Butterfly bush (Buddlia davidii) may be pruned this fall after it goes dormant, or I like to wait and see what winter kills and prune next spring. Then, remove only the dead wood. My Star Magnolia (Magnoliaceae stellata) bush already has big flower buds, so I only prune it after blooming in the spring. Magnolia trees and shrubs need very little pruning.  The biggest problem with a Magnolia is protecting those flower buds over the cold winter. 

          Your hybrid tea, grandiflora, Old English (David Austin), and floribunda roses bloom on new wood so they can be pruned after a couple hard freezes (temperatures in the lower 20’s or colder). I usually only top my roses so they do not blow in wind. I then store my large tomato cages over the top and put wood chips around them for the winter. I do not do this until after Thanksgiving and the ground is frozen. The purpose of the mulch is not to keep the ground warm but to keep the ground cold and avoid the freezing and thawing. More trees, shrubs, and plants are winter killed by the freezing and thawing that takes place in the winter, than by the cold temperature. DO NOT prune most climbing roses as they bloom on old wood. Pruning now will remove flowers for next year.  Next spring prune only those canes that were winter killed.

          DO NOT prune most spring blooming shrubs in the fall, such as lilac, forsythia, bridal wreath spirea, and flowering almond. If you prune the shrubs now you will be cutting off the flowers for next year. Prune these spring blooming shrubs right after they bloom by taking out 1/4th to 1/3rd of the biggest, oldest canes all the way to the ground. This will reduce the height of the plant and open it up. This method also helps to control insect damage and especially lilac borers as they like the old, weak canes. Thus by pruning you help get rid of the borers.  Also by pruning you have a new bush every 3 to 4 years and more flowering throughout the bush.

          Deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves in the fall) can be pruned after they have lost all their leaves and have gone dormant. But the best time to prune them and fruit trees is in late February or early March. Conifers can be pruned, if needed, after you are sure they have gone dormant, which will be after a couple hard freezes (temps in the low 20’s). Pruned in mid-December the branches of conifers are good for Christmas arrangements and wreaths.

          DO NOT prune fruit trees, most deciduous trees, and most conifers (evergreen) trees and shrubs between the first week in August and the time they go dormant which is about Thanksgiving. Pruning encourages new growth and this new growth usually does not mature and winter kills.

          DO NOT APPLY ANY DRESSING SUCH AS TAR, PAINT, OR WOUND DRESSING TO THE CUT SURFACE. Research has found that trees do better when left to heal naturally. Drying out from the cold winds when the ground is frozen is also a problem for conifer trees and shrubs that have already set their flower buds. Spraying an anti-desiccant or an anti-transpirant like “Wilt Pruf” really helps. Do this about Christmas time on a day when the temps are above 40 degrees F.

Copyright 2005 




          In the fall I let the first light frost hit my amaryllis plants to get them ready for a minimum 6 to 8 week nap.  I then put the pots on their side on the patio to dry out. After the leaves have died and gone brown, I cut off the foliage and put the pots in a cool place for the winter. Store in a location that does not get above 55-60 degrees F. Also, do not store in an unheated garage or any location where the bulbs might freeze.   

          If the plant has been out in the soil for the summer, dig it with roots intact, let the plant dry out and the leaves turn brown. Take the old leaves off and put the bulb in a container for its mandatory rest of at least 6 to 8 weeks. The container can be a pot, or a box filled with peat moss, vermiculite, sand, or sawdust. You can separate the bulbs at this time or wait until you take them out of storage.

          If you want to force a bloom for late January or February, bring the plant out of storage after it has had its mandatory 6 to 8 week nap. When you put it into a pot, select one that is only 1 or 2 inches larger than the bulb, thoroughly soak the soil, and place in a warm sunny location. Add just enough water occasionally to dampen the soil. If the plant is already in a pot and you see a green shoot coming up, take it out of storage, thoroughly soak the soil, and as above, place in a sunny location and water only occasionally. It will take 6 to 8 weeks before you get a bloom.  Do not fertilize amaryllis until the flower is done blooming.

          I have other plants that are blooming in the house during and after Christmas so most of my amaryllis are kept sleeping until spring, and then planted in the garden with the other lilies. If you do this they will bloom along with the other lilies in early summer. When planting outside, you can either leave them in the pot or plant the bulb directly in the ground.  Amaryllis are heavy feeders so fertilize with a water soluble fertilizer every two to three weeks during the summer.  This builds up the energy in the bulb so you will have a large flower next year.

          For more information about amaryllis, pruning, or any horticulture question, contact your local County Cooperative Extension Educator for information or check the internet at “”. In the top box scroll down to Extension publications. In the bottom box type in the name of the plant, shrub, flower, or tree, you want to grow, or the name of the insect, or disease you want to treat or control. A list of publications will appear. Read the ones of interest and download to the computer or print what you want to file and save. Also this site is excellent for securing information about what to plant where so it does not become a pest.

          Iowa State University Extension information may be reached at In the search box type in the name of the plant, shrub, flower, tree, insect, or disease you want information about or you want to treat or control. A list of short, practical articles will appear. Read the ones of interest and print what you want to file and save.

Copyright 2005