This Month in the Garden – March



Mid-Atlantic Region

March Maintenance Guide


It could be said that March is the month for yellow! I can’t help myself and I gawk at the forsythia and the daffodils. I can’t get enough of them. I also can’t help but notice the difference between pruned forsythia and those left in their natural state. Forsythia look best left natural. If you can’t leave forsythia naturally, needing a tidier garden, find another shrub that can tolerate pruning and not look unnatural. But the chances are you are growing forsythia because of what it does this month – bloom fantastic long arching stems of beautiful yellow flowers; so let it do what it does best, branch out and beg to be cut and enjoyed inside.

With the arrival of spring, we start wanting to see beautiful gardens.  Look for garden tours, events, and symposia. A garden tour is a great way to learn about gardens, plants that do well in our region, and we walk away with a thousand ideas while having an enjoyable time. My gauge for a successful garden tour is when everybody’s garden was somebody’s favorite.


  • No doubt, there will be lots of leaves flying around still and/or stuck at the base of your shrubs. Leaving them is fine. If it bothers you, pull them out and compost or put with your yard waste.


  • Don’t kick yourself for not having daffodils blooming in your garden this month. Put in your day planner now to purchase and plant daffodils this fall!
  • Ditto with the tulips. In our area, the Dutch tulips are used as annuals, when they are used. I think tulips are the most underused bulb. They can be pricey, especially since they have to be replaced each year. That and the little garden critters love them too. I suspect this is why they are so underused. However, they are fantastic. I believe they are worth the money. They are long lasting and with the vast selection, they can be timed to bloom with the Dogwoods and the Azaleas.
  • As a reminder, do not cut back the leaves of the daffodils until they have finished. Once they have lain down on the ground, they can be cut back.october-31-2008-019
  • Because I grow Dutch Tulips as annuals, I pull them as soon as the flowers are spent.


  • Now is a good time to plant larkspur and poppies seeds.


  • Pansies are still looking good.  We will be able to enjoy them through the end of May, if we want.  Most of usually pull them in early May, after the threat of last frost, just in time to put in summer annuals. It also a good time to plant pansies.
  • Now is a good time to plant alyssum, snapdragon and viola.


  • If you haven’t already cut back you Liriope, look inside to see if the new growth has emerged. If you see the new growth, just be careful that the new growth is not cut. The longer the new growth, the more difficult this task is. Cutting them back last month would have been ideal, but there may still be time- take a peek before you cut. Otherwise, trim off burnt edges and wait until next year.
  • My Hellebores are looking very good. Hellebores are one of my favorite plants for winter interest.  I like to cut back the old leaves before (or as) the new growth emerges.  Also, if you don’t want your Hellebores to spread, cut the flower heads march-2008before they release their seeds.  Remember too, the Hellebores cross breed readily.  So don’t trust that your coveted black hellebore to stay black, if they keep company with other colors. Your original will stay black, but any babies will be something else.
  • Hostas are starting to come up. This is a great time to divide and share with a friend or another location in your garden.
  • For your daylilies…now is a good time to divide.  Daylilies need dividing every 4 years or so to keep them flowering nicely.  They divide easily and happily.  Keep the clumps large, 3 – 5 fans each.  Share with friends or find now homes in your garden.  This year’s blooms may suffer, but will recover by next year.  One way to look at it, they will have suffered anyway by not being divided!
  • Bee balm (Monarda) is sprouting now. Take this opportunity to transplant and move around in the garden or to give to friends.
  • Spring is a good time to divide bleeding hearts, Ajuga, and Shasta daisies. Transplant to other areas of your gardens, share with a friend or donate to a plant sale.
  • Herbaceous peonies will be up soon.  I love, love, love Peonies.   The blooms of this long living perennial may only last a couple of weeks, but I cannot resist their scent and beauty.
  • If you haven’t cut back your ornamental grasses yet, you may still have time. Look inside the plant to see if the new growth has emerged. Be careful not to cut the new growth.


  • If you needed a good excuse to grow Carolina Jessamine, look around and get inspired. They are blooming everywhere – mailboxes, entrances, sides of homes, fences, anywhere you wish to add some local color.


  • Look at those Redbuds. Mine opened up around the middle of the month. Before that it was the Peaches and Cherries.
  • Still time to plant trees and shrubs.


  • As the new growth is emerging, cut back the winter burned leaves of St. John’s-Wort.


  • Roses are starting to put out new growth. We are ending the optimum time to plant bare root roses.c-041 Now is a good time to add a slow release organic fertilizer. Roses are heavy feeders. We will get a good couple of months before we see black spot or Japanese Beetles. The Lady Banks rose will be blooming soon. I love this Rose. It may only bloom once a year, but it’s virtually maintenance free, free flowing, and stunning. I have two; one on the South side of my house trellising up a Chinese Windmill Palm and another growing up a Maple tree, again, on the South side (of the property and the tree.)  I give it some drip irrigation so that it does not need to compete with the Maple for water.


  • Your bulbs will appreciate an application of a complete fertilizer as the green appears.
  • Pansies and violas appreciate a slow-release application now.


  • Now is still a good time to lay mulch. This gives us enough time to allow gardens to have a nice chill, killing off insects and such, while still protecting our plants. Also your perennials are just emerging and laying mulch is much easier before the plants are up.  I like to use composted leaf mulch, but most of my clients still like triple shredded hardwood mulch.  It looks best right after it is laid.  Oh for our gardens to look as good as it looks right after mulch is applied. For my clients to use the hardwood mulches, I recommend lightly raking the mulch every quarter to remove the larger pieces. It is these pieces that bleach out in the sun like old bones in a desert. Racking them up and using elsewhere in the garden helps extend to look of mulch.  Of course, if you use composted leaf mulch you will not be off the maintenance hook. There will be plenty of bits of trash to pick up as the mulch is consumed.


  • Spot weed your beds and grass. I hand pluck out my weeds. If you do this before they get out of hand, they can be managed. Also in my beds, I use a hoe and just cut the weeds below the surface of the soil.


  • March is typically a wet month. Unless there was a winter drought, watering is not necessary. Even in a drought, given the cooler temperatures, watering perennials once every 4 weeks and annuals every 2 weeks is all that is necessary. Tress and shrubs will not likely need watering. However, your specific conditions will dictate what is necessary. When Raleigh had the worse drought in 100 years, I did not need to water trees or shrubs. I watered my perennials every 3 weeks and pulled the annuals. I would much rather use my precious harvested water on long livers and let the annuals go bye-bye.


  • For your Blue birds…have your nesting boxes ready.  They are looking to nest!
  • For your birds, if you haven’t done so already, now is a good time clean out your nesting boxes.  Removing old nests and debris from birdhouses gives a new family a fresh start.  It is also a good idea to scrub your birdbaths.

Here is something to think about:

Nature’s first green is gold.

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

– Robert Frost



  1. joey said

    Excellent check list … since you are a month ahead, this looks like my work schedule for April 🙂 Today was in the high 50s and tomorrow a gift of 65. Buds are swelling and so is my spring heart!

  2. kk said

    are your N. jonquilla simplex blooming yet?

  3. Hey kk, I need to look. I planted them in my herb/host/rock garden which needs some maintenance. I’ve tried to get out there, but with all this rain, I have not had a chance.

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