February is a good time to do late winter pruning. Roses, some hydrangeas, fruit trees and winter-weary perennials can all be pruned now.
Here are some answers to the most asked questions on pruning in February.
Q. When is the best time to prune roses in Western Washington?
A. The best time to prune is when the shears are sharp and you have time to take your time. Roses like to be shaped up in late winter or early spring, so anytime in February or March.
Q. When should I cut back my ornamental grasses such as Carl Forester grass? It is brown and dead from the winter.
A. Commit a post-Valentine’s Day massacre and prune or saw back dormant ornamental grass clumps anytime this month so that the fresh new growth can take over. No need to prune evergreen grasses and sedges that still have foliage color.
Q. Hosta leaves are brown, fern fronds are looking ratty. Can I clean up the garden now?
A. Yes. If it is brown, cut it down when it comes to hardy hosta and hardy ferns. Just go slow and watch for dormant tree frogs that like to overwinter in sword ferns.
Q. Are there any plants that should not be pruned in early spring?
A. Yes! Don’t get snippy with marginally hardy plants such as shrub fuchsias, jasmine, arbutilon or phormiums. Pruning will stimulate plants to push out new growth and it is still too early to wake up tender plants from winter dormancy.
Q. How do I know where to make the pruning cut?
A. In general you want to shape your shrubs by shortening any wild or wayward branches, removing anything dead, diseased or damaged, and thinning out branches that cross or rub against each other. Cut just above a bud if possible and remember that the plant will put out new growth close to the location of the pruning cut.
Q. Must I prune my hydrangeas?
A. Nope. Some hydrangeas like the Annabells (Arborescens hydrangeas) and Pee Gee (Paniculata) varieties will bloom bigger with fewer branches, but most hydrangeas (Macrophylla or big leaf) do fine with just some thinning and cleaning up. Heavy pruning of hydrangeas will sacrifice flowers.
Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at binettigarden.com.