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8. Ask a Desert Gardener, Nov 2023

November marks the conclusion of this year’s growing season. By now your planting, soil preparation, and upgrades to your landscape and gardens should be completed. There are several tasks remaining that you should complete now before winter arrives.

With the arrival of cooler weather and reduced hours of sunlight, much of your landscape has now become dormant. Deciduous trees have lost their leaves and your flowering plants and bushes have stopped blooming. Now it is time to begin pruning away dead and entangled branches and flowers as well as unwanted “suckers” around stems and tree trunks. Once leaves have fallen, you can, if necessary, reshape tree and bush canopies. By opening up by pruning off dead, damaged or unwanted limbs and branches, you will encourage proper airflow and increased sunlight during the winter months promoting better growth in the Spring. Palm trees, however, should NOT be pruned anymore this season since the fronds protect the center of the trees (where new growth takes place) from strong winds and cold temperatures. For smaller palms, wrap the top portion with burlap to protect them from frost and wind damage.

Plants such as roses and lantanas should be heavily pruned once flowering has completely stopped. This ongoing task may even continue into early December! Prune rose bushes leaving only 1/3 of the stems remaining. The more you prune now, the more robust will be the growth in the Spring. Remember that pruned flowering bushes will initially require more time in the Spring to start flowering again.

Succulents can continue to be pruned anytime throughout the year. They should, however, not be given any additional irrigation from mid-November through early February. The root systems of succulents “shut down” during winter dormancy. Water will accumulate around their roots and will not be absorbed. This will lead to root rot and plant death!

Finally, remove dead leaves and debris from around plants. This will prevent moisture and “organic matter” buildup that encourages insect and rodent infestation. You should also apply insecticides around the perimeter of your house to keep these “unwanted visitors” outdoors as colder weather arrives.  

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Howard Galin is a University of Nevada certified Master Gardener and the Chair of the SCA Garden Club House Call Program.