Pruning: a question of timing

When tidying the garden it's wise to take a few moments to consider each plant's life cycle.

Credit: brewbooks


When tidying the garden, it’s wise to take a few moments to consider each plant’s life cycle.

For example, pruning an early-flowering shrub in winter can remove all the flower buds, leaving the gardener scratching his head in spring, wondering where the blossoms went.

Evergreen ferns have different growth cycles as well. Many, such as deer fern and sword fern, produce new fronds in spring; late winter is the ideal time to clip old fronds at the base if they look winter-worn.

However, our native licorice fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza), shown here in its favorite spot on a bigleaf maple, starts into new growth with the fall rains. It grows and stores nutrients until the heat of summer, at which time it becomes dormant and old fronds can be removed. If cut back in winter with other ferns, licorice fern will gradually weaken and may die.

With more than 30 years experience in horticulture in B.C. – in wholesale, retail and at VanDusen Botanical Garden for a decade – Carolyn Jones brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to GardenWise and as staff horticulturist.