Editor's note: For 21 years, Loretta Aaron was a beloved and well-known gardening columnist for The Oklahoman. Loretta died in 2009. With the permission of Loretta's family, we are reprinting some of Loretta's words of gardening wisdom.
Crepe myrtles: It is best to wait until March or early April to do any necessary pruning on crape myrtle shrubs or to cut back those that have grown too tall. Bloom on these shrubs is on new and old growth. New grown buds will appear first at the base of the plant and work up the branches. Do not prune back those trained to the tree form. Just keep sucker growth at the base of the plant removed.
Want a few more crape myrtle plants? When pruning, snip away a few of the seed pods, and scatter them around the base of the plant. In a few months, you will have seedlings ready to transfer to other areas, or share with gardening friends.
Roses: When you prune roses will depend on the weather as spring approaches. Sometimes it is safe to prune in late February, but it is often mid- to late March before that last hard freeze will occur. Roses pruned too early will have the canes killed back severely and may have to be cut back to almost the soil line. Cut out all weak or crossed canes. Canes that are dark and discolored may put on foliage but will die as soon as the days turn hot.
How much top growth to allow will depend upon the condition of the canes. In years past, a rule of thumb was to allow 18 inches of top growth. This rule does not apply to roses in our area. Some years, it may be necessary to prune back to several inches above the ground and other years, viable canes are as tall as 30 inches or more, so let the condition of the canes be your guide in how much old wood to take out. In Oklahoma, take it year by year. No two will ever be the same.