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What Should I do in the Garden Month by Month?


  • Cut off old foliage on hellebores (Lenten Rose) as new leaves and flowers begin to show. This is much harder to do after the new growth is fully-grown.

  • Finish leaf clean up and cut down remaining herbaceous perennial foliage.

  • This is a great time to add mulch to your beds. Because the foliage from most plants is dormant, it is much easier to spread around your plants and shrubs. January is best because most spring flowering bulb foliage is just emerging and can be mulched over more easily. Our climate has many days in the winter that are warm enough to get outdoors and the activity of spreading mulch keeps you warm, but not too warm.

  • Dig up wild onions making sure to get the entire bulb or they will regrow.

  • Pull up remaining fall vegetables and dig in compost.

  • Clean and sharpen garden tools.

  • It’s a good time to shop for winter blooming plants (i.e., camellias, edgeworthia, hellebores, sweet shrub, winter hazel and witch hazel). Give some protection from the cold before planting in a permanent location especially if a nursery had them in a protected area and low temperatures are forecasted.

  • Order seeds and plants from catalogs. By ordering early, you get the best selection before things sell out. Seeds will arrive right away so you may develop a planting schedule during this slow time of the year.



  • Check for tea scale on the underside of camellia leaves and spray with a dormant oil if present.

  • Cut off old foliage of liriope (monkey grass) with hand pruners or string trimmers for small areas or use a lawn mower with a bag for large areas. Test an area by putting the mower at the highest setting and adjust down as needed. You want to remove the old foliage but not scalp the plants down to the ground.

  • Cut down ornamental grasses before new growth begins.

  • Transplant dormant shrubs and trees.

  • Begin planting seeds indoors. Read labels to determine how early.

  • Plant bare root roses.

  • Prune roses when the buds begin to swell.

  • Prune butterfly bush and beautyberry back hard to control size.



  • Spring is a beautiful time in the garden, but can also be a bit overwhelming for the gardener. Remind yourself to enjoy this rebirth of the garden and prioritize what has to be done, because there is always next year for the rest.

  • Prune evergreens before new growth appears so energy is not wasted on producing new foliage that will be removed.

  • Plant cool season vegetables such as broccoli, lettuce, snap peas, chard, turnips, etc.

  • Candytuft is a great evergreen edging plant that blooms heavily this time of year and for a long period. Consider it as an edging for spring blooming shrubs and bulbs.

  • Divide plants that were not divided in the fall, if needed, as they begin to emerge.

  • Deadhead daffodils so that plant energy isn’t wasted on developing seed. Do not remove the old foliage until it browns in the summer so that the bulb can build up energy for next year’s bloom.

  • Plant spring flowering shrubs that are now in nurseries.

  • Thin out old canes to the base of the plant on forsythia and other mature spring bloomers after blooms are finished if they have become too dense.

  • butterfly bush and beautyberry can be pruned back hard to control size when new leaf buds appear.

  • Sow cool season grass seed after mid-March. If you choose to put out pre-emergent, wait until fall to reseed. Watch for blooming forsythia and dogwoods as they signal your small window of opportunity to kill the weed seeds.

  • Begin hardening off seedlings with time outdoors as daytime temperatures go above 60 degrees in semi-shade for a few hours. Increase the time spent outdoors as well as the amount of sun every three or four days until temperatures are reliably above 55 degrees overnight.

  • Install plant supports as necessary before plants get too big. Grow-through supports work well for most plants.

  • Subshrubs should not be cut back in the fall and winter like herbaceous perennials. Spring is the time to cut off dead or old foliage after new growth appears. Lavender and thyme may be pruned back but not into old wood. Wait until new green growth appears and do not cut below that.

  • Caryopteris, pineapple sage, artemisia, rue, Russian sage, scented geraniums and ratty cast iron leaves can be pruned after new growth appears. Leave 4 or 5 leaf nodes rather than cutting too low.

  • Feed roses 10-10-10 fertilizer and cut back to an outside bud. Apply Elmers Glue to the cut stem to prevent rose borer. Remove all canes less than pencil size. Remove older canes to encourage new canes. Only leave most vigorous canes to a total of 3-4 canes.

  • Mid-March, spray boxwoods with a systemic insecticide to control leaf miners.

  • As canna lilies emerge, remove any old stems and discard. Spray new stems with Bt (Bacillus thuringiengsis) to prevent leaf rollers.

  • Be watchful of thrips on daylilies and iris and spray them with insecticidal soap or systemic insecticide.



  • Put out hummingbird feeders by April 1st.

  • Watch for tent caterpillars on trees and open webs with poles or sticks to expose to birds. The caterpillars will not kill the trees, but will weaken them since they will need to replace the eaten foliage.

  • Watch for aphids on new growth and spray with a strong stream of water from a hose to dislodge. This may take a few times, but once knocked off, they usually don’t go back. If you find aphids on rose buds, you can just pinch them off.

  • Prune and fertilize azaleas and camellias after they bloom.

  • Prune evergreen shrubs as new growth appears to control size or encourage bushier plants.

  • It is usually safest to wait on planting warm season plants until after our average last frost date of April 15th. However many perennials can be planted earlier. Warm season vegetables such as tomatoes and basil which can be stunted by cool temperatures should be kept in a warm place at night until the end of the month. Take them outside during the day then back inside at night and when the temperature is too cool (<55 degrees).

  • If you have stored tender perennials or tropical plants inside for the winter, remember to slowly acclimate them to the sun by giving them some shade until they begin to grow. Wait until after April 15th to leave them outdoors overnight.

  • It is usually safe to direct sow seeds outdoors after April 20th. If too cool, they may take longer to germinate, but should not be harmed unless very cool weather occurs after they germinate.

  • You can enjoy pansies until the first of May before changing out the annual beds for summer. However, you may find that the best plant selection is in April. You can shop for summer annuals in April and hold them until ready to plant. Annuals that need warmer temperatures such as lantana, cosmos and zinnias are usually not available until May.

  • Clean out dead or dying leaves on lambs ear to improve air circulation.

  • As iris blooms fade, cut off the seed heads when finished blooming. If seeds are allowed to mature, it will take energy from plant growth and make a weaker plant.

  • Watch for yellowing on gardenias. Apply magnesium for yellowing on older leaves and iron for yellowing on new leaves.



  • It is important to walk the garden as often as possible to not only enjoy the fruits of your labor but to catch problems in the early stages when they are the easiest to correct.

  • Pull out winter annuals and prepare beds for summer plants. Transplants purchased at nurseries give instant effect, but seeds may be planted directly out into the garden as well. Some plants such as sunflower, cosmos and zinnias grow quickly from seed.

  • Remove any old soil from containers and add new potting soil before adding summer plants. If the mix does not already contain fertilizer, add a slow release fertilizer.

  • Prune spring flowering roses after flowering is finished. If canes have become too congested on climbing roses, prune out one or two of the oldest canes to the ground and feed them (10-10-10 fertilizer).

  • Deadhead flowers on plants as blooms fade for continued bloom.

  • Plant warm season vegetables and herbs from seeds or transplants.

  • Remove seed pods and stalks from baptisia and cut back plant foliage by a third to avoid flopping stems.

  • Look for leaf gall on camellias. Pick off swollen leaves and discard in the trash.

  • Watch for Japanese beetles beginning mid-month. Hand-pick minor infestations by placing your hand under beetle and tapping leaves or flowers. Beetles will naturally drop straight down. Put the beetles in soapy water to kill. Avoid using pesticides to protect bees visiting flowers. If you must spray, do so late in the afternoon when bees are less active and the chemicals can dry overnight before they return. You can cut off the blooms (favorite part of plant for beetles) and spray the foliage until the beetle population decreases to avoid harming bees.

  • Harvest seeds from spring blooming annuals (larkspur, poppies, etc.) after the seed pods turn brown. You may also allow these to drop naturally, but harvesting controls the distribution and quantity of seedlings. Save seeds in a dry and cool place until the fall. Make sure to label containers.

  • Remove suckers on tomato plants and attach new growth to supports.

  • Remove spent spring vegetables and plant more summer vegetables.

  • Begin pinching plants that get too leggy such as aster, mums, sedum and coleus to encourage bushier growth when they get around one foot tall.



  • Take care to not overwater as the temperatures rise. Most plants need about 1” of water a week even in very warm temperatures. It is important to water deeply, but less often so that the roots grow deep into the soil. New plantings would be an exception to this guideline. The moisture level of the rootball of new plantings should be monitored closely and not allowed to completely dry out. Water at the base of the plant to completely saturate the rootball.

  • Weed often and preferably when the soil is damp because they are easier to pull out.

  • Raise mowing height to 2 ½” - 3” on fescue lawns.

  • Fertilize warm season grass such as Bermuda now.

  • Feed roses for the last time (10-10-10 fertilizer). They are heavy feeders!

  • Try cutting back hibiscus, it will delay blooms by a couple of weeks but the stems won't require staking.

  • Many summer flowering plants will rebloom if old flowers are removed. It is also a good time to cut flowers for arranging indoors. Cutting them early in the morning is best.

  • Remove old foliage from daffodil plants when completely brown.

  • Mark plants that you plan to move in the fall while they are still in bloom or you may forget exactly which plant it was. You can use plastic knives with notes written on the handles for single plants. The sharp end may be pushed into the soil in an inconspicuous spot. Circle the base of the plants with string and add a tag if it is among similar plants (i.e., daylilies).



  • This is one of the best times of the year to observe wildlife in the garden. Bees, butterflies and birds are all fun to watch and very busy this time of year, so brave the heat and get up close to observe them.

  • A clean water source for drinking and bathing is very important for wildlife. We have long periods with no rain and you can help by providing a birdbath or other saucers that are shallow enough for them to bath in. Remember to empty these every 2 or 3 days to keep them clean and avoid mosquito breeding. Mosquito dunks can be used if you can’t empty them as often. These dunks contain Bt (Bacillus thuringiengsis) which is harmless to animals and humans and only impact the mosquito larva.

  • Watch for swallowtail butterfly caterpillars on parsley and fennel. It's great to plant extras so you have enough to share with them. You can cover the parsley with file crates so that the birds don’t eat the caterpillars. You can use other covers, just make sure the holes are small enough to keep the birds out but allow sun and water in and a way for the caterpillars to crawl out when they are ready to form their chrysalis.

  • Pull weeds before they produce seed to control their spread. Lawn weeds can also be controlled by hand pulling. If you must use chemicals, it is important to know what the weeds are in order to obtain the proper product. Read the label before you buy the product to make sure it controls that weed and apply it as directed. You will be wasting time and money if you buy the wrong product. Only apply it to the weeds and not the entire lawn as that is a waste of money unless you are spreading a pre-emergent. Most weeds have already germinated and a pre-emergent will do nothing to weeds already growing. If you need help identifying weeds, the Union County Extension Service provides a free service that you can access via email (best way to send photos) at or by phone at 704-283-3531. Master Gardeners will return your emails or calls and monitor these Monday through Friday.

  • Divide bearded iris. Cut old foliage to about 4” before replanting.

  • Lightly prune shrubs and foundation plantings to maintain shape. Only new growth on azaleas and camellias should be pinched or you may cut flower buds off.

  • If you used a slow release fertilizer in your containers, it needs to be reapplied for plantings done in early May.

  • If container plants are looking sad, it is a good time to visit nurseries for refresher plants. Nurseries often have plants marked down to clear out for fall plants.

  • By the end of the month, Japanese beetles have laid eggs in the ground. Cutting back on watering lawns will help to control them because the eggs/grubs need adequate moisture levels to survive.

  • Stop pinching fall blooming plants.

  • Order fall blooming bulbs and plants.



  • Don’t be too quick to deadhead your flower seed heads. Goldfinches are nesting now and will eat the seeds left on your coneflowers, rudbeckias and sunflowers. If coneflowers are very heavy with blooms cut off some of the largest blooms after they have faded to keep the plants upright. Rudbeckia Maxima seeds are favorites of the goldfinches and it is delightful to watch them hopping up the stems and even being upside down sometimes when eating.

  • Stop fertilizing plants at the beginning of the month. You do not want to encourage new growth that may not have time to harden off before the first freeze.

  • Remove second year canes on blackberry plants that produced fruit this year. The current year canes will produce fruit next year.

  • Order spring flowering bulbs.

  • Buds are forming on azaleas, so it is important to maintain moisture levels in the soil. Rain may not reach the roots due to overhead trees, so check the root zone weekly and water as needed.

  • Complete any last pruning of shrubs so that new growth has time to harden off before cold weather.

  • Cut out dead or dying foliage on plants to improve appearance as well as control disease.

  • Begin sowing cool season vegetables around the third week. Consistent moisture is important for germination, so check daily if no rain.

  • End of August through the first of September put out grub killer.



  • It is important to stay on top of weeding as many will drop seeds now that were produced this summer.

  • Reseed and fertilize your lawn.

  • Continue to deadhead flowers that are overly prolific seeders. There will be plenty that you miss or that the birds scatter that will make the planting come back next year.

  • Watch for aphids especially on butterfly weed. Use a hose to spray them off. You may need to repeat this several times to keep them off the plants.

  • Remove warm season vegetables and herbs that are no longer producing to make room for cool season vegetables such as lettuce, beets, carrots, chard, broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts. Lettuce, beets, carrots and chard grow well from seeds directly sown into the garden, but most others are best set out as plants.

  • Many spring and summer flowering perennials should be divided now through the end of October. Move perennials that you noted during the growing season would look better in another location or are not performing well in their current location.

  • Purchase and plant new perennials. Consider planting fall interest plants that are widely available now.

  • Cute back lavender.

  • Lime and fertilize cool season grasses. Lawn revitalization work such as aeration, raking thatch and seeding should be done into mid-October.

  • Remove tired annuals that are bloomed out and prepare beds for winter annuals or mulch to prevent erosion during winter. Shop for winter annuals by late September for best availability. Plant out through mid-October.



  • Clean bird houses.

  • Plant strawberries.

  • As leaves begin to fall, keep newly seeded grass areas clear by carefully raking or blowing off leaves. Continue to keep area moist but not wet. Mow new grass when approximately 3” tall. Use a bagger on mower to remove straw used during germination as well as fallen leaves instead of trying to rake which will pull up new grass. Any straw left will decompose.

  • Dig or take cuttings of tender plants before the first frost and winter over indoors.

  • Dig and divide lily bulbs. Cut off stems and replant immediately.

  • Dig and divide gladiolus. Wash off soil, remove stems and leave in a dry place for a week before placing bulbs in a paper bag for storage in a cool area until late spring replanting. Gladiolus do not need to be dug up unless they need dividing.

  • Purchase new shrubs and trees as well as prepare areas for planting. These can be planted through November but best availability now. Only balled and burlapped plants need to be planted immediately. Transplant shrubs; keep well-watered and mulched.

  • Plant garlic cloves and forget them until next summer when leaves turn brown and are ready to harvest. The cloves may be purchased at the grocery store, but look for organically grown.

  • Plant spring bulbs toward the end of month through the end of November.

  • Sow/spread seeds that need winter cold to germinate such as butterfly weed.

  • Sow/spread annual spring seeds such as larkspur and poppies by end of month. No need to cover seeds.



  • Clean bird feeders and refresh seed.

  • Clean birdbaths, refresh water and add a heater if possible. Heaters made for birdbaths only use electricity when temperatures drop below freezing, so you do not need to worry about your electric bill increasing. Fresh water is scarce in the winter during cold periods. The joy of watching the visiting birds is great entertainment too when we are kept inside by the weather.

  • Enjoy the leaves changing before the big clean up. Too many leaves can suffocate plants and create havens for diseases and overwintering pests. If you decide to use them as mulch, it is best to shred them first. Pile them up and run a mower over them with a bag. You may also use a mulching mower on the leaves on your lawn and leave them on the grass areas. This will add organic matter to the soil which is mostly clay in our area.

  • Store non-hardy potted plants such as agapanthus in an unheated, but frost-free area such as a garage or crawlspace.

  • Fertilize lawn.

  • Plant lilies by mid-month or as soon as you get them. The bulbs do not like to be out of the ground.

  • Continue to plant spring flowering bulbs until the end of the month.

  • Cut down herbaceous perennials to the basal foliage as they brown. This can be very difficult to do this in spring when new growth emerges. This will also prevent a cozy home for overwintering pests such as snails and diseases.

  • Remove sprayers, timers and hoses from faucets. Store all in the garage except hoses which may remain outside as long as they are disconnected so that the majority of the water is emptied. Winterize irrigation system.

  • Empty terra cotta pots and clean before putting away for the winter. If you want to grow flowers such as pansies and tulips in terra cotta, you may have some damage to your pots during very cold weather unless you are willing to bring them in during periods when the temperature goes down into the teens. Otherwise, you need to remove the soil from these pots that will be outside all winter to avoid the freeze and thawing of wet soil that will crack the pottery. Empty pots will not be damaged unless they get plugged up and rainwater collects.It is safest to store these where rain will not reach them.

  • Prune rose canes to 4 feet so that winter winds will not catch long branches and disturb the roots. This will also remove mummified blooms that can harbor diseases.



  • Continue to water newly planted trees and shrubs during dry spells to maintain a moist but not wet root ball.

  • After the grass stops growing, it is a good time to take your mower in for service. Make sure that the blade is sharpened as well. If not serviced, put a gas stabilizer in the gas tank or run the mower until the tank is empty.

  • Once beds are clear of dead foliage from perennials as well as leaves, spread compost one or two inches away from the base of plants before refreshing mulch. This is an excellent way to feed your plants. You will be feeding the soil as well as the plant. This is a good cool season activity since it can be hard work. To make it more manageable, pick one bed each year to work on rather than taking on the whole garden at once.

  • Thin seedlings such as larkspur and poppies sown in October.

  • As rose leaves finish dropping, clean all of them up. Do not add these to the compost pile as it will spread diseases to any plants that you use the compost on.

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