The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

“To Do” List for Spring

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator

Dare I say it? Spring is finally here. With each ray of sunshine another plant rockets out of the earth. My plants never seem to pop up right where my internal GPS said they should. I'm convinced they all move a bit when my back is turned. Someday I will catch them and send them all back to the start. Until that day comes I spend my spring removing and moving perennials. This time of year questions abound on when to do what. So get out your red pen and start checking.


  • Average last frost date is approximately April 21. For tender plants such as impatiens, coleus, canna, basil and tomatoes, wait until after May 10 before planting.


  • Begin planting and dividing most perennials except bearded iris and peony. Iris are divided in August. Peonies are divided in September.
  • Plant pansies and hardy annuals.
  • Finish pulling back mulch from perennials and roses.
  • Prune summer and fall blooming clematis.
  • Spray emerging peonies with fungicide if diseases such as botrytis have been a problem.
  • Plant bare root plants while dormant. Soak plants in warm water for at least 2 hours before planting.
  • Ornamental grasses should be cut down within a few inches of the ground before growth starts.
  • Houseplants and overwintering tropicals can be trimmed, repotted and fertilized. Wait until after May 10 to place outside.
  • Prune sage, butterfly bush, Russian sage and Caryopteris down to about 8 inches to stimulate growth. Wait until lavender shows new growth before pruning.


  • Establish or renovate turf by seed or sod. Prepare soil properly and get good seed to soil contact. Select turf mixes and blends appropriate to site and maintenance practices.
  • If appropriate, apply preemergent crabgrass control to problem areas when the soil temperatures reach 50 degrees F for at least three consecutive days (generally mid-late April). Do not reseed turf at the same time.
  • Use postemergence herbicides for actively growing broadleaf weeds if necessary. Consider spot treatment rather than complete lawn application. Read and follow all label directions.
  • Reduce thatch if more then .5 inch by using core aerifiers or vertical mowers.


  • Continue planting trees and shrubs.
  • Finish pruning trees and summer flowering shrubs. Wait to prune spring flowering shrubs such as forsythia soon after bloom. Use renewal pruning by removing oldest stems at soil level.
  • In April scout for spider mite damage on spruce by shaking leaves over white paper. Mites will look like periods with legs.
  • Begin fungicide treatments for apple scab on crabapples as leaves emerge if scab has been a problem. Multiple sprays are required. Consider replacing trees with disease resistant cultivars.
  • Apply systemic imidacloprid insecticide to susceptible, high profile plants such as linden trees or roses for Japanese beetle control. Read and follow all label directions.


  • Add compost to garden. Landscape Recycling Center in Urbana offers compost. PH 217-344-5323.
  • If needed, till garden. Do not work wet soil. Squeeze a handful of soil. It should crumble apart easily.
  • Plant seeds of frost tolerant plants such as spinach, lettuce, carrot, beet, greens, chard, parsnip and radish.
  • Plant rhubarb and asparagus crowns.


  • Remove straw from strawberry patches.
  • Plant strawberries. Pinch off first year flowers to encourage strong root systems.
  • Plant fruit trees, grapes, raspberries and blackberries.

Download our Central Illinois Landscape Maintenance Calendar or call us for a copy.

Summer Flowering Bulbs Telenet
April 18 at 1:00 pm and repeated April 20 at 7:00 pm through U of I Extension distance learning system at 801 North Country Fair Drive in Champaign. No charge, but please call U of I Extension- Champaign County at 217-333-7672 to register.

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