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​Have garden questions? Stop by our display at select Home Depot stores in April and May. Our volunteers can help you with any garden questions. See dates and locations. Hope to see you then!  

The hummers are back!

Hummingbirds are already arriving in the Carolinas! The Ruby-throated hummingbird will build their 2x2 inch nests 10-30 feet off the ground. They often return to their previous year’s nesting area, so attracting them to your yard may start an annual homecoming.  

You will recognize their emerald green color and cream chests flitting about your yard. The males have the characteristic ruby throat, and the female’s throats are banded in white.

Food and water sources attract these wonders to your area. Plants are their primary food source, followed by nectar feeders.

Red, purple, orange and pink are the best colors for trumpet-shaped flowers. Hummingbirds are smart feeders. They circle around the various sources of nectar so they don’t deplete any one source.

Other food sources include insects and spiders. This is another benefit for attracting them to your yard.

Hummingbird feeders serve as a great secondary food source. Ways to protect the health of these lovelies:

✳️ DO make a safe solution for the feeder by boiling water for 5 minutes. Make a solution of 4 parts sterile water to 1 part sugar. Dissolve sugar completely, then let it come to room temperature before filling the feeder.

✳️ NEVER put a cold solution in the feeder, as this could shock the hummingbird.

✳️ DO change the solution every 3-5 days to reduce the chances of mold or fermentation.

✳️Do NOT use red dye in the solution.

Learn how to attract hummingbirds to your yard. FUN FACT:  Hummingbirds recognize the people in their favorite places. Enjoy being adopted!


Photo: Audubon

Garden tasks for April

The threat of frost will soon past for central North Carolina. (Did we even experience winter?!) Consider these gardening tasks for April:

  • Prune back ornamental plants such as holly, nandina and pyracantha. Prune spring flowering trees after they bloom (e.g., flowering cherry, Bradford pear, serviceberry), only if needed.
  • Plant carrots, celery, collards, lettuce, parsley, radishes and turnips.
  • Set out warm season vegetables, such as corn, cucumbers, squash and tomatoes, after the threat of frost is passed (around mid-April).
  • Plant seeds or seedlings of annual vines, such as morning glory, moonflower and passion flower, after the danger of frost has passed.
  • Fertilize spring flowering shrubs and vines after they bloom. Lightly fertilize blueberries a second time when they bloom.
  • Mow cool-season lawns (tall fescue) weekly, if needed, to a height of 3 inches.
  • Check your lawn for white grubs by using a spade to turn back a square foot of sod 2 or 3 inches deep. If you see more than 5 in a square-foot area, consider treatment.

A comprehensive list can be found on our website. 


Pulmonaria officinalis, or common lungwort, is one of several plants in bloom at our Indy Demonstration Garden. This lungwort forms a low spreading ground cover which typically performs well in woodland and shade gardens. Deadheading helps prolong the blooming.

Cool plants for shade

If you're in the market for shade plants, Extension Master Gardener Joe Swift suggests two plants. They're perennials and native plants, and they're beautiful!

White Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora)
If you're looking for something to fill a large, shady space, consider this deciduous shrub. It will get 8-12 feet tall with a similar spread. It blooms from June through July with white flowers and provides golden color in the fall. It also attracts hummingbirds and swallowtail butterflies. More info...

Indian Pink (Spigelia marilandica)
On a much smaller scale (2-3 feet) is this gorgeous, drought-tolerant perennial wildflower. Also a native, it blooms in June and attracts hummingbirds. It will tolerate morning sun. More info... 


White Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora); Photo: NCSU


Indian Pink (Spigelia marilandica); Photo: NCSU

Here comes the sun! 

There are so many great plant options for full sun. Extension Master Gardener Barry Pettinato suggests these:

Pink Salvia (Salvia Greggi 'Mirage Pink')
In the sage family, this aromatic perennial plant with lavender-pink flowers will delight spring through fall. Growing 12-14 inches, it attracts bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. It's also deer resistant and drought tolerant. More info...

Helen's Flower (Helenium 'Mardi Gras')
This perennial will bring a multitude of fun colors from July through fall. It grows in clumps 3-4 feet high and 1-2 feet wide. It makes a good cut flower, attracts butterflies and is deer resistant. It prefers moist, well-drained soil. More info...

Anise Hyssop (Agastache 'Blue Fortune')
This perennial has beautiful leaves with blue fragrant flowers. It's in the mint family, and blooms all summer long and into the fall. Pollinators love it! More info...


    Salvia Greggi 'Mirage Pink'; Photo: NCSU


    Helenium 'Mardi Gras'; Photo: NCSU


    Agastache 'Blue Fortune'; Photo: NCSU

    Avoid these common landscape mistakes 

    You may be itching to get outside, install new plants and make other changes to your garden. Before you do, make sure you don't make these common landscape mistakes:

    Mistake #1: Using invasive plants, which are harmful to the environment. See this invasive list for central North Carolina. Instead, choose native plants. They need fewer resources to thrive and help our wildlife and pollinators.

    Mistake #2: Over-planting. Know the mature size of plants and provide the space needed for them to grow to maturity. This can also reduce the need for pruning.

    Mistake #3: Planting too deep. Roots will grow where there is optimum oxygen in the soil, which would be closer to the soil surface. The base of a tree or shrub should be exposed to air and not covered by soil.

    Mistake #4: Shrubs around the home are too tall and need constant pruning. Select plants that will grow no taller than the height you want (usually the bottom of the windows). Proper selection will greatly reduce the need for shearing to control the plant size.

    Mistake #5: Mulch piled against the tree trunk. Mulch should be spread out under the canopy of the tree or shrub. It helps hold in moisture and suppresses weeds, which compete for water and nutrients. Keep mulch at least two inches away from the trunk of trees.

    For more information, see this list. Don't forget to follow Right Plant, Right Place practices!


    Photo: Grant Power Landscaping

    Hardy, low-maintenance ferns add versatility

    Their lush foliage and diverse textures make ferns an excellent choice for a wide variety of landscapes. Ferns can be planted in-ground or in container pots.

    ✳️ Most ferns prefer filtered sunlight, though some can tolerate dense shade.

    ✳️ They reproduce by the microscopic spores that are produced in clusters called sori on the undersides of the leaves (see photo).

    ✳️ The best time to plant is in spring and fall when rain is more plentiful. Monitor the soil and water the first couple of years if there's insufficient rain. They also work well in containers. Some have upright growth habits, others are cascading. 

    ✳️ For all ferns, cut ragged or damaged fronds to the ground. In spring, be cautious not to cut the new growth, which are called fiddleheads. The fast-growing fiddleheads, which look like tiny scrolls popping out of the center of the plant, are the plant's young shoots (see photo). Some fiddleheads are considered a     delicious delicacy  . Deciduous ferns will require either fall or spring clean-up. 

    ✳️ The roots of ferns are produced by underground structures called rhizomes, which are creeping or clumping. Creeping rhizomes grow from several inches to one foot per year and form a large colony. Clumping rhizomes are slow growing and form a tight clump. Knowing whether a fern is a creeper (which spreads) or a clumper is an important fact to take account when incorporating these plants into your landscape.

    ✳️ Ferns take time to establish and it may take four or five years before they become fully mature. Ferns only get better over time.


    Best Ferns to Plant, recommended by Dr. Larry Mellichamp, native plant expert and former director of UNCC Botanical Gardens.

    Favorite Ferns of North Carolina provides scientific names, NC growing regions (e.g., Piedmont), soil requirements and special features.


    Don't be alarmed by the microscopic spores on the back of the leaves. Photo: Purdue U


    Fiddleheads! Photo: Pinterest

    Is Virginia buttonwood growing in your lawn? 

    Virginia buttonweed (Diodia virginiana) is one of the leading weeds of southern lawns. It’s a warm season perennial weed that begins growing in spring and grows through the summer. The thick matting growth habit can crowd out lawns where it grows. It is one of the most difficult to control broadleaf weeds in lawns. If you think this is in your lawn, see our fact sheet for steps you should consider!


    Photo: NCSU

    Upcoming events

    • UNC-Charlotte Botanical Gardens' spring plant sale: You'll order online and then schedule an in-person pick up. For members, online sales began March 29 and will run through April 5. For the general public, online sales run April 5-12. For details
    • Wing Haven spring plant sale: Sign up now for a 50-minute time slot to visit their nursery and buy plants. The plant list will be available by April 9. For members, the in-person sale is April 13 & 14; for the public, it's April 15-17. For details

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    The Mecklenburg Extension Master Gardener Volunteer (EMGV) program operates under the Mecklenburg Center of the NC Cooperative Extension Service (NCCES), a part of NC State University and NC A&T State University. 

    NCCES is a part of Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation.

    NC State University and N.C. A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity and prohibit discrimination and harassment regardless of age, color, disability, family and marital status, gender identify, genetic information, national origin, political beliefs, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation and veteran status. NC State, N.C. A&T, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.