Chapman

I’m ready to get outside and clean up the garden after the freeze. What can I cut back now?

The freeze damaged a lot of tropical-looking garden plants, and you can prune these plants now; then make sure you water well and mulch with pine needles or leaves at the base of the plants: Cannas, caladiums and tropical-looking elephant ears – cut shriveled leaves to the ground. Gingers – yellow or brown stems may just pop off the plant, or cut them back in the spring. Firespike (Odontonema) and firecracker plant (Russelia) – can be cut to the ground. Hummingbird bush (Hamelia), a Florida/Caribbean native, and turk’s cap (Malvaviscus), a tough Texas native – trim to shape or to the ground. Hibiscus plants – you need to figure out what kind you have: Herbaceous hibiscus, like the Texas star and those with dinner-plate sized flowers – cut the dead stems to the ground. Rose of Sharon hibiscus is a woody shrub – cut for shape. Tropical hibiscus with brightly colored flowers – protect them during cold snaps and don’t prune until spring. The cotton rose hibiscus may be tree-sized, so best to wait until spring. Don’t prune these semi-hardy plants until spring: angel’s trumpets, jatropha, candlestick plant, cassia, citrus and pittosporum. If you can wait, it’s best to just tidy up the garden – a great way to stay warm during our cold snaps – then prune in early March.

Suzzanne Chapman is the botanical collections curator at Mercer Botanic Gardens and promotes organic gardening, growing native plants, and protecting the environment. Send your questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Suzzanne Chapman
Author: Suzzanne ChapmanEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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Suzzanne Chapman is the botanical collections curator at Mercer Botanic Gardens and promotes organic gardening, growing native plants, and protecting the environment. Send your questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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