By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Apr 18, 2001 at 11:11 AM

Q: When should I prune Spirea and Potentilla?

A: Prune Spirea and Potentilla once in the spring down to 6-8 inches above the ground, and once again in mid-July to remove the spent flowers. This will shape the plant and encourage more flowers.

Q: When and how should I prune my shrub roses?

A: Shrub roses should be pruned at the first set of five leaves when they have spent flower heads. This will help them bloom more profusely, if they are a variety that blooms more than once.

Q: My Spruce tree is losing the needles on its lower limbs. What's wrong?

A: Spruces that are planted in shade often lose their lower needles and limbs. If in full sun, it probably has a disease called Phystospera Canker, which affects trees under stress. There is no chemical control for this disease.

Q: My Birch tree has papery, brown spots on the leaves. What's wrong?

A: It has leaf miner, which is an insect that eats what is between the top and bottom layer of the leaf, causing that papery look.

Q: I just planted some new shrubs in my yard. How much should I water them?

A: They should receive one inch of water per week, either as a long, soaking rainfall or as a once a week watering. When you do water, it should be a long, slow soaking of the soil, so there is no runoff.

Q: I am having a ball and burlapped tree delivered to my yard, and I'll be doing the planting. Do I remove the burlap when I plant it?

A: No, our burlap can be left on. It will decompose within 6-8 weeks. Though, six weeks after planting, cut off the twine wrapped around the trunk at ground level.

Q: What shrubs can I add to my yard that will give me summer color?

A: You could add Purpleleaf Plum, pink blooming Spirea, Potentilla and any of the hardy Shrub Roses, which come in a variety of colors.

Q: I have small, brown growths on the tips of my Spruce tree branches. What is wrong?

A: You have Spruce Gall Aphid. The best way to control this is to prune off the galls and dispose of them, by burning them or throwing them in the garbage.

Q: My flowering Crabapple is loosing its foliage. Its leaves have black spots and are turning yellow. What's wrong?

A: Your Crabapple has a disease called Apple Scab. Rake up any foliage that has dropped and burn it or dispose of it in the garbage. Next year, as the foliage comes out, you will need to spray on a fungicide. Repeat every 10-14 days, through mid-July.

Q: When is the best time to fertilize my trees and shrubs?

A: The best time to fertilize your trees and shrubs is in the fall, after the plants have gone dormant. In late October, you can either core feed with a granular fertilizer or you can deep root-feed with a liquid fertilizer.

Q: Should I do anything to protect my shade trees for the winter?

A: Smooth barked trees can be susceptible to frost cracks. To protect against this, wrap these trees with horticultural tree wrap at Thanksgiving time. Remove the wrap in spring.

Q: Can I prune my trees during the winter?

A: Yes, winter is a great time to prune deciduous trees, for two reasons. First, with the limbs bare, it is much easier to see the shape of the tree. The other reason, there is less chance of insects causing problems.

Q: I'm looking for a tree that stays small and will provide me with color? What should I consider?

A: Consider planting a Japanese Tree Lilac, Dwarf Sargent Crabapple, Washington Hawthorn, Magnolia or a Serviceberry.

Q: Some of my plants, especially my crabapple trees, have been plagued with insect and disease problems every year. What should I do?

A: Plants that are susceptible to diseases and insects should be sprayed with a dormant spray early in the spring. Combine an insecticide with a fungicide and spray when the temperatures are over 40° F and before the leaf buds break open.

Q: My oak tree has caterpillars eating the leaves off. What should I do?

A: You probably have gypsy moth caterpillars. They can be identified by the blue and red spots on their back. Any insecticide registered for oaks will control them.

Q: The deer are eating my plants. What can I do?

A: This is a difficult problem to control. We'd recommend spraying your plants with a deer-repellent called "Deer Off." It will last for approximately one month.