While most homeowners spend the majority of their limited lawn maintenance time focused on mowing and watering their lawn, there’s a lot to be said for effectively caring for trees and shrubs as well. A well-tended hedge or tree can provide a beautiful landscaping element against the side of the house, along property borders, or interspersed throughout a properly trimmed lawn.
But how do you go about properly caring for trees and shrubs in Northwest Florida’s unique climate?
Basic tree and shrub care tips
All plants need the same basic elements to survive and thrive: sunlight, water, air, and appropriate nutrients from the soil. While each variety’s needs in these areas can differ slightly, all four elements must be considered.
- Don’t neglect shrubs when watering - Most people recognize the need to regularly irrigate their lawns and may even have automated irrigation systems set up on timers to handle that. But are your shrubs and bushes benefiting as well? Since they’re often planted near the house, sprinklers may be set up in such a way that they don’t get the house wet and so, may also be missing your shrubs.
- Consider lighting needs when planting - Both trees and shrubs are vulnerable to losing necessary sunlight to taller trees and other obstructions in the area where they’re planted. When designing a landscape or replacing a dead plant with something new, make sure the spot gets adequate sunlight to allow the plant you have in mind to thrive.
- Proper pruning and trimming promotes healthy growth - Trees and shrubs benefit from skillful pruning because it prioritizes how precious nutrients are used. But it must be done in the right way and at the right times during the plant’s annual growth cycle. For more details, read our article on proper tree and shrub pruning.
- Test your soil composition regularly - The makeup of the soil, the nutrient and mineral levels it maintains, and its pH balance all contribute to how healthy a tree or shrub is going to be, just as it does for your lawn. Check the soil composition and apply appropriate additives to optimize it for the plants you want to help.
Tree and shrub tips specific to Northwest Florida
While the four tips above are certainly applicable in and around Pensacola and the rest of the panhandle region, there are some important things you should know that are unique to our area as well:
- Prune in late winter - In our climate, late winter - between February and early March - is the best time to prune most plants because they are dormant for the winter but will soon be awakening to extensive new growth in the spring. This timing gives the plant the best chance of benefiting from the positive aspects of pruning while battling the shock that extensive trimming can cause.
- Timing exception for plants that bloom early - If a flowering shrub blooms before May 1st, (such as azaleas, camellias, forsythia, and spirea) it’s best to hold off on pruning until after it has flowered.
- Prune hedge shrubs regularly - While most trees and ornamental shrubs can get by with one skillful pruning in the late winter, hedge shrubs that are shaped will require more regular pruning. We recommend they are trimmed after every 6-8 inches of growth once they’re at the ideal height. Trimming them more often can cause unhealthy stress on the plant and trimming them less often can result in unruly hedges.
- Be mindful of our sandy soil - It’s different every few steps you take, but generally speaking our area has sandy soil. This may require composting, mulching, fertilizing, and watering strategically to help optimize soil composition. For questions on your soil type, your Pensacola lawn care company can help.
As you’ve probably noted, there is a lot to keep track of and a lot of margin for error when trying to create optimal growing circumstances for trees and shrubs in Northwest Florida. Remember that we’re always here to help.
We have decades of experience handling tree and shrub care in Florida. Specifically in Northwest Florida, we are experts at maintaining your plants. We would love to come take a look at your lawn and help you figure out how to best care for it.