We have three honeysuckle vines about 20 years old that are getting leggy and spindly.

I've tried pruning, but that only makes the tops bushier. Can I cut them way back this spring (about 12 inches)?

I would really like them to fill in more, but don't want to kill them.

— Mike

You're right about needing to cut the honeysuckles back farther than you have been doing. There are a couple of ways to go about this.

The first is to cut the whole plant way back like you're contemplating. This will have the effect of "recreating" the entire plant.

The down side to it is there's a bit of a risk to cutting the plant back so far. Removing that much growth at one time is stressful to the plant.

Most of the plant's reserves of stored water and carbohydrates are in the stems (not in the roots as many people think), and depriving the plant of those resources can weaken and even kill the plant.

Losing the plant is rare, but it does happen. Most commonly, the plant is weakened and it just takes longer to recover.

The second choice, which I prefer, is to steer a more moderate path. You cut some stems back pretty hard but leave others longer.

Honeysuckles will usually have several stems growing up to form the plant. Cut maybe a third of them down to 12–24 inches from the ground. These will help fill in the plant lower down.

Choose another third to leave fairly long — cut them back a foot or so or prune them back to the top of the trellis or fence that they're growing on.

Cut the last third back about halfway between the first two groups.

Doing it this way will reduce the stress. It also keeps the plant taller so you're not starting completely over, but you're still encouraging side shoots to sprout to fill the plant in for you.

I recently bought a blueberry, grape, blackberry and raspberry plants. When is a good time to plant them?

I moved here not too long ago and need to learn when to plant things.

— Christine

When to plant depends on the state the plants are in. If the plants are growing in pots, you can plant them any time.

That is why we like growing things in pots: When you plant them, you're not disturbing the roots much. You're just slipping the plant out of the pot and into your garden.

With that kind of address change, it doesn't matter if it's 32 degrees or 102 degrees outside.

We plant container plants nine or 10 months a year, stopping when the ground freezes hard in the winter.

However, if your plants are bare root or packaged (that's just a bare-root plant that has some packing material around the roots to keep them moist), then you want to get them planted as soon as possible.

When we have potted bare-root plants in the past, we would get them in pots from end of February into the first part of March.

The reason we wanted to get them in as early as we could was because bare-root plants lose a great deal of their roots and need to regenerate them before the high water demand summer brings.

In western Colorado, the temperatures usually start heating up in May, so I want to give those plants as much of a chance to re-establish their roots before the hot weather hits.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506, or email info@bookcliffgardens.com.

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