Source: Rick Durham, UK extension horticulture specialist
The extreme cold spell at the end of December 2022 caused severe damage to many shrubs and bushes around Kentucky homes. With plants greening up this spring, you may be wondering what to remove and what to attempt to rescue in your landscape.
The cold is just one part of the puzzle when shrub health declines. Other factors include soil pH, soil volume, too much or too little water and light availability.
Some shrubs may just need a good pruning and time to recover from the winter stress. If you want to try to revive the shrub through pruning, you’ll need to trim it down with sturdy pruning shears. Don’t remove more than one-third of the plant in a season. If the plant is healthy, it will soon produce new green shoots. If your shrub has more brown branches than green at the core, it may be time for you to remove it. When shrubs become too woody in the middle, start over with another plant.
Well-established shrubs may have large, complex root structures. Make sure to completely remove them before planting something new. Use the transition time to do a soil test so you know what amendments it will need before you bring home new plants.
If you must replace landscape shrubs and plants, Kentucky has more than 1,200 nurseries and retailers selling hundreds of types of trees, shrubs, groundcovers and perennials. With 120 counties of resources, you can buy locally without driving very far. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Kentucky Proud program allows individuals locate local retail garden centers that market Kentucky-grown trees and shrubs. Search the garden center database at https://www.kyagr.com/agbus/products.aspx?group=19&category=112.
Retailers looking to stock their garden centers with Kentucky-grown trees and shrubs may use the Landscape Plant Availability Guide https://www.kyagr.com/marketing/plant/common-name-search.aspx.
Kentucky also has many qualified nursery growers, retailers, landscapers and arborists. The Cooperative Extension Service offers many green-industry classes throughout the year. Kentucky nursery growers and retailers are a very well-trained group of horticulturists. They are familiar with Kentucky soil types, weather and other factors playing a role in plant performance.
When you visit a local nursery to choose new plants, make sure and read the tags and note the light, water and soil requirements. Ensure the new plants fit your landscape.
To learn more about transplanting container plants, check out the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension publication Planting Container-Grown Trees and Shrubs in Your Landscape, HO-114. You can find it online here: https://tinyurl.com/24fx9j9p.
For more information about horticultural topics or classes near you, contact the Warren County Cooperative Extension Service.
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