Four Apartment Landscape Tips to Get Your Property Ready For Spring


The dead of winter is a time to breathe abundant life into a property and set the stage for a spring revival. And much like the New Year, it’s out with the old and in with the new.

During dormancy, many plants like perennials, grasses, and rose bushes appear lifeless while enduring colder weather that halts growth. Even though the plants are alive, crippled branches and dead stalks of grass are often unsightly to a property’s landscape.

For the plants to return to their splendor in the spring, a winter cleanup is recommended. Cutting back perennials, culling grasses, trimming trees, and performing major plant reductions should get under way in late January or early February with a goal of completion before the first of April.

Toss in a little fresh mulch and add some permanent greenery where necessary and the property is transformed from that unattractive brown, dead look to a well-maintained, healthy landscape.

A few simple steps can help ready the landscape for the spring blush.

Cull the Grasses

Like perennials, a lot of ornamental grasses sustain damage in the winter. Tops of Fountain, Banana Boat, Monkey, and Pampas grasses, for example, turn brown and dead material needs to be removed. If left unattended, new growth will be intermixed with the dead material and the grass won’t look as healthy. By culling the brown stalks, new growth fills the grass and the plant looks much more attractive throughout the year.

Rather than cherry-picking the dead stalks, cull the grass by bunching tightly tying with string. Cut smaller grass plants with hedge clippers or loppers about a foot from the ground. This will aid in cleanup plus give the grass a crisp, manicured look heading into spring. This is a particularly good technique for trimming back larger grasses, like Pampas, which need to be cut back to 2-3 feet, depending on size.

Trim Back Perennials

Perennials that produce beautiful spring flowers should be cut back to promote growth in the spring. One the first freeze hits, perennials can start looking pretty ragged. For non-woody stemmed plants, it is best to cut them back within 3-4 inches off the ground. Cleaning out dead plant material in addition to trimming may be necessary.

For woody perennials, a plant with a hard stem, reduce and reshape for the season. Cut back only to the point where the initial forks spread out, usually more than 3-4 inches from the ground.

Reduce Shrub Size

This time of year is also good to look at reducing in flowering bushes and shrubs, like rose bushes, azaleas and others, as well as larger plants that may need significant trimming. Once blooming begins, trimming will damage the appearance of the plant. To maximize the bloom and enhance the landscape, trim these plants back beforehand. February is a good time to reduce rose bushes by half or two-thirds so that constant trimming throughout the growing season is avoided.

Also, now is a good time for rows of Photinias and hollies, for example, which may need to be significantly reduced to meet safety/security standards or fire codes, especially in front of windows or next to doors. Reducing before the plant buds out will provide a fuller look throughout the growing season.

Once trimmed, the plants will flush out quicker in the spring and appear unsightly for less time (versus doing it in the summer or fall when it will look bad until the following spring). Also, cut the plants to within six inches of the desired height during the growing season.

Dress up the Beds

Adding mulch dresses up the area once the culling, trimming, and reductions have been made. A fresh covering of wood-chip or pine-bark mulch tidies up the beds and detracts from the absence of flowering plant life. Also, installing additional greenery, like evergreens, is a good way to add depth and balance to the landscape. While evergreens may not be as showy or spectacular in the blooming season, they also don’t look bad in off-season.

Consult your landscape professional for other tips to get ready for the spring. Now is a great time to get help, especially since this time of year is typically slow for landscapers. Also, because it’s a slow time, property owners can often get great pricing on major landscaping projects.

Just because Mother Nature isn’t in full bloom doesn’t mean that the landscape should be ignored.



President, Earthworks

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Chris Lee is President of Dallas, Texas-based Earthworks, which specializes in multifamily housing landscaping. He is a contributing author to Landscape Management magazine, licensed irrigation specialist and a Toro Intellisense certified technician. Chris studied business at the University of Arkansas from 1990-94 and horticulture and landscape design at Tarrant County College from 1999-01. He has been employed at Earthworks since 1998.

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