Cold winter weather can wilt plants, but it’s no reason to take action

I have three scotch broom plants that are about 4 years old, growing nicely. One is the Moonbeam variety which is so beautiful when it blooms. I’ve never trimmed them and didn’t think I should, but the snow has made them look pretty scraggly and bent over. Will they recover or should they be clipped back to some length?

— Barb

Lots of people are wondering what to do about some of their garden plants that have been bent over by the snow we got in December.

My general recommendation is to wait because the plant will usually fix the problem by itself, given time.

Now, there are times when the plant needs a bit of help in this department. Probably, it would have been best to knock the snow off right after it fell. We pretty much never do this (I sure don’t!) but if you have a plant that consistently becomes bent over and just doesn’t seem to spring back given time, this is the way to go.

However, if you have a plant at the end of March that is still bent over and disfigured from the snow, even though the snow melted off weeks ago, then some light corrective pruning can help. Cutting or shearing back will remove the worst of the bent-over stuff and lighten the load the branch bears, which will help it stand more erect.

The one drawback about doing this with scotch broom is that you’ll be pruning off some of the flowers for the coming spring. Broom sets its flower buds in the late spring or early summer of the prior year. Those buds are on your plant right now, waiting for some warmer weather to break open and bloom. Pruning them off is just a setback for this year. The plant will look great next year.

In the longer term, pruning scotch broom gets to be a bit more problematic.

In time, many varieties will get to 6 feet to even 10-feet tall and can become more open and “scraggly” looking. Once this happens, there’s little you can do to fix this.

Pruning an older plant back severely will almost always kill the plant. These plants retain few, if any, dormant buds down on those older stems to resprout when cut back. Pruning needs to begin at a fairly young age. (You still have time!) It consists of selectively pruning back young stems every year to stimulate fresh new growth that will keep the plant full and thick.

The drawback to this is that eventually you’ll create a plant that has a sheared look to it that may not be desirable in your particular situation. This more formal look is much different than the more informal, natural look reminiscent of Mormon Tea that an unpruned plant gives.

And speaking of shearing, these plants can be maintained for many years as a sheared specimen if you so desire. The only thing to keep in mind is that you’ll have to shear it in late spring right after it’s done blooming. Pruning in summer or fall risks losing the flowers for the following spring.

If you really want a more informal plant combined with a full lush look, you’ll have to treat the plant as a short-term project and replace it every 6–10 years.

Does the plum coddling moth behave in the same way as the other coddling moths?

— Steven

Plum coddling moth is the same insect as the one we get in apples and pears. Treatment would be the same.

Most of the literature I’ve read talks about it being a problem in California. Here, coddling moth is a problem on apples, pears, crabapples and walnuts.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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