General Tasks

  • Continue pruning late-flowering climbers and deciduous shrubs.
  • Plant evergreens and conifers, ornamental trees and shrubs.
  • Continue protecting delicate shrubs from late frosts.
  • Plant new climbers and check supports for existing ones.

Managing Trees and Shrubs in March

Continue pruning any late flowering climbers and shrubs that flower on last year's shoots. Apply a general fertilizer and mulch around the roots of plants to retain moisture. Check existing supports on established climbers, and tie in new growth. Continue protecting delicate shrubs from late frosts.

Although early flowering Camellia are fairly hardy plants, the flowers and buds can suffer from frost damage. This can be exacerbated by early morning sun, which causes distortion of the leaves and browning of the buds. So if you have east facing plants and frost is forecast, secure some horticultural fleece over them to protect the buds, then remove it in the morning once the temperature has risen.

Winter Shrubs

Trees and Shrubs to Plant in March

March is the end of the planting season for deciduous and bare-rooted trees and shrubs. Although container grown stock can be planted virtually all the year round. Evergreens and conifers can be planted now, as well as the more delicate grey or silver-leaved shrubs such as artemisia, lavender, rosemary and santolina.

Planting Climbers

Climbers can be incorporated now to brighten up a wall or fence. Prepare the soil and fix any supports in place before planting. Provide a trellis for plants with twining growth, or wires for a climber that clings naturally with tendrils. A bushy climber, such as a rose, can be tied-in to a trellis or fence. For annual climbers, a simple lightweight mesh can be used or a wig-wham made from canes.

Check that your planting position is not near drains or soak-aways, as the climber's deep roots could cause problems later on. If you are planting against a wall, position the planting hole well away from the base of the wall, so its roots can find moisture.

Planting Bare Root and Container Grown Trees

Container-grown trees can be planted at any time of the year, so long as soil conditions are good. Bare rooted trees must be planting during the dormant season. Evergreen trees have slightly different requirements, as they are never dormant in the way a deciduous tree is, so an April or autumn planting suits them best.

Bare-rooted trees should be planted as follows:

  1. Soak the roots and trim away any that are broken or too long.
  2. Dig a hole that is twice the diameter of the root ball. Sprinkle a handful of general purpose fertiliser (suitable for shrubs and trees) in the planting hole.
  3. Hammer a support stake in at an angle facing the prevailing wind.
  4. Position the tree with the root union 2in (5cm) above soil level.
  5. Mix some well rotted manure or garden compost into the backfill soil. Cover the roots with soil and shake it down between the roots to prevent air pockets.
  6. Tie the tree to the stake.
  7. Tread the soil around the base to firm it and apply a mulch.

Container-grown trees, and trees such as conifers, which are often sold root-balled in sacking, should be planted as follows:

  1. Dig a hole slightly deeper and twice as wide as the container or root ball.
  2. Fork over the bottom of the hole and incorporate well rotted manure or garden compost into the soil. Sprinkle a handful of general purpose fertiliser (suitable for shrubs and trees).
  3. Hammer a stake in at an angle facing the prevailing wind.
  4. Soak the roots thoroughly in water, then carefully remove the container or sacking.
  5. If the container doesn't come away easily, cut it down both sides and slide the plant out.
  6. Do not disturb the roots of container grown or root-balled trees, though any roots wrapped round the inside of the container should be gently teased out.
  7. Position the tree in the hole and return the topsoil or mixture of topsoil and compost, firming as you go.
  8. Tie the tree to the stake.
  9. Tread the soil around the base to firm it and apply a mulch.

Keep the newly planted tree well watered and weeded for the first growing season.

Trees and Shrubs to Prune in March

Flowering shrubs that will flower on the coming season's growth should be pruned now. This includes shrubs that flower after about mid summer, such as: buddleia, late flowering ceanothus, clematis, hardy fuchsias, hebes and hydrangeas.

Pruning roses

If they were not pruned at the end of February, all remaining roses, except ramblers, should be pruned now. Shrub roses will only need tidying up, by removing any old and diseased branches. Hybrid tea roses should be cut back to within 6-12in (15-30cm) of the ground, to encourage strong new flower-bearing shoots to form. Any damaged, crossing, and weak branches should be removed completely. Floribunda roses should be treated the same, except that the branches are pruned back less severely, to around 1-2ft (30-60cm). Varieties of climbing rose can be pruned by retaining all the main branches, which should be tied-in to the supports, whilst any side shoots need to be cut back to less than 6in (15cm) long.

Pruning winter flowering shrubs

Winter flowering shrubs should be pruned as soon the flowers have faded, to give them enough time to regrow and produce strong shoots ready for next winter. The best known examples are winter jasmine, witch-hazel, winter-flowering viburnums, winter-sweet (Chimonanthus) and flowering heaths (Ericas).

Prune winter jasmine by tying-in all the long shoots that you want to retain, and cutting back to a few inches all the others that have flowered.

Shrubs grown for their winter coloured stems should be cut hard back to the first bud, within about 2in (5cm) of the old wood. These include: the dogwoods Cornus alba, Cornus stolonifera 'Flaviramea', the coloured stemmed willows Salix alba and the white-stemmed bramble, Rubus cockburnianus.

Feeding Trees and Shrubs

Roses and shrubs should be given a top dressing of a general purpose fertiliser early in the month, to encourage strong new growth and flowers. A wide range of specialised rose and shrub foods are available, in both pellet and powered form. Although, good old fashioned "blood, fish and bone" or organic chicken manure pellets are just as good.

Take special care if you have dogs as they are very likely to dig up and eat strong smelling manures, so choose one that is safe for dogs and/or keep them out of the garden.

Give Camellia, Rhododendron and Pieris an ericaceous liquid feed now, and again in early summer. Especially if the young leaves are prone to yellowing.

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Shrubs for March

Deciduous trees and shrubs in flower:


Chaenomeles (quince)

Cornus mas

Cornus mas

daphne bholua glacialis gurkha

Daphne (various)




Magnolia (many cultivars)

Prunus (flowering cherry)

Prunus (flowering cherry)

Ribes Sanguineum

Ribes (flowering currant)

Viburnum x bodnantense

Viburnum x bodnantense


Evergreen trees and shrubs in flower:


Berberis trigona

pink camellia flower

Camellia (many cultivars)

Erica herbacea

Erica (various)





Ulex europaeus

Ulex (gorse)

Viburnum tinus

Viburnum tinus

March Climbers

Viburnum tinus

Clematis armandii

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