Q: I have some bush daisy plants and right now they are looking pretty sad. Can I prune them now?
A: Several people have called me in the last two weeks asking about pruning various perennials, shrubs and trees. Many people, like you, have said the plants look poorly this time of year and they want to prune them down to the ground. As a general rule, dead limbs can be removed from trees and shrubs any time of year. Ideally, it is best to prune plants just after they have finished blooming or fruiting but most perennials require little or no formal pruning. For instance, azaleas should be pruned in the late spring or early summer just after they have finished flowering. Pruning now would cause them to lose buds for flowering next year. Your African Bush Daisy would survive severe pruning now but if we experience unseasonably warm weather your plant would be fooled into thinking it should put out new growth. This new growth would be vulnerable if temperatures drop suddenly, which is very probable. The new growth would freeze and damage the plant. It is best to take a “grin and bear it” attitude with perennials for now. Refrain from pruning them until we are certain the threat of frost is over. I know your next question will be regarding the exact date. Well, we need to be somewhat flexible. Most experts agree the threat of frost is over in Northeast Florida sometime in middle March or the beginning of April. I know it is difficult to see the landscape looking so poorly but it will not take long before things will be green and blooming. So, think about setting aside your pruning shears this time of year – have them sharpened instead.