilized in March in south and central Louisiana or in early April in north Louisiana. Use a complete slow-release fertilizer, such as Osmocote or StaGreen Nursery Special. Broadcast the fertilizer evenly over the entire landscape bed instead of on individual plants. Use a rate of 1-2 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet or follow the label recommendations. If you have some spring-flowering shrubs, wait until flowering is completed before you fertilize.
Fertilize established ground covers, such as liriope and Asian jasmine, in late March with a general purpose fertilizer such as 8-8-8 or 13-13-13, and water after broadcasting the fertilizer evenly over the ground cover area. If you are trying to plant or establish a new ground cover bed, do so early in the spring. Ground covers are much slower to establish once we get to the summer months.
"We are all probably anxious to plant warm-season bedding plants, but our cool-season bedding plants still have potential to do well into March and sometimes April," Owings says, explaining, "Growing conditions were really rough on our cool-season bedding plants during the fall and early winter, because of wet weather."
Pansies should still be blooming until the night temperatures rise a little more. Dianthus, another popular cool-season bedding plant in Louisiana, does well all the way through the spring. Leave them in as long as they look good.
Warm-season annuals can be planted anytime after cool-season annuals are done. Try petunias for an early March planting, and wait until mid- to late-March in central and south Louisiana or early April in north Louisiana to plant the remainder of warm-season bedding plants.
March is also a great time to think about roses. Complete rose planting by early April to get a first flowering in mid to late spring. Established rose bushes will normally have a major first flowering in early to mid April, depending on the spring temperatures.
"Remember to stay ahead of the blackspot disease problem on roses this spring with a regular fungicide program," Owings cautions, adding, "Also, watch for thrips, aphids and other insects on your rose bushes.
For related topics, look for Gardening and Get It Growing links in the Feature section of the LSU AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com. Additional yard and garden topics are available from an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.