UNITED STATES—Pruning at the proper time has been a concern all winter. Dormant pruning was timely as soon as defoliation began. It remains timely almost until bloom. Pollarding and coppicing are generally although unnecessarily a bit later within that range. Spring pruning begins soon after bloom. Pruning of freeze damage starts after the last reasonable threat of frost.
Frost is as variable as the many climates here. Generally, it causes more damage farther inland and at higher elevations. Conversely and generally, it causes less damage closer to the coast and at lower elevations. Many southern coastal climates experience no frost. However, frigid air drains downhill. Within any plateau, the frostiest areas are the lowest.
Last frost dates should help with scheduling of pruning or grooming of freeze damage to vulnerable vegetation. The last frost date for a climate is the average date of its last frost. Frost becomes increasingly unlikely afterward. That is the best time to add warm season vegetables and annuals to the garden. It is also when to begin grooming freeze damage.
Freeze damage pruning should be neither early nor late.
If not too unsightly, freeze damage lingers until the last frost date for two primary reasons. It shelters vulnerable tissue below, including any new growth that develops prematurely. Also, removal of such damage stimulates new growth that would be even more exposed and innately more vulnerable to frost. However, priorities change soon after the last frost.
Then, it becomes important to groom or prune away freeze damage prior to generation of fresh new growth. For milder climates, it is already timely to do so. It might be a while for less mild climates. Even for frostless climates, this might be a good time to groom growth that is only incidentally shabby. Such grooming gets more complicated with new growth.
Many zonal geraniums are already extending new growth up through shabby old growth. Removal of such old growth or freeze damage without damaging mingling new growth is no simple task. If new growth stretches for sunlight below old growth, it might flop without support from the old growth. It may be more practical to cut all growth back to regenerate. Canna also develop similar complications.
Highlight: Jade Plant
Wandering Jew, spider plant, various philodendron and jade plant were among the most popular houseplants of the 1970s. They are as easy to propagate as they are to grow, so were popular gifts for friends and neighbors. Jade plant, Crassula ovata, commonly grew too big to stay inside without pruning. It fortunately grows better than the others outdoors.
Jade plant does not grow fast, but can eventually get more than six feet tall, with densely rounded form. The succulent stems of such large specimens get quite plump but remain rather fragile. The paired evergreen leaves are thickly succulent, and mostly a bit longer than two inches. Clusters of tiny pale pink or white flowers are not especially impressive.
At least one cultivar is variegated with irregular white stripes. Another is somewhat ruddy with relatively compact growth. Others exhibit tubular or curly leaves. Foliage can fade or develop narrow red edges in response to harsh exposure or heat. It is also susceptible to frost damage. Jade plant is mildly toxic, but also potentially appealing to dogs who chew.
Tony Tomeo can be contacted at tonytomeo.com.