Q: My beautyberry bushes are 12 feet high and haven’t been pruned in years. Can I prune them now? Helen Rice, email
A: Good news: beautyberry blooms on new wood, so you can prune in winter. The eye-catching berries seen in fall follow the flowers you’ll spot in early summer. I have a complete shrub pruning calendar at bit.ly/prunecal.
Q: A bluebird just appeared in my backyard. Isn’t this too early for them? Martha Benton, Lilburn
A: My friend Cathy G. maintains nesting boxes in our neighborhood and feeds bluebirds in her yard year round. They don’t typically migrate in fall. During the winter bluebirds simply cluster where food and shelter is most available. They might be in a nearby green space where there are juniper, holly, and mistletoe berries to eat plus evergreen shrubs for shelter. The one you saw is probably out scouting for food. Bluebirds really enjoy live mealworms in winter. Consider buying a bluebird feeder and some live worms online and put it near a window so you can watch your bluebird during cold weather.
Q: We have eight loropetalum shrubs in front of our house. We want to move them to another spot. Is now a bad time to do it, even when it’s cold? David Decker
A: Loropetalum is reasonably tolerant of moving in winter as long as you bring lots of roots along with the shrub. To that end, when a few warm days are forecast, liberally soak the ground around the shrubbery. Use a spading fork or pitchfork to loosen the soil and then use your hands to identify the large roots. Gently pull the roots free. When most of them are loosened from the soil the whole shrub can be pulled up. A few roots may need to be clipped in the process. Spray the roots with water to keep them wet and move them to their new spot, which you have already prepared for their installation. You can thin some limbs from the shrub before moving it but it’s best to leave as many branch tips intact as you can.
Q: My wife and I are having a debate. I take our croton and mandevilla outdoors when the temperature rises above 40 degrees. She wonders if moving them in and out is detrimental? Ken Chadwick, email
A: I think your wife is right. Many of the physiological processes in a tropical plant slow down greatly at temperatures below 55 degrees. I think you should leave your plants indoors unless it’s warmer than 55 degrees outside.
Q: I am concerned about dry soil and cold weather. Would it be helpful to water my lawn now? I have bermuda, centipede and some fescue. Charles Corbett, email
A: I can’t think of how watering would help dormant grass unless it was newly laid sod. I realize that it hasn’t rained in a while but there is still moisture in the soil. Unless your fescue is newly seeded, it doesn’t need water either.