The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Spring Landscape Activities

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator

Gardens are marked in moments of frenzied activity. If you have the gnawing suspicion you should be doing something in the yard, then here is your check list.


  • Finish planting or dividing most perennials except bearded iris (July/August) and peony (September).
  • Remove spent flowers on spring flowering bulbs but wait until foliage ripens naturally before removing it. Bulbs may also be moved or dug and stored after foliage yellows.
  • Plant tender annuals after the last expected frost date, approximately May 15.
  • Set flower supports early. Let plants grow through them.
  • Plant tropical water lilies and lotus when water temperature is over 55°F.
  • Over-wintered tender annuals or tropicals such as hibiscus, gardenia, mandevilla and geranium may be pruned, cleaned, fertilized and gradually introduced to a protected location outdoors once night temperatures reach 50°F.
  • Begin pinching top 1-2 inches of new growth on chrysanthemums to encourage full bushy plants. Stop pinching in early July.
  • Trim back a few inches of top growth of some perennials such as aster and beebalm to lessen need for staking and delay or stagger bloom times. Experiment with just pruning front half of clump and leaving back half of clump to grow. This will extend bloom time since trimmed plants bloom about 2 weeks later and will also stagger plant heights.
  • If not already done, severely prune sage, butterfly bush, Russian sage and Caryopteris to stimulate growth. Wait until lavender shows new growth before pruning off winter-killed stems.
  • With sharp spade, edge flower beds.


  • If not done earlier, fertilize in early May with one pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. Slow release nitrogen forms are preferred.
  • Continue postemergence herbicide treatment for broadleaf weeds such as dandelion or creeping Charlie if necessary. Preemergent crabgrass herbicides should have been applied by April 20.
  • Finish seeding
  • Core aerify for thatch control and soil compaction.


  • If not already done, apply imidacloprid systemic insecticide control to high profile trees such as linden and crabapple and roses commonly attacked by Japanese beetles. Insecticide must be applied early as plant begins growth for the insecticide to be most effective.
  • Pinch azalea and rhododendron blossoms as they fade.
  • Fertilize azaleas after bloom. Use fertilizer for acid-loving plants.
  • Prune spring flowering shrubs such as lilac, weigela, viburnum and flowering almond soon after bloom using renewal method. Remove oldest stems to the ground.


  • Apply organic mulches to reduce weeding and conserve moisture. Mulch trees to at least the drip line. Check out the Landscape Recycling Center at 1210 East University Avenue in Urbana PH: 217-344-5323 for great mulch and compost. They even deliver.
  • Remove any stagnant water to avoid mosquito problems. Check flowerpots, gutters and birdbaths.

Garden Programs

Fantastic Foliage
April 27 at 1:00 p.m. and repeated April 29 at 7:00 p.m.

West Nile Virus
Tuesday May 11 at 1 p.m. and repeated May 13 at 7 p.m.

All programs are held at University of Illinois Extension at 801 North Country Fair Drive in Champaign using the Extension telenet distance learning system. There is no charge for the programs, however registration is requested. Call Extension office at 333-7672 or email at to reserve a seat and packet of information.

First of series of Saturday morning Gardener's Chats at Idea Garden at U of I Arboretum just south of corner of Florida and Lincoln Avenues in Urbana.

Saturday, May 15 at 9:30 a.m. - Skin Care for the Gardener including sunscreens, sun protective clothes and pesky plant reactions by Dr. Ann Tice, Master Gardener and dermatologist. No charge or registration required.

U of I Extension – Champaign County Master Gardener Garden Walk Sunday, June 20 from 11 a.m. –6 p.m.

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