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Extension advice: Tips for pruning, how to deal with insects
pruning and insects

I’m writing this article while watching the pollinators busily making their rounds between the flowers in the extension garden. Makes you wonder how similar we are to the bees and wasps in our daily routines. Bryan gardeners have been busy in their yards and gardens as well. They are pulling weeds, solving problems and asking questions. Here are a few that we have heard lately:

I want to heavily prune an overgrown shrub. Can I do this now?

Summer is not a good time to heavily prune shrubs and trees. You can always prune out any dead limbs you see.

If you want to reduce the height or size a little, do so now. I would not suggest that you prune off more than a third of the plant at this time. Try to leave as much foliage on the plant as possible.

Remember that the plant will continue to grow as long as it lives. If you want a 5-foot plant, do not prune at 5 feet above the ground. Prune at a lower level and let the plant grow to 5 feet.

The real problem in most of these situations is that we have planted a shrub or tree that is too large for the site. Pruning may fix the problem temporarily but you may need to replace the plant later.

When planting, always think about the mature size of the plant. Do not put plants in locations that are too small for them. Planting a plant too large for the spot only creates headaches and more maintenance for you later.

You can drastically prune shrubs to reduce their size. This is usually done in February and early March, before plants bud out. Cut the entire plant down to 12 to 24 inches tall. Use the taller heights for larger shrubs. Make clean cuts using a handsaw or lopping shears. Healthy plants should bud out after about six to eight weeks of warm weather. As the plant regrows, prune it regularly to keep it from getting too large.

Do not heavily prune junipers, cedars, Leyland cypress, arborvitae and other conifers or boxwoods. These plants do not recover well from this treatment.

What are those long insects that are on my crape myrtle, hibiscus, okra and other plants? They hop and fly and always seem to move around to the far side of the plant when I approach.

Leaf hoppers are often green with other colors on them. They are about one eighth of an inch long and somewhat wedge-shaped. They are good fliers and will hop and fly if bothered. They will also move around the stem to try to hide from you. These insects suck plant juices. They also inject a toxin that can yellow or burn the edges of the leaf. In general, they should be little problem.

I have only known them to cause serious damage to peanuts and potatoes. If there are lots of leaf hoppers present and your plant has a good bit of leaf burn, you may need to treat for the hoppers. Otherwise, ignore them.

Hoppers, aphids, scales and other insects produce a “honeydew” that can drip down on plants and people below. Some have said they can feel or see this substance as the leafhoppers put it out.

A black sooty mold can grow on this honeydew. Sooty mold is black, somewhat powdery and can be scraped off the leaf of the plant. If you see sooty mold on your plants, control the insect that is producing the honey dew. Eventually the sooty mold should go away.

While we are on the subject of hoppers, I am conducting a study across South Georgia on the presence of a hopper called the Asian citrus psyllid, which is a pest of citrus trees. It can possibly vector citrus greening, which is a potentially debilitating pathogen of citrus plantings.

If you have any mature trees (lemon, orange, or satsuma) on your property you wouldn’t mind me checking/trapping for the hopper, please reach out via email or phone. Agreeing to assist on this project would mean hanging a few sticky card traps in the trees.

If you would like to help with this project or you have any questions about your yard or garden, give me a call at 912-653-2231 or email at

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