Pruning Hydrangeas

As we close in on the time of year when hydrangeas lose their leaves for winter we receive calls about pruning them.  “Can I cut them back?”  “If so, will they bloom next year?”

All good questions and the answer to that question depends upon the variety of hydrangea that you have.  Whether it blooms on last years stems (old wood) or on new growth (new wood).


Panicle Hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculate)– blooms on new growth so “prune on”. They usually bloom in late summer so don’t prune them then.  Examples are:  Fire Light, Limelight, Little Lime, Quick Fire, Little Quick Fire





Bigleaf Hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) – Only prune when the flowers begin to fade. Flower buds begin forming in late summer for the following season, so don’t prune this type of hydrangea after August 1.  Examples are: Most are mopheads, some are lacecaps.  Cityline series, Let’s Dance series, Endless Summer series. 




Smooth Hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens) – bloom on new growth so pruning hard in late winter or early spring promotes new growth which will produce more flowers. Examples are: Incrediball series, Invincibelle series, Annabelle.




Oakleaf Hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) – bloom on the previous season’s growth so prune right after flowering in the fall or in early winter. Don’t take more that 1/3 fo the total growth when pruning. Examples are:  Pee Wee, Alice, Ruby Slippers.

This is general pruning information.  I suggest verifying the species you have and reading advice that is specific to that species prior to pruning.

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Pruning Tools

We are nearing one of the best times of the year to prune many shrubs and trees.  This task can be much easier when using the correct pruning tool for the job.

Lopper – this is a 2 handed tool and is used for medium sized branches, those that are too large for a hand pruner to cut.




Pruner – a one-handed tool for smaller branches, usually ½ inch or less.




Bypass pruner or lopper – This tool has 2 blades that pass by each other. This tool slices all the way through what you are cutting making a clean cut that heals quickly.  This is the preferred type of tool to use on live stems or branches.





Anvil lopper or pruner – has one sharp blade and one flat surface that acts like a blacksmith’s anvil.  The sharp blade comes down and crushes what you are cutting on the anvil.  This blade should be used on dead wood only and not live stems / limbs since it will crush the soft, living tissue causing the plant to take longer to heal from pruning.



Ratcheting Pruner – These make quick and easy work of pruning thicker branches.  The ratcheting mechanism magically moves through different settings as you cut through thick branches.  A must have if you are pruning larger shrubs with thicker branches.


Pruning Saw – can be used for wood that is too large for loppers or ratcheting pruners.  The curved blade makes it easier for our body to pull the blade when sawing above your head or below your waist.

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Don’t Prune Spring Blooming Plants In Fall

Most spring blooming plants have begun the process of setting their buds for spring.  If they are trimmed in the fall you will not have blooms on that plant in the spring.  The proper time to trim those plants is after they finish blooming in the spring.

Don’t prune in the Fall:

  • Azaleas
  • Gardenias
  • Forsythia
  • Many hydrangea varieties
  • Spirea
  • Viburnum
  • Camellias
  • Indian Hawthorn
Contact us with questions about when to prune specific plants.
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Prepare Your Houseplants For Their Move Indoors

Did you move some or all of your houseplants outdoors during the spring and summer months?  If so, then it will soon be time to transition them back indoors for the cooler months ahead.


First question is when to move them.  The nighttime temperature will dictate when they should be indoors.  Once nighttime low temperatures reach 50 degrees your plants will fare better inside than out.


Don’t wait until Mark Scirto tells you the low temp tonight is under 50 degrees to gather all your plants.  You’re then bringing in not only your plants but everything living on them or in the pot….(spiders, lizards, and other creepy crawlers).


Determine where each plant is moving to indoors.

  • Make sure there is enough light for the plant – if not, maybe a grow light is necessary.
  • Protect furniture or flooring from watering mishaps with saucers under each plant. (Don’t leave water standing in the saucers since this is not healthy for your plants)


Check your plants for Pests

  • Look for mealy bugs and other pests on the underneath of leaves or at the joint of leaves and branches.
  • Use a magnifying glass and examine the plant – leaves, stems, and soil.
  • If you find pests then treat the plant with the appropriate product while the plant is outdoors and follow up with another application within 7-14 days to kill any freshly hatched bugs.


Preventative Treatment

  • Even if you don’t visually see pests, I suggest using an insecticidal soap or organic insecticide to prevent any “surprise visitors”.
  • Apply while the plants are still outdoors and repeat within 7 to 10 days to kill any newly hatched bugs.


Minimize shock to your plants 

  • Your plants indoors will not receive as much light as they did when outside.  To prevent shock from the move, slowly acclimate them to lower light while outdoors.  Move them to a progressively darker area over a 5 day period of time and then move them indoors.
  • Be prepared to see some leaf drop once the plants are moved inside.


Indoor Care

  • Your houseplants growth will slow once moved indoors and they will not require as much water.
  • The dryer air inside your house will affect your plants.  Spraying or misting plants can provide additional humidity along with grouping plants together to increase the humidity level. Create a humidity tray by adding gravel to the saucer and filling it with water to just below the top of the gravel.  As the water evaporates it humidifies the air around the plant.
  • Your houseplant won’t require as much fertilizer once indoors either.  Apply a slow release, gentle fertilizer when they are first moved inside – something like Schultz All Purpose Extended Feed Plant Food.


By following these few steps your houseplants will fare much better over the winter months.  Once the nighttime lows remain 60 degrees or above you can safely move them back outside next spring.


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Mums: Enjoy Them For Years Instead of Weeks

A Mum blooms for 3-4 weeks and then begins to fade.   Most people toss Mums away after they finish blooming – STOP!  Here’s how to get more bang for your buck and enjoy Mums longer than a few weeks in the Fall.


After it is through blooming look at the base of the plant near the soil and you should see small new stems growing.  Those stems will be next years main stalks.


Find a good sunny spot to plant the Mum in your garden. Cut back the plant close to the ground after it is finished flowering.  The part of the plant above ground will die over the winter but the root ball will be very much alive.


Look for new growth in early spring and watch for the plant to begin to set flower buds.  Most Garden Mums will flower both in Spring and Fall.  After their spring bloom trim the spent blooms off the plant, usually in May or June.  This will give them time to continue to grow and set new buds that will bloom in the Fall.


Now you can enjoy Mums for years instead of just a few weeks each Fall.


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Should You Overseed With Ryegrass?

Although it is still too early to overseed your lawn with rye grass for the winter it isn’t too early to make the decision whether or not to overseed.  What is overseeding – sewing annual or perennial rye grass seed on top of your existing warm season grass.  As your warm season grass becomes dormant the cooler season rye grass will stay green throughout the winter months.


Over the years this has become much less popular due to the additional work involved to maintain a winter grass and the problems it can create for your warm season grass.


First things first – the additional work maintaining rye grass involves mowing through the winter months.  If you want a reprieve from mowing or paying for that service, then skip overseeding your lawn.  In addition to mowing you should fertilize your rye grass monthly (October – January).  You will also need to water the freshly sewn seed daily through the germination process and after the grass is established apply supplemental water when rainfall is less than 1 inch per week.


The type of warm season grass you have will also dictate whether you should overseed or not.  All research points to NOT overseeding St. Augustine grass and also discourages doing so if you have Zoysia or Centipede lawns.  Bermuda is the grass that will fare best if overseeded.


Overseeding can cause problems for your warm season grass.  If your lawn is not healthy then overseeding will add to it’s problems.  If the spring is cooler and wetter than normal the rye grass will not die out before your warm season lawn begins to grow.  The 2 grasses (rye and the warm season grass) are competing for the same space to grow, the same water and the same nutrients which will weaken even healthy grass.


With all that being said however, a well sewn rye grass lawn with it’s bright green color brightens up any winter day.  The decision to overseed is one that needs to be thought out keeping in mind the type of warm season grass you have, it’s current health and how much work you’re up to.  I don’t mean to discourage you from overseeding, only present facts that might be helpful in making your decision.


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Meet The Peggy Martin Rose

I am fascinated with the stories surrounding plants and the Peggy Martin rose story is one of the best.  Also known as the Hurricane Katrina rose, she is a vigorous, thornless climber with clusters of pink flowers and is extremely easy to grow.  Blooming in the spring and again in the fall (even in our Texas heat) this rose is resilient in many ways.

The story begins in 1989 in New Orleans when Peggy Martin was given cuttings from a thornless climbing rose.  Very active in the New Orleans Old Garden Rose Society she showed it to Dr. William Welch of Texas A&M in 2003 who was most impressed by the rose.  He left with cuttings but little hope that it would survive in the hot, dry Texas climate.

Survive it did, quickly covering his 15-foot fence and blooming both in the spring and fall after the second year.  He was most impressed with this “un-named rose”. 

In 2005 Peggy’s home was under 20-feet of salt water for 2 weeks following hurricane Katrina.  When she was finally able to visit her property she found the rose bush still alive and flourishing. Dr. Welch reconnected with Peggy a couple of months after the hurricane and learned of the survival of the rose bush.  He had already been convinced that this rose deserved to be marketed and used funds from a Horticulture Restoration Fund to make it happen.

He came up with the idea to name it the Peggy Martin rose and to also use it as a fund raiser with a $1.00 per plant donation going to the Garden Restoration Fund.  Several rose growers got on board to help grow and market this unique rose. This rose has become a beautiful symbol of survival and a testament of resiliency.

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Ants & Jimmy Stewart

Who has been stung by an ant and thought “ants are good, they are an essential part of our environment and we could not live without them” says no one ever!  But it’s true!

I won’t bore you with a lot of numbers but there are over 22,000 different species of ants in the world and they have evolved over the last 99 million years from the wasp family.

  • They are smart and are good problem solvers, working well together within their colonies, each doing their job and are adaptable to change.  Us humans could take some lessons from these tiny guys!
  • Ants are pests themselves but they eat the eggs of even pestier bugs – like flies, fleas, bedbugs and cockroaches – and help rid areas of pests that do serious damage to gardens and crops.  They’ll eat ticks, termites and even scorpions.
  • By feeding on dead animals and other insects along with dying vegetation they help keep our world clean.  
  • Ants are natures soil tillers, their underground tunnels help with air and water circulation of the soil which benefits all plant life.  Earthworms steal the credit, but ants do the real work.
  • Plant seeds are carried by ants back to their nests where some will take root, thus helping plants spread and grow over a wider area.

I realize that ants do good work, but I don’t want them bothering me while they do it.  I do not use a complete insect killing granule on my lawn since it kills many beneficial bugs – including the most important of all – the bee.  I choose to kill individual fire ant mounds with Quick Kill which works within minutes killing the entire colony and queen.  Lesser ants like sugar ants are dealt with in a similar fashion.   

Ants are like Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life” – the world is a better place with them in it.

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How To Identify (and get rid of) Mealybugs

Mealybugs thrive in warm/hot conditions on indoor and outdoor plants alike and spread quickly from plant to plant. This is THE time of year you will find them on a variety of plants. 

How do Mealybugs hurt my plants?

They suck juice from your plant and over time will cause leaf drop, stunted new growth, and eventually kill the plant. This pest’s waste causes mold growth on the plant which attracts other insects.

What do Mealybugs look like?

Kin to scale, they look like white fuzz on leaves or stems. The females lay up to 100 eggs in cotton-looking sacs you will see on the plant. The eggs will hatch in 6-14 days and the newly hatched mealys crawl to a spot on the plant, insert their “beak” into the plant and begin feeding.

How do I protect my plants?

1.   Keep your plants healthy. A hungry, weak, or stressed plant is more susceptible to mealybug infestation.

2.   Use a systemic insecticide as a preventative. By applying a systemic insecticide to your plant you are protecting it from future infestations. When a mealybug feeds on a plant that has been treated with a systemic insecticide it kills the mealybug. No eggs can be laid, your plant is protected.

3.   Inspect your plants for Mealybugs, look for them at the juncture of the stems and on new growth

4.   Spray your plant with an insecticide that kills mealybugs. This will require more than 1 treatment to make sure all have been killed.

5.   Use both a systemic for long term, future protection along with an insecticide spray if you see mealybugs on your plant. This 2-prong approach will kill the bugs on the plant and prevent mealybugs and other pests from harming your plant.

6.   On houseplants you can remove the individual Mealybugs with cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol. This would not be feasible for large infestations.

7.   Organic methods include the use of insecticidal soaps, Neem oil and other natural techniques.

How do I know if the mealybugs are dead?

If the mealybug is alive it is gooey, if it flakes off it is dead.

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The Number Two Reason Newly Planted Trees Die

Planting a tree too deeply in the ground is the number two reason we see newly planted trees die (Number one is underwatering). If you can’t see where the trunk starts to flare out at the base of the tree then you are planting the tree too deep.

The first picture correctly shows the trunk flare and the largest few roots exposed above the soil level. Sometimes, it is necessary to remove dirt from the rootball to expose the root flare properly. This is the correct depth to plant a tree.



The second tree is planted too deeply. You see only straight trunk, no flare at the bottom. This tree is doomed unless it is “lifted” and planted correctly.

So why does planting too deeply kill a tree? 

Tree roots require oxygen and when covered with too much dirt the surface roots suffocate.

We suggest digging your hole no deeper than the bottom of the rootball to the trunk flare. Make sure the flare of the tree is at or slightly above the soil line. You should dig the hole wider than the rootball – at least 6” wider and up to 2 times the width of the rootball.

What if my tree is planted too deeply? 

Depending on the length of time it has been planted will depend on the solution.

Feel free to text us pictures at (903) 339-0922 along with your call back number so we can contact you with answers.

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