At Van Luyk’s, we are committed to ensuring all of your new nursery plantings are successful. To this end, we offer a one-time replacement guarantee on all of our nursery stock, the details of which are available here.

In recent years we have made a concerted effort at Van Luyk’s to bring in many native varieties of plants. To this end, we offer dozens of varieties of native trees and shrubs. Utilizing native plants in your garden is advantageous for many reasons:

  • Native plants require a fraction of the attention and care compared to that of non-native species. They grow in Ontario without human encouragement and so are accustomed to our climate, soil type, and rainfall levels. It means more time spent enjoying your garden and less time tending to it.
  • Native plants are a boon to local wildlife. They provide food and in some cases habitat for many birds, beneficial insects, and other fauna. Your garden will go from being its own self-contained space to an integral part of your neighbourhood’s ecosystem.
  • With a few exceptions, native plants tend to be drought-tolerant once they are established.
  • Since native plants are easier to grow, they tend to be inexpensive compared to introduced species.

Below you’ll find a selection of the native tree/shrub varieties we offer. Note that this list is subject to seasonal availability — always call us to double-check that these items are in stock.

  • Abies balsamea (Balsam Fir)
  • Acer pensylvanicum (Striped Maple)
  • Acer rubrum (Red Maple)
  • Acer saccharum (Sugar Maple)
  • Alnus incana (Gray Alder)
  • Alnus rugosa (Speckled Alder)
  • Amelanchier arborea (Downy Serviceberry)
  • Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Bearberry/Kinnikinick)
  • Aronia melanocarpa (Black Chokeberry)
  • Asimina triloba (Common Pawpaw)
  • Betula alleghaniensis (Yellow Birch)
  • Betula papyrifera (Paper Birch)
  • Carpinus caroliniana (Blue-Beech)
  • Cercis canadensis (Eastern Redbud)
  • Cornus alternifolia (Pagoda Dogwood)
  • Corylus americana (American Hazelnut)
  • Corylus cornuta (Beaked Hazel
  • Gymnocladus dioicus (Kentucky Coffee Tree)
  • Hamamelis virginiana (Common Witch-Hazel)
  • Hypericum kalmianum (Kalm’s St. John’s Wort)
  • Juglans nigra (Black Walnut)
  • Larix laricina (Tamarack/Eastern Larch)
  • Lindera benzoin (Spicebush)
  • Liriodendron tulipfera (Tulip Tree)
  • Myrica gale (Sweet Gale
  • Myrica pensylvanicum (Bayberry)
  • Nyssa sylvatica (Sourgum/Blackgum)
  • Ostrya virginiana (Ironwood)
  • Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia Creeper)
  • Pinus strobus (Eastern White Pine)
  • Platanus occidentalis (American Sycamore)
  • Populus tremuloides (Trembling Aspen)
  • Prunus serotina (Black Cherry)
  • Ptelea trifoliata (Common Hoptree)
  • Quercus palustris (Pin Oak)
  • Quercus rubra (Red Oak)
  • Rosa blanda (Meadow Rose)
  • Sassafras albidum (Sassafras)
  • Spiraea alba (Meadowsweet)
  • Symphoricarpos alba (Snowberry)
  • Tsuga Canadensis (Eastern Hemlock)
  • Viburnum trilobum (Highbush Cranberry)

Most members of the Walnut family produce a chemical called “juglone” which occurs naturally in all parts of these plants – black walnut, pecan, hickory and others including members of the Carya family. Black Walnut and butternut produce the largest quantity of juglone.

Symptoms of walnut toxicity range from stunting of growth, to partial or total wilting, to death of the affected plant. Sensitive plants can go from healthy to dead within one or two days. Juglone from decomposing black walnut roots can persist in the soil for more than a year after walnut trees have been removed. Walnut roots may extend 50 to 60 feet away from mature walnut trees. Young walnut trees do not appear to cause toxic reactions with sensitive plants until the trees are seven to eight years old.

Juglone can affect other plants either through root contact, leakage or decay in the soil, falling and decaying leaves, or when rain leaches and drips juglone from leaves and branches onto plants below. Plants located beneath the canopy of walnuts trees are most at risk because juglone from the roots, fruit and fallen leaves accumulates there.

Reducing Effects of Juglone

  • Regularly clean up all fallen leaves and fruit from the black walnut tree, keeping debris away from desired landscape plants
  • Do not use any part of the walnut tree as compost or mulch for other plants
  • Maintain high organic matter levels in the soil because organic matter encourages healthy soil microbial populations that can metabolize toxins
  • Plant tolerant trees, shrubs, vines, ground covers, flowers and grasses under walnut trees or in areas that might contain walnut roots
  • Improving soil drainage will help reduce toxicity problems, even among sensitive plant species
  • Gardens should be located 50 to 60 feet away from black walnut and butternut trees. Raised beds can provide some protection from juglone toxicity. Underlying a raised bed with plastic or fabric weed barrier can prevent tree roots from growing into raised bed.

 

Plants Susceptible to Juglone
Alder, Black Larch, Japanese
Alfalfa Lespedeza
American Linden Magnolia, saucer
Apple/Crabapple Maple, silver
Asparagus Mountain-laurel
Azalea Peony
Birch, White Pepper
Blackberry Pine, Scotch
Blueberry Pine, loblolly
Cabbage Pine, eastern white
Chrysanthemum Pine, red
Cinquefoil Potato
Crimson clover Potentilla
Cotoneaster Privet
Crocus, autumn (Colchicum) Rhododendron
Eggplant Spruce, Norway
Hackberry, sugar Tobacco
Honeysuckle, amur Tomato
Huckleberry

Plants Tolerant of Juglone

Actinida, bower Forsythia Pachysandra
Ajuga Grape Parsnip
Alumroot Grass, orchard Pawpaw
Anemone Grass, redtop Periwinkle (myrtle)
Bean (lima, snap) Hawthorn Persimmon
Beet Hemlock Phlox
Bellwort Hemlock, poison Poison Ivy
Bluegrass, Kentucky Hickory Primrose
Burning Bush Honeysuckle Quince
Carrot, wild Hosta Raspberry, black
Catalpa, southern Hydrangea, wild Redbud
Cedar, Eastern Red Iris Rose, wild
Cherry, sour Jack-in-the-pulpit Solomon’s Seal
Chickweed Juniper Soybean
Clematis Juniper, arcadia Speedwell, creeping
Corn, sweet Lilac Sycamore
Creeping Charlie (ground ivy) Liriope Timothy
Cyclamen Locust, black Trillium
Daffodil Maples, most types Violet, dogtooth (Trout Lilly)
Daisy, shasta May Apple Viburnum
Dandelion Meadow Rue Virginia Creeper
Daylily Mock Orange Walnut
Elm Narcissus Wheat
Euonymus, winged “Gaiety” Oak White clover
Fern, Christmas Olive, autumn Wood Sorel, creeping
Fern, Lady Onion Zinnia
Fescue Ostrich fern

Selecting the right tree for your yard is an important decision. A tree is a much of an investment into your home and yard as a new furnace or patio set. Mature, well-maintained trees often have appraised values of between $1,000 and $10,000 and can increase the overall value of your property by around 10%. The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day. If you plant a tree on the west side of your home, in 5 years your energy bills should be 3% less. In 15 years the savings will be nearly 12%.

Of course, because shade trees are such an investment, you need to be absolutely certain that you select a tree that is right for your yard. This document will walk through some of the considerations you need to attend to while deciding on a tree.

What Do Trees Need?

Shade trees need ample sunlight, without which they will grow weakly and irregularly. The vast majority of shade trees require full sun (defined as at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day), but there are a few varieties tolerant of part shade as well (4-6 hours of sunlight per day). Trees that tolerate heavy shade but still grow to a good size on their own are quite rare.

Shade trees run the gamut when it comes to watering needs. Some will tolerate frequently-flooded areas while others can grow in almost desert-like conditions without any trouble. Most trees fall somewhere in between. The trait that is shared by all shade trees is a need for supplemental watering for the first few growing seasons.

Many trees also have preferences as to soil type. Some prefer slightly acidic or alkaline soils. Some need humus-rich well-drained soils, and still others will grow in a mix of sand and gravel without issue.

Before you even start looking at trees, come to grips with what needs your yard can actually satisfy. There’s no sense in spending time, money, and energy planting a tree that will struggle in years to come.

What Do You Need?

Once you’ve established what the conditions in your yard are like, you can begin to cross-reference that with what you hope to get out of your tree.

One of your first concerns should be addressing any space restrictions. If your ideal planting site has overhead wires or is along a fence, you’ll need to define just how much room you actually have to work with. Remember that many shade trees have large canopies, and if you plant along a fence, half of the tree’s total mature width will be hanging over your neighbour’s yard! By the same token, avoid planting large shade trees close to the house – it’s bad for the tree and for your home.

A second consideration is ease of maintenance. Some trees require occasional pruning, others require none. Some trees produce fruit, nuts, or flower heads that will drop on the ground at some point – not a great choice for near a swimming pool. Do you expect a lot of foot traffic around the tree? Some trees are more beautiful but at the expense of disease or pest resistance, meaning you may have to devote more time to prevention. If your yard is tolerable but not ideal for a certain tree, the amount of attention it requires will be greater than normal.

Once you’re ironed out just how much space you have to work with and how much maintenance you’re comfortable with, you can move on to the fun part: aesthetics. Are you looking for a flowering tree? Do you want all-season colour or a fall show? How will the mature size of the tree affect the visual balance or scale of your yard? (For more information on these elements, consult our series of documents on the basics of garden design.) Do you want multiple stems or a single straight one?

A final consideration is shade creation. Remember that given time, these trees will generate a lot of shade. Are there nearby plants that will be affected by a reduction in sunlight? Some large trees generate only light or dappled shade, which allows other sun-loving plants to be grown underneath them without issue. Deep shade can also affect your lawn.

Remember: the success of your new tree will be determined by how suitable it is for your yard and how well you attend to its unique needs. A little extra time spent in the planning stages will help ensure that your tree is a worthwhile investment!

Horticultural oil offers an environmentally safe method of controlling many pests including spider mites, scale, leafhopper, aphids and thrip. This oil works by killing over-wintering insects and eggs. It is applied in the early spring when plants are still dormant.

The oils control insects through asphyxiation by clogging the oxygen intake organs so the insect’s tissues are deprived of oxygen. They also interact with the fatty acids within the insect’s body, acting as a poison that interferes with the insect’s metabolism.

The oils can be mixed with Lime Sulphur (a fungicide) for a highly effective combined insecticide/fungicide dormant spray.

Application

  • Apply in early spring before leaf buds show green at the tips
  • Spray during mild mornings (to speed up drying) when no rain is in the forecast
  • Freezing conditions after application may cause the oil to injure treated plants
  • Spray when temperatures are expected to be at least 4 degrees celcius for the next 4 or 5 days
  • Spray to wet all parts thoroughly
  • Apply to broadleaf evergreens only when freezing temperatures are not expected within 21 days following treatment
  • Since the oil droplets come out of solution so easily, frequent agitation is key to proper application … keep shaking your sprayer!
Plants Sensitive to Dormant Oil Treatments
Beech Norway Spruce ***
Butternut Redbud ***
Cedars Red Maples
Colorado Blue Spruce Red Oak
Delicious Apple Sugar Maple
Douglas Fir Walnut
Hickory White Pine ***
Holly Yews
Japanese Maples Junipers (blue cultivars)

*** These plants are slightly less sensitive to Dormant Oil Treatments

This info sheet is a great resource for anyone planting new nursery stock. Every piece of nursery stock that leaves our store leaves with a copy of these planting and watering guidelines.

Note that our Nursery Guarantee does not apply to any material that has been improperly planted or watered.

Site Preparation / General Guidelines

  • Do not plant on a hot day. Plant in the early morning, late evening, or when skies are overcast
  • Before planting, ensure that you have removed any coco fibre or matting from the top of the pot; this should not be planted with your tree or shrub
  • Your planting hole should be two to three times as wide as the root ball on your new plant
  • Your planting hole should be as deep as the plant currently is in its container

Plant Preparation

  • Handle the plant by lifting the container; do not grip it by the leaves or stems
  • Remove the plant from the container by laying the pot on its side and gently pounding or squeezing the pot until the root ball slides out easily. Do not yank on the plant as this will result in damage.
  • If the roots are severely matted or are wrapped around themselves, gently loosen the outer layer (a small hand rake is very effective for this) to encourage the plant to root into the surrounding soil
  • Once removed from the pot, plant your purchase immediately; the roots can easily sustain damage if they dry out or are exposed to a lot of sunlight

Planting

  • Lower the plant into the centre of the hole and then backfill the rest of the planting hole with soil
  • Even if the existing soil in the area is not ideal, you should backfill with the same soil you dug out Your new planting needs to be
  • come accustomed to this growing medium if it is to develop a healthy root system

  • If your soil is particularly gravelly or poor, mix in 25% good topsoil or three-way mix with the existing soil to aid with water retention and fertility
  • Water very thoroughly immediately after you finish planting

Planting Follow-Up

  • It is highly recommended that a liquid or water-soluble ‘root-starter’ fertilizer is applied immediately after planting, preferably with a ratio of 5-15-5 to promote healthy root growth
  • Also strongly recommended is a 2-4 inch layer of organic mulch, applied on top of the planting area. This will help retain moisture and keep the roots cool
  • Do not pile mulch directly up against the base of the plant; this can cause the bark to rot away and can stunt or even kill your plant over time

Watering

  • Newly-planted trees and shrubs should be checked daily for moisture
  • Generally, if you bury your index finger in the soil near the root ball and it is dry all the way down, you should water your planting
  • How often you need to water varies widely depending on seasonal temperatures, wind, soil type, and sun exposure. As well, certain plants prefer more or less moisture. If you are unsure of the specific watering needs of your plant, please call and ask our Nursery staff for more information.
  • When you water, water thoroughly and deeply — leave your hose on trickle, moving it from time to time to allow both the root ball and the surrounding soil to become completely saturated with water. This ensures that the water you provide will filter deep into the soil and encourage the roots to grow deeply as well.
  • Conversely, watering more frequently, but more quickly and shallowly will cause the plant to become shallow-rooted and it will easily succumb to drought conditions when it is older
  • You will need to continue watering right up until the end of the fall. Late-fall watering, especially right before the ground freezes, is critical in ensuring the survival of many plants over the winter

Watering Pitfalls

  • Don’t be fooled: downpours rarely provide sufficient moisture for new plantings — since their root systems have yet to develop, a new plant only receives the water that falls directly onto the root ball. You may have to go out and water new plantings even a day or few hours after a deluge
  • Short downpours are even less effective at providing moisture if they come after a period of drought. Very dry soil has virtually no ability to retain moisture; it takes an extended period of rain to restore dry soil to its original form
  • Lawn irrigation systems are often equally ineffective at providing moisture for new plantings. Do not rely upon them to provide water for your trees and shrubs
  • Do not water the foliage of the plant, only water the root ball and the surrounding soil
  • If the soil seems adequately saturated, do not water “just to be safe.” A plant can be just as easily killed by overwatering as by underwatering
  • If your new planting is drooping, don’t panic! It is common for new plants (especially those with a lot of new tender growth) to droop even though they are sufficiently watered. This is a stress response to something known as transplant shock. Transplant shock can be partially mitigated by using the fertilizer mentioned above. Stick to the watering methods mentioned above, and eventually the plant will recover

Where to Plant

  • All hydrangeas will bloom and grow well in morning sun and afternoon shade. This is especially true of the mopheads and lacecaps
  • No hydrangea will do well in HEAVY shade, such as under a shade tree
  • If the site is mostly sunny (and hot), then a paniculata hydrangea would be better suited in that location. Paniculatas can thrive in all day sun as long as they receive additional moisture.
  • Paniculata hydrangeas require a minimum of 5 hours of direct sun per day to bloom well
  • Oakleaf hydrangeas will grow in sun or shade, but the blooms will last longer if they get some afternoon shade in hotter climates

How to Plant Hydrangeas

  • Choose a location where the hydrangea can grow to its full size without pruning
  • Normal sized hydrangeas can be expected to reach 4’ x 4’
  • Hydrangeas are almost impossible to prune to a smaller size
  • Plant in well-drained soil. If the soil is heavy, amend to facilitate drainage
  • Do not over water, particularly in clay soil, as this can lead to root rot
  • Do not plant too deep. Plant at the same depth it was in the pot
  • Avoid planting in early spring as late frosts can severely damage or kill the hydrangea
  • The best time to plant is early summer or fall
  • Transplant a hydrangea when it is dormant (has lost leaves) in late fall or early winter

More Tips for Planting

Plant the hydrangea in a location where it can get plenty of moisture

  • Extra moisture is especially important for the first two years especially during droughts

Hydrangeas planted under trees often fail to thrive

  • Tree roots are very aggressive and are attracted to the rich, moist soil provided for hydrangeas
  • No matter how many tree roots are removed to accommodate the hydrangeas, the roots will be back within a year
  • Removing or damaging too many tree roots could result in the tree dying
  • Light is insufficient under large shade trees and if grass cannot grow under the tree, neither can hydrangeas

The Oakleaf Hydrangea is more temperamental about “wet feet” than the other varieties

  • The Oakleaf must have perfect drainage especially when first planted
  • Once established, the Oakleaf is very easy to care for

Mophead, Lacecap and Oakleaf Hydrangeas

  • Mophead hydrangeas (macrophyllas) are usually pink or blue
  • Mopheads usually bloom on ‘old wood’ (stems that were on the hydrangea the previous summer)
  • ‘New wood’ are stems produced during the current season
  • Flower buds are produced on stems from August to October
  • If the stems are pruned in the fall, winter, or spring, the bloom buds will be removed
  • If pruning is required to reduce size, then do not prune after July
  • It’s best to plant the mophead, lacecap and oakleaf hydrangeas in an area where it will preferably require no or very little pruning
  • For colder climates the ‘Endless’ series or ‘everblooming’ hydrangeas such as the mophead, are a good option where bloom buds may be damaged by spring frosts. These hydrangeas bloom on old and new wood.
  • All dead stems should be removed from hydrangeas every year
  • After the plants are at least five years old, about 1/3 of the living old wood should be pruned out down t the ground each summer. This will rejuvenate the hydrangea.
  • If it becomes necessary to prune a plant to reduce its size, it may be cut back in June or July without harming the next year’s bloom BUT it will return almost immediately to its previous size

‘Annabelle’ Types

  • Annabelle type hydrangeas should be pruned in late winter (March/April) and do best if they are cut back hard to a few inches from the ground
  • Pruning Annabelle 18″ – 24″ instead of cutting back to the ground will allow the stems to become stouter and stronger each year and thus better able to support the other branches and blooms
  • If you have the space, plant three Annabelles about 3′ to 4′ apart so as they mature they will support each other
  • Incrediball hydrangea is an improved Annabelle with huge white blooms and stronger stems

Paniculatas (PG/Limelight Types)

  • These can be pruned in late winter or early spring
  • It is not necessary to prune them every year
  • Prune out crossing branches and dead or broken branches

One of the biggest complaints with regard to big-leaf (macrophylla) hydrangeas is that they produce very little bloom or none at all. This is not uncommon and can be easily remedied. The right mix of light, nutrients, and water, plus winter protection can ensure abundant blooms. A number of the most common issues affecting big-leaf hydrangea blooms are addressed below.

Incorrect Pruning

This is the most common cause of unreliable blooming. Generally, you never, ever want to prune big-leaf hydrangeas. Many big-leaf hydrangeas bloom on last year’s growth: if you prune the plant back in the fall or spring, you are effectively removing all of the flower buds. If you see that there are dead branches on your hydrangea in the spring, feel free to remove these – but that is all you should remove. Part of the confusion is likely due to the fact that there are other hydrangea varieties which can be pruned in the early spring without issue. Big-leaf hydrangeas are not one of them.

Thankfully, some newer varieties of big-leaf hydrangeas bloom on this year’s growth as well as last year’s growth. This means even if you prune in the spring you will still receive some scattered flowers. But if your intent is to maximize your blooms, prune nothing and you will be rewarded.

A common complication is that your hydrangea is growing too large for your planting bed – you have no choice but to prune it because it is growing into a monstrous five-foot-wide plant. Sadly, there is no easy answer for this. Consider transplanting the hydrangea to another location where it can happily grow to its full size. There are many big-leaf hydrangeas that only grow to 2 or 3 feet; consider replacing your larger variety with one of these space-conscious cultivars. If you must prune, prune immediately after flowering.

Too Much Nitrogen

A high nitrogen fertilizer results in beautiful abundant leaves and few (if any) flowers. If you think your hydrangeas need fertilizing, use something with a higher middle number to ensure many blooms: 15-30-15 or anything of a similar ratio would be suitable.

Do you use a high-nitrogen lawn fertilizer? Sometimes hydrangeas located near your lawn will be inadvertently fertilized in this manner. Similarly, using evergreen fertilizer nearby (which is usually 30-10-10 or thereabouts) may cause the same issue.

Old Man Winter

Consider planting your big-leaf hydrangeas in a location sheltered from cold winter winds. A particularly brutal winter will kill off the flower buds entirely, and perhaps even whole sections of the plant. This issue is further complicated by the fact that our winter season is often subject to a mid-late winter thaw that can cause the hydrangea flower buds to prematurely emerge from dormancy. When temperatures return to below-freezing, these new tender buds are killed.

The easiest solution is to plant your big-leaf hydrangea on the east or north side of your home – plants on these sides tend to escape the effects of the mid-winter thaw. Building a burlap screen in front of newly-planted hydrangeas is also a good solution – just ensure that the burlap is not wrapped tightly around the plant – stick a stake or two in the ground a foot away and staple the burlap across them to shield the plant from the wind, that’s all.

Improper Lighting

Part sun is the right amount of light for the majority of big-leaf hydrangeas. Morning sun only is ideal – the hot afternoon sun stresses the plant out and may cause it to appear to wilt even if it is well-watered. Blooms exposed to full sun tend to bleach and generally look unattractive. If you have beautiful deep green leaves but no blooms to speak of, it could be the opposite scenario – not enough light.

Inconsistent Watering

Alternating between too much water and too much dryness can also result in a lack of flowers. Keep your watering regimen consistent; the stress of drying out followed by excess moisture can affect bloom quality and production. If we have an actual drought, hydrangeas will be the first casualty, so keep a close eye on them.

Remember that newly planted hydrangeas do not have a root system developed enough to take full advantage of water from rainfall. You may still have to water them after the rain stops.

Soil Culture

Sometimes, excessively alkaline soils will reduce your bloom count and cause chlorosis in the leaves (it looks like a yellowing of the leaves everywhere except the veins, which remain green). If you cannot fix the underlying issue of alkalinity, trying using a product known as chelated iron to resolve the issue. Just remember that as long as the soil remains at a high pH, this issue will recur over the years – chelated iron fixes the symptom, not the underlying problem.

If you have any further questions, our knowledgeable staff will be happy to assist you!

Japanese Maples are popular as small or medium-sized trees across southern Ontario. They are disease and pest-resistant and have a broad assortment of ornamental qualities. Japanese Maples have a bit of reputation for being fussy plants, but this is not the case. If you plant your Japanese Maple in the right location, you will rarely have any issues whatsoever.

Planting Location

If Japanese Maples have a reputation for being finicky, it probably stems from the fact that they have very specific needs when it comes to their planting site. Japanese Maples grow reasonably well in our climate, but a proper planting location is crucial to its well-being.

They should be planted in a sheltered area protected from severe northwest winter winds. Japanese Maples will grow in any type of well drained, slightly acidic soil. They grow well in full morning sun, and should be protected from hot afternoon sun. Because of their shallow root systems, plant them well away from well-established trees with thick roots such as pines and oaks.

Plant your Japanese Maple in the right spot to begin with, and you will be rewarded with a healthy, beautiful tree.

Watering

A young Japanese Maple should be watered frequently, especially for the first few months. Because of their shallow roots, Japanese Maples need a plentiful and consistent water supply. Continue watering in the fall until the ground freezes. Make sure you water around the roots of the plant – do not water the leaves. Japanese Maple leaves will scorch if you spray them directly with water as the sun is shining!

Soil

Japanese Maples need soil that is well drained and acidic. Put mulch around the soil to keep the roots cool, retain moisture and keep the weeds down. Please make sure that the mulch is not touching the trunk of the tree – this can cause the outer layer of bark on the trunk to rot away over time.

Pruning

Japanese Maples require little pruning. If pruning is required, then do it in the early spring before bud break. Take off dead or weak branches. If a late frost occurs in the spring, just cut off any damaged leaves and the tree will recover in a few short weeks.

Fertilizing

Once the tree is established, fertilize lightly in April only with a 15-30-15 water soluble fertilizer.

Winter Protection

Erect a burlap barrier around Japanese Maples for the first three winters. A heavy watering prior to freeze up and additional mulch will ensure minimum winter damage.

Soil Acidity

If you notice your Japanese Maple starting to wilt or change colour, you may need to change its location. It may be getting too much sun or the soil could be too alkaline. Add some coffee grounds to the soil to restore it to a lower pH. In excessively hot or exposed conditions, the leaves of a red Japanese Maple will sometimes begin to revert to green as a stress response.

Pruning shrubs is a basic skill set that, once mastered, will be absolutely invaluable to you as a gardener. Properly pruned plants are more shapely, more vigorous, less disease and pest-prone, are more floriferous, and generally just look great. This handout will walk you through why we prune and when we prune.

Why Prune?

There are three primary reasons we prune shrubs. The first and most important is to promote plant health. By removing broken, dead or diseased branches as well as clearing out branches that cross one another, we ensure the plant has the best chance of survival possible. Secondly, we prune to maintain or improve the plant’s appearance. This includes controlling sizes and proportions as well as encouraging flower and fruit production. Third, we prune to protect people and property. Sometimes overgrown trees and shrubs can cause damage to windows, siding, foundations, patios, and people.

Suggestions and Exceptions

Remember that the pruning guidelines we provide are only guidelines. Many exceptions exist, and if you’re unsure it’s always a good idea to consult our knowledgeable staff. Some plants should never be pruned. Others can be pruned right to the ground with no ill effects.

When to Prune

Very generally, the best time to prune trees and shrubs is in the very late stages of winter or very early stages of spring. This is the best time because the fresh wounds you create will only be exposed for a very short time before new spring growth quickly repairs the damage, thereby minimizing the risk of infection. It’s much easier to prune a plant effectively when there are no leaves blocking your view of the plant’s overall structure.

In almost every situation, you should avoid doing any pruning in the fall. The myth that fall pruning is safe and effective has been the bane of many a gardener for ages!

Of course, there are a few exceptions to the early spring/late winter rule. The most notable exception is for plants that bloom early in the spring or set their flower buds early, including but not limited to apricots, azaleas, flowering cherries or plums, forsythia, bigleaf hydrangeas, lilacs, and magnolias. By late winter, these plants have already set their flower buds: if you pruned them, you would lose all of your blooms for the year. These plants should instead be pruned immediately after they finish flowering.

The second major exception to the early spring/late winter rule involves plants that have a habit of “bleeding” sap around this time of year, including all maples, butternut, walnut, birches, ironwood, and blue-beech. Instead, prune these trees after they’ve fully leafed-out in late spring or early summer.

The third and final exception is oak trees. Various beetles carrying a fungus called Oak Wilt are attracted to the scent of freshly cut oak wood in April, May, and June. Instead, prune oaks in July or early August.

If your tree or shrub doesn’t fall into one of these exceptions, then you’re safe pruning in early spring.

Specific Pruning Techniques

There are a number of generally agreed-upon pruning techniques that can be used to make safe and clean cuts. For more information on these techniques, ask our knowledgeable nursery staff for advice or a demonstration.

General Pruning Tips

Keep these few pruning tips in mind:

  • Always ensure that your pruners have been sterilized before you use them; this prevents infections/fungi from spreading to new plants without your knowledge.
  • Always keep your pruners sharp; close and clean cuts reduce the chance that the plant’s wound will become a vector for disease.
  • Never be afraid to cut out broken, dead, or diseased branches; they contribute nothing to the health of the plant.
  • Never prune in the fall; wounds will not heal and will act as vectors for disease.
  • Prune consistently: plants that are given attention every year are far easier to keep in good condition than those that are neglected for long stretches of time.
  • Prune moderately: very heavy pruning often (though not always) upsets the growth habit of a shrub. If you prune your tree consistently, you should never need to heavily prune at all, except in the direst of circumstances. Don’t prune a branch unless you have a good reason for doing so!

Rhododendrons are heavy flowering evergreen plants that enjoy a shaded, sheltered location in your garden. Azaleas are also heavy flowering plants but some types are deciduous (drop their leaves in fall) and enjoy a sunny or semi-shaded area in the garden.

Basic Requirements

  • Well-drained acidic soil
  • Semi-shady location
  • Protection from winter sun and wind
  • Mulched soil with woodchips or bark
  • Use only acid-enhancing fertilizers and use only in moderation

Modern Rhododendron hybrids have been derived from plants that came from China, Burma and India. In their natural habitat they grow in forest clearings under the dappled shade of tall trees. Their roots are in the natural debris of fallen leaves, twigs and branches as well as natural leaf mold and mulch that is very fast draining and acidic from decaying matter. To succeed with Rhododendrons, these conditions must be closely duplicated. DO NOT use Aluminum Sulphate to acidify your soil. Ordinary sulphur is appropriate or Ammonium Sulphate (21-0-0). Rhododendrons and their companions need only moderate fertilizing in the spring after blooming.

Growing Location

For Rhododendrons, choose a site where some sun is available to encourage bud formation and compact growth. Shelter from prevailing winds which desiccate the foliage and provide shade during the hottest part of the day in summer (from noon until 3:00 p.m.). Protect in winter by building a tent of burlap around the rhododendrons making sure that the burlap is not touching the leaves. Azaleas should be located in a sunny area of the garden but not in too dry a location as they enjoy lots of moisture same as rhododendrons.

Planting

Dig a hole 18 inches deep and fill it with water. If it takes more than 10 or 15 minutes to drain away, the drainage is inadequate. Sometimes the drainage in the planting hole can be improved by digging deeper and breaking through any hard pan. The soil mix for filling the hole around the plant should be half peat moss and a quarter each composted manure and topsoil. Use only a 5-15-5 plant starter fertilizer the first year. Mulch around the plant to a depth of 4 inches with wood chips or bark to conserve moisture and protect the shallow roots.

Companion Plants

There are a number of other plants that prefer very similar conditions to Rhododendrons. If you need additional inspiration for what to plant around your Rhododendron, consult this list:

  • Andromeda (Bog-Rosemary)
  • Arctostaphylos (Bearberry)
  • Blueberries (They, however, require full sun)
  • Gaultheria (Wintergreen)
  • Heath/Heather
  • Kalmia (Mountain-Laurel)
  • Leucothoe (Fetterbush)
  • Pieris (Japanese Andromeda)

Pruning

Deadhead rhododendrons by breaking off the spent flower. Be careful of the buds under the flower. To increase blooming in rhododendrons, pinch the tips of new growth in the spring.

Rhododendrons, Pieris and Mountain Laurel are “surge growers”. Vigorous young shrubs make three different surges from spring to fall. Such growth discourages formation of flower buds. Older shrubs make only one surge and flower buds are usually set in July or early August. Cutting back to the first surge induces multiple branching. Removing the terminal bud or spent bloom induces greater flower bud formation and branching.

Both deciduous and evergreen Azaleas are “continuous growers”. Azaleas don’t develop side branches once the shoots emerge from the buds set last year. To provoke branching, pinch once or twice early in the growing season. Do not pinch later than early August as the plant will then be setting flower buds for next year.

Leucothoe is a “basal grower” as it produces shoots from ground level. Cut back to non-flowering wood after bloom.

Raised Beds as an Alternative

Rather than a single hole for a single plant, try a group of Rhododendrons or similar plants in a raised bed or berms. Work over the soil in the area and plant at surface level, then mound around the plants with a soil mixture that has the necessary humus and acidity. Gently slope the mound so that it does not wash away. Mulch the entire area.