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South Regional Reports

March Garden To-Do List for the South

Dwarf crested iris can be seen in full bloom throughout much of the South in March, accompanied by other native wildflowers. Photo: Andy Pulte

This month has many things to get excited about. Forget all of that “in like a lion” stuff: March in the South is full of gardening tasks and surprises. It’s true the weather can be luck of the draw; however, you can pick your moments and get a jump-start on spring.

Hosta ‘Reversed’
Divide hostas when they begin to show spring growth. They look charming planted en masse, as this ‘Reversed’ hosta (Hosta ‘Reversed’, Zones 3–8) is here. Photo: Kerry Ann Moore

1. Divide hostas

When hosta (Hosta spp. and cvs., Zones 3–8) leaves start to curl out of the soil is one of the best times to divide the plants with a spade or pitchfork. Remove plants from the soil and look for distinct offsets (small plants growing from the larger one). Break off smaller plants that contain sufficient roots and ample growing points, or “eyes.” Replant back into the garden, or share divisions with other gardeners.

Camellia sasanqua ‘Pink Snow’
Camellias should be pruned shortly after they bloom. Pictured: ‘Pink Snow’ camellia (Camellia sasanqua ‘Pink Snow’, Zones 7–9). Photo: Jason Jorgensen

2. Clean up camellias

The camellias (Camellia spp. and cvs., Zones 7–9) in your garden may need some care this month. First, clean up fallen blooms around the plants to prevent disease. Next, inspect plants for pruning needs. Camellias are best pruned right after they bloom. Cut off any dead limbs you see, and do any minor pruning that may be needed as soon as possible. Sheering should be avoided as a general rule for camellias, as it impacts the plants’ natural form.

Seed starting is a fun and easy way to get kids interested in gardening. Photo: Andy Pulte

3. Start seeds

Depending on location, many of us will be sowing garden seeds indoors to plant after the fear of frost has passed. Growing vegetables from seed is a great way to get kids involved in the garden. Additionally, it can be a very cost-effective way to start your garden this year. Click here for more information on seed starting.

seed potatoes in buckets
Get seed potatoes in the ground now. Photo: Fionuala Campion

4. Plant onions and potatoes

Early March is a great time to get onions in the ground from sets (small immature bulbs) and potatoes in the ground from seed potatoes. Seed potatoes are actually tubers that are sold to be divided by gardeners and planted. Do not try and grow potatoes you buy at the grocery store. Most of these have been treated to inhibit sprouting.

Yellow trillium should be beginning to flower this month. Watch out for these and other wildflowers in the landscape. Photo: Jennifer Benner

5. Look out for wildflowers

March is native wildflower month for much of the South. Plan a trip specifically to see wildflowers this year. Flowers blooming in this time frame include crested iris (Iris cristata, Zone 3–9), yellow trillium (Trillium luteum, Zones 4–8), and yellow trout lily (Erythronium americanum, Zones 3–8). Peak bloom is dictated by a multitude of factors, including weather and elevation. For example, the show often occurs in late April in the highest elevations of the Appalachian Mountains. But for most of us, sometime in March will be the window of peak bloom.

 

field of daffodils
You can prolong the overall duration of the daffodil bloom period at your home by choosing early, middle, and late blooming varieties. How you treat plants after they bloom can determine their longevity in your garden. Photo: Andy Pulte

6. Leave daffodil foliage

Daffodil (Narcissus spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9) blooming will be wrapping up soon if it hasn’t already. Although not entirely necessary, you can remove bloom stocks that have started to form seedpods. What is critically important is not to cut back leaves; instead, let foliage yellow on its own. After blooming, these leaves will continue fueling your bulbs to help ensure next years’ flowers.

 

—Andy Pulte is a faculty member in the plant sciences department at the University of Tennessee.

 

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