Q: My lorepetalum shrubs need to be pruned. When is the best time to prune them?

A: Lorepetalums should be pruned soon after they stop blooming. Pruning later could remove the flower buds that have been set for the coming year.

Q: I did not prune my oakleaf hydrangeas last year. The shrubs are blooming now and there are several dead branches on them. Is it OK to remove the dead branches now, or will doing so damage the shrub?

A: You may remove dead, damaged or diseased wood from a shrub or tree at any time without damaging the plant.

Q: When is the best time to plant a Japanese maple tree? I purchased one in a pot a few weeks ago when we were coming back from a trip. I forgot to ask the clerk at the garden center when to plant the tree.

A: The best time to plant a tree is in the fall, which allows the plant’s root system to become established during the winter months. But since your tree is in a pot, I do not recommend waiting until fall because the tree could become root bound. Plant the tree now, but you will need to remain vigilant in applying water. The heat and drought of summer is near, and without plenty of water, the tree will struggle to survive. To plant the tree, dig a hole that is two to three times the width of the root ball, but about the same depth. Remove the tree from the pot and place the root ball in the planting hole, and backfill with the soil that was removed from the hole. Tamp down the soil to remove air pockets and flood the planting hole with water. Apply a thick layer of mulch on the soil surface under the tree’s canopy area, but do not pile the material up around the base of the tree. Water the tree on a regular basis, flooding the hole, to prevent the root system from drying out. Continue this procedure until the tree becomes well established.

Carol (Bonnie) Link is an Etowah County Master Gardener and an experienced garden writer. Her weekly column is designed to help and encourage others in their gardening endeavors. Send questions or comments to clink43@bellsouth.net.