16November 7, 2012

There was a question from Dave in Newburyport about cutting back mums. He wanted to know if they should be cut back in the fall or the spring. At this time of the year, there are a lot of questions about cutting back plants. Let me take a few moments to answer Dave’s question and a few more of the commonly asked questions.

The answer to Dave’s question is that you cut back the mums in the fall. The plant should be cut back level with the soil. In the spring, as the mums put up new growth, you should pick out the top shoots of the plants every few weeks until around the end of June. The pinching back of the tops will force out many new shoots. This will create a mum plant that is relatively short but very bushy. If you keep up with feeding the mum plant, it will create lots of flower buds that will open in the fall.

There always is the question in the fall about cutting back hydrangeas in the fall. The fast majority of the hydrangeas set their flower buds for next year on the growth that formed this past summer. If you cut back the canes now, you will get new shots in the spring, but you won’t get any flowers next summer.

How about cutting back the lawn? The lawn needs to go into winter with very short blades of grass. If you leave the blades long, the blades will mat down during the winter and a fungus disease call snow mold will form. Snow mold can kill off the grass. Don’t put that mower away too early or you will be doing your lawn a disservice.

Rose bushes are usually not cut back in the fall. Cutting them back in the fall does not allow enough time for those cuts to heal. The winter wind will pull the moisture out of those cuts and you may have dead canes come the spring. Better to wait until late March or early April to cut back the rose bushes.

Spring flowering shrubs are not cut back in the fall. For example, rhododendrons are not cut back in the fall. Rhododendrons set their flower buds this past summer season. Cutting back the rhododendrons now will remove the flower buds that would have opened next spring. This holds true for azaleas, forsythia, and any of the other early spring flowering shrubs and trees.

Hopefully this will help all of you in deciding what not to cut back this fall. If you need more advice, stop by the store. We’re there to help.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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