Gardening in February – 3. Planting
Gardening in February – Planting in February
If you want to begin with your planting in February, you can plant trees and shrubs.
However, it is best to delay planting evergreens, as the soil will not be warm enough for them to form new roots readily, and, as a result, their moisture uptake from the earth will be slow. Cold winds may cause an evergreen to lose more moisture through its leaves than it can absorb through its roots – the recipe for a dead plant.
If the weather is still chilling, or the ground is frozen, it is not worth buying or planting shrubs of borderline hardiness; let the nursery or garden center bear the winter losses. Buy in March or April when the worst of the weather is over, and you can ensure that new growth is alive before making a purchase.
House and conservatory plants
Protection and light
Protect plants, especially tender ones, from extremes of temperature and moisture, and continue to provide as much light as possible during the day.
Watering and feeding
Water sparingly, letting the compost dry out slightly until new growth begins. Plants kept in a centrally heated room may continue to grow slowly, and you should be water these plants more frequently. Take care not to over water plants kept in a cool room as this will cause the roots to rot, and the plant will die. Only feed plants that are growing strongly or in flower.
Maintaining healthy foliage
Remove dead leaves as soon as they fall to prevent grey mold (botrytis) from attacking the plants.
Spray or wipe a proprietary leaf shine on upper leaf surfaces of glossy-leaved plants (but follow the manufacturer’s instructions as some plants are not suited to this treatment) or just use water—clean hairy-leaved plants with a soft, dry brush.
Remove dead or discolored fronds from ferns. Cut old fronds from maidenhair ferns (Adiantum spp.) to allow new growth. Re-pot ferns with cramped roots into larger pots, using a good potting compost. To increase stock, remove hearty portions of crowns from the outside of old ferns and pot up the divisions separately into 8 cm (3 in) pots.
Dust on house plants can reduce the amount of light the leaves receive and cause them to lose their sparkle. Use a proprietary leaf shine or moist cloth to remove dust from glossy-leaved plants.
Carefully remove any discolored or dead flowers or dead buds from azaleas. Indoor azaleas in bloom should be kept in humid conditions.
Buy clivias in the bud this month: they are easy plants to grow and spectacular when in flower.
Continue to sow seeds in February, like seeds of streptocarpus and gloxinias in pots in a propagator. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick them out into seed trays filled with soilless potting compost and keep them at a temperature above 13°C (55°F).
Indoor bulbs and corms
Start an early batch of achimenes into growth by placing the scaly rhizomes in shallow trays of moist peat, maintaining a temperature of 13 – 15°C (55-60°F) when the shoots are about 2.5 cm (1 in) high, pot into 13 cm (5 in) pots containing John Innes No 2 or soilless potting compost.
Continue to keep hippeastrum moist and feed occasionally. Restart growth of overwintering gloriosa flowers by keeping them warm and watering sparingly.
Keep pots of lachenalias and cyclamen cool and just moist to prolong flowering. Remove faded flowers from cyclamen and pull yellowing leaves gently from the base, taking care not to cut the leaf stalks, leading to rotting.
Remember to bring in pots of forced bulbs for indoor flowering. Water, deadhead, and feed all bulbs to rebuild their strength before planting in February.
Pruning passion flowers and plumbagos
The passionflower is a vigorous climber and should not be confined to the hoops provided when the plant is purchased. Train it against a conservatory wall. Prune it down to within two buds of where last year s growth started.
Plumbago is best tied to a support such as a trellis fixed against a conservatory wall. Shorten shoots by at least two thirds in early spring. If space is restricted, prune back to within one or two buds of last summer’s growth.
Give bougainvilleas their first watering. Tie in spreading growth to a trellis fan inserted into the compost. Keep bougainvilleas in pots, as they can become invasive if they are planted in a border under glass without any root restriction.
Prune plumbagos and passion flowers within one or two buds of last summer’s growth, water sparingly, and ventilate well on mild days.
Keep in bright light, and maintain a minimum temperature of 15°C (60°F).
Mist air plants once or twice a week with a handheld mister, but do not make them too wet.
Cacti and other succulents
Continue to keep them cool during their resting period.
Water regularly so that the compost, which is very open and free-draining, is moist but not soaking wet. Immerse the container in water for a few minutes, then allow it to drain well. Repeat this about once a week – more often in the growing season, less frequently when the plants are resting.
Buy easy-to-grow orchids such as Cambrian hybrids (in flower between now and summer), cymbidiums, and moth orchids (Phalaenopsis). They will provide a succession of blooms over several months. These orchids need plenty of indirect light and are kept at a temperature of 10-20°C (50-70°F). Cymbidiums can be kept a little cooler, but most indoor orchids thrive in a warm, humid kitchen or, better still, a bathroom.
Rhododendrons and azaleas
Preparing for spring planting
Because of their woodland origin, Rhododendrons and azaleas require more organic material in the soil than many other plants. They also need acid soil. Test your soil with a soil testing kit. Rhododendrons and azaleas will not survive for more than a few years on grounds with a pH higher than 5.5. They only live that long because their fibrous rootball does not root in the soil surrounding it but survives independently. This deprives the plant of moisture and nutrients, and it very slowly dies.
If your garden conditions are not ideal, grow rhododendrons and azaleas in containers, using a lime-free compost.
Drainage is also important. An excess of water can damage the plant just as surely as drought, mainly when it is newly planted. Both the evergreen foliage and the fibrous roots will be affected, and in severe cases, the plant will die.
Rhododendrons are happiest in dappled shade, and only the most robust types do well in full sun, although azaleas do better than rhododendrons in a sunny position. For varieties that flower early in the season, avoid places exposed to the early morning sun.
Dig the soil to a depth of at least 45 cm (18 in). Add a general fertilizer with a high acid content in powder or granule form. If the soil is low in organic material, add generous quantities of leafmould or well-rotted garden compost.
Looking after mail-order plants
Unwrap plants received through the post and stand them in a sheltered place, watering if necessary. If there is prolonged bad weather, pack damp compost around them and keep under cover until the weather is suitable for planting in February.
Applying top dressing
Adding a top dressing of gravel or chippings will enhance the rock garden’s appearance, suppress weed seedlings and help drainage around the plant.
In a mild winter, keep a constant check on the slug population, especially around early bulbs, whose flowers seem particularly attractive to slugs at this time of year.
The dormant period is an excellent time to take root cuttings. Rock plants from which root cuttings can be taken include Morisia monanthos, Primula denticulata, Pulsatilla vulgaris, and dwarf verbascums, such as ‘Letitia.’
Trees, shrubs, and hedges
Planting in February
Continue to plant new trees and shrubs into well-prepared soil when the weather is favorable. Mulch, stake, and tie those that require it.
Controlling pests and diseases
If necessary, spray with a tar oil winter wash to remove lichen, moss, and overwintering eggs or spores of pests and diseases from established ornamental trees and large shrubs. Spray trees only if the problem is severe, as the wash will also kill the eggs and larvae of beneficial insects.
Cover the area below shrubs and trees being sprayed with a large piece of plastic sheeting or with old newspapers to prevent the wash from contaminating the soil or damaging any underplanting. Protect your clothes and eyes when spraying, and apply the wash following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Some shrubs, such as the colored-bark dogwoods (Cornus alba and C. stolonifera varieties), Kerria japonica, and Rhus typhina produce suckers from the base of the plant or along with the roots. These can be removed and planted up in pots or a nursery bed as new plants.
After replanting, reduce the length of any side shoots on the suckers from shrubs by at least 50 percent, encouraging a bushy habit. However, shoots from trees are generally not reduced and are allowed to grow away freely.
Taking hardwood cuttings
Continue to take hardwood cuttings in mild weather.
Propagating from seed
You can sow seeds in February of many ornamental shrubs, including those seeds that have a dry nature or have been stratified to remove their fleshy outer coat. Germinate in a heated propagator at 13-18°C (55-65°F) and pot on into suitably sized pots when the seedlings are large enough to handle. Many shrubs’ seeds are slow to germinate and develop, so they may not reach the potting-on stage for many months.
Pruning in February
Use the one-third method to prune all shrubs, such as winter-flowering viburnums, which have just finished flowering.
Remove the end foliage rosettes on young, tall-growing mahonias, such as Mahonia japonica and M. ‘Charity’, when they have finished flowering. This will encourage branching.
Continue to plant both bare-root and container-grown hedging plants, but delay growing evergreens until next month.
Clear weeds and rubbish from the base of established hedges and cut back and reshape overgrown deciduous hedges.
Climbers and wall plants
Preparing a planting site
When planting in February, the soil’s careful preparation is essential because many climbers reach substantial heights and cover large areas. Hence, their roots range widely in search of food and moisture. The planting area may be restricted, but make sure the site is at least 45 cm (18 in) away from the wall or fence. Ideally, the minimum prepared planting area should be 1m2 (1 sq. yd).
When working close to buildings, always check where the drains, gas, water, and electricity services are located. If working near paths or patios, take care not to undermine their stability when digging under or next to them.
Dig the planting hole to a minimum depth of 45 cm (18 in), and ensure that there is at least 20 cm (8 in) of good topsoil. Bring in new soil to supplement what is there if necessary.
Planting in February
Plant hardy climbers this month if the soil is not frozen or waterlogged. It is essential to keep new climbers and wall shrubs well-watered and to keep a careful watch for signs of drying out. Do not overwater if the ground is wet.
Weather permitting, take hardwood cuttings of hardy climbers now to save time later in the spring.
Sow seeds in February of annual climbers such as Chilean glory vine (Eccremocarpus scaber), the cup-and-saucer vine (Cobaea scandens), and morning glory (Ipomoea spp.).
The soil close to a wall or fence is usually dried, so prepare the planting hole thoroughly and add plenty of well-rotted organic material and a handful of a general fertilizer such as Growmore. Place the roots about 45 cm (18 in) away from the wall, angling the main stem back towards the support Clematis should be planted with about 5 cm (2 in) of soil covering the top of the compost the plant has been grown in, but plant other shrubs at their original depth.
Pruning in February
If you have overgrown climbers and wall shrubs, start rejuvenation pruning using the one-third system. While gardening in February, it’s time to carry out the first year’s pruning, which will help the plants regrow more strongly. However, in the second year, revert to pruning immediately after flowering.
In warm sheltered gardens, prune tender climbers and wall shrubs are already showing vital growth signs. Pruning in February will encourage profitable growth and foliage.
Complete winter pruning of wisteria if you haven’t done it in November.
Cut back self-clinging climbers, such as ivies, Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus), and Hydrangea petiolaris, to keep them within bounds if you haven’t done it already.
Frost protection screens should not be removed until next month, even if the temperature rises.
In a mild spring, some deciduous trees and shrubs will already have started into growth. New shoots are particularly vulnerable to frost and wind damage, so keep the containers in a sheltered spot.
Severe conditions in February can take their toll on winter and spring bedding plants in containers. Whenever possible, move the containers under glass or to a more sheltered spot, close to the house walls, for example, when hard frost is forecast.
Maintain a winter display
Check plants regularly, removing faded flowers and foliage. If plants are badly damaged or die off, replace them – garden centers will have plenty of suitable plants that you can start planting in February. Look for pots of dwarf, early-flowering bulbs such as scillas and daffodils. Pansies and other bedding plants often have a break from flowering at this time of year. But don’t discard them; they will shoot back into growth next month.
Pruning in February
By the end of February, most deciduous shrubs and trees should be starting to bud, making it easy to distinguish living from the deadwood. While gardening in February, it’s an excellent time to carry out any necessary pruning jobs, but never prune without checking on the appropriate treatment for a particular plant, or you risk pruning out this year’s flowers. The aim is to produce a natural and attractive shape in proportion to the container’s size and keep the plant healthy and free-flowering.
In cold areas, leave hard pruning until next month as pruning stimulates growth, and any resulting young leaves may be damaged by frost.
Many summer-flowering bulbs prefer well-drained soil and plenty of sunshine. They make ideal container plants, especially in gardens where heavy clay soil or slugs are a problem. The majority are tender, so wait until the weather improves before planting in February.
Continue to examine stored tubers every few weeks during the winter for any signs of shriveling or rotting. Ensure the labels remain tightly attached to the tubers, or you will not know which dahlia is which when you begin with the planting in February.
Taking cuttings from tubers
You can only increase the stock of specific dahlia varieties by taking cuttings or dividing tubers since they are hybrids and do not grow true from seed. If you have a heated greenhouse, put the tubers into boxes with good seeds or cutting compost containing extra sand or grit for drainage. Keep them at a temperature of 15-18°C (60-65°F).
Alternatively, if you have the appropriate equipment, put the boxes on a heated propagating bench or into a heated propagator. Spray the compost with tepid water (preferably every day) as this encourages the growth of new shoots, which will provide the cuttings.
Ensure that the cuttings are labeled clearly, water them and keep them shaded and watered or sprayed until they have begun to root. Harden them off in May and plant out in June.
- Start your dahlia tubers in trays or boxes of moist seed or cutting compost with extra grit or sand. They do not have to be covered entirely.
- Keep the boxes in a warm, light place, and use the new shoots as cuttings when they are about 8-10 cm (3-4 in) long. There should be several shoots on each plant.
- Trim the base of the cutting with a sharp knife or blade, immediately below a joint. Remove any leaves which would be below the compost.
- Dip the base in a rooting hormone, then insert 2.5 cm (1 in) deep in seed or cutting compost with extra sand or grit. Place the pot in a propagator if possible.
Purchasing bulbs in February
When selecting bulbs, choose plump, healthy-looking ones. Avoid dried-up specimens, any with very advanced shoots and any that show brown rot around the base. Bulbs that look limp and dry may be revived by planting them in moist soil or by laying them on a bed of wet sand or compost in a frost-proof place. They can recover within a day or so and be potted up before planting outside.
Planting in February
If it comes to Lilies – you can begin with the planting in February if the weather is fine and the soil suitable.
In an unusually mild winter, a few lilies may already be coming through in the garden. These very early shoots should be protected by covering them with a layer of shredded bark, compost, or cloches; they will also need protection from slugs.
Controlling basal rot
Various fungi can cause rotting around the flat piece of tissue between the scales and the lily bulb’s roots. Called the basal plate, this is actually a remarkably compressed stem. Rot can spread quickly and kill the plant, but if you cut away the affected tissue before the decay becomes too extensive, you may save the bulb. Dip or dust the bulb well with a fungicide and then plant up. Keep a sharp eye on nearby bulbs so that you can check any trouble quickly before it spreads.
Cultivating lilies as pot plants
Most of the lily bulbs now on sale make splendid pot plants. Use a good quality compost, such as John Innes No. 1, with an equal amount of peat or peat substitute. Ericaceous compost will be needed for lime-hating Oriental hybrids. Ensure good drainage by adding extra grit.
A 15 cm (6 in) pot will hold three small lilies such as Lilium pumilum (syn. L. tenuifolium) or one Asiatic hybrid such as ‘Enchantment.’
Tall trumpet kinds such as ‘Pink Perfection,’ which can reach a height of 1-1.5 m (3-5 ft) or more, need a larger pot or even a half-tub to make sure that they do not get blown over when in flower.
The bulbs should be covered with 5-10 cm (2-4 in) of compost, more if possible for taller growing varieties and stem-rooting types such as L. hulhiferum, as these will send out roots from the lower part of the stem to help anchor the plant firmly in the soil.
Sow seeds in February
If you sow seeds in February, you should bury them under glass. Lily seedlings raised from this sowing should make good headway through the year and be ready to plant out or pot up by the end of the growing season in the autumn.
Feeding forced bulbs
When flower buds appear on forced lilies, raise the temperature to 18-20°C (65-70°F) and feed with a diluted tomato or other high-potash fertilizer every week. Flowers should open six to seven weeks after the buds first appear.
Take cuttings of ivy-leaved pelargoniums for hanging baskets and tubs. They can be rooted in a propagator. Continue to propagate zonal pelargoniums and pot up cuttings that were taken last month.
Seedlings that were sown in January will need to be pricked out or potted individually into 5-8 cm (2-3 in) pots, preferably in a good peat-based or soilless compost. Pelargoniums like a dry atmosphere, so the seedlings can be kept on windowsills in the house, but the ideal place is a frost-free greenhouse or conservatory.
For a well-grown plant, it is essential to provide adequate light and ensure it is never crowded. Aim for lots of flowers, even growth all the way around, and foliage that extends down to the pot.
Once a young cutting or seedling is established, stop the plant to encourage bushy growth. This is done by pinching out the growing tip. The plant will respond by sending out several new shoots lower down the stem. As the young plant develops, stop any sprouts that are growing out of line.
As the plant grows, turn it regularly so that it develops evenly on all sides.
Check all wooden structures, arches, trellises, and pergolas, including standard stakes and rose ties.
To create more excellent disease resistance and encourage healthier plants, apply sulfate of potash at a rate of 15-35g per m2 (72-l50 oz per sq. yd) wherever roses are growing.
Pruning in February
In very mild winters and warmer parts of the country, begin pruning roses by the end of this month.
Preparing the ground for planting in February
When the weather permits, fork over the area where sweet peas are to be planted. Break up any clods and work the soil to obtain a good tilth. Treading will help to provide a firm, rigid structure beneficial to root establishment. Apply a balanced fertilizer such as Growmore to the soil at the rate recommended by the manufacturer.
Erecting supports for cordons
To grow plants on the cordon system, erect the supporting framework of wooden or metal posts and cross-pieces, with thick strands of wire connecting them. Though design details are usually determined by the materials available, the structure must be sufficiently firm and rigid to withstand strong winds. Make sure you have good canes to support the plants. Bamboo canes 2.5 m (8 ft) long are ideal.
Sweet peas, grown to exhibition standard, are trained as cordons. It would be best if you had a framework like the one shown above to do this properly. The basic framework must be strong enough to withstand strong winds.
Sow seeds in February
Towards the end of the month, in temperate areas and with soil and weather conditions permitting, sow seeds outdoors in their flowering positions, following the method outlined for autumn sowing. Protect the seeds and seedlings against birds, rodents, and slugs.
Potting on January seedlings
Prick out and pot on seedlings sown last month. These potted-on plants should be kept in the greenhouse and placed as near the glass as possible. This will gradually harden them off before moving them to a cold frame outside.
To encourage side-shoots to develop as early as possible, pinch out the tips, or growing points, of the seedlings after forming the first or second pair of leaves.
Continue to check plants left in the ground and keep those bedded in cold frames just moist, avoiding overwatering.
Keep beds clear of weeds. Groundsel and chickweed, in particular, should be removed from around growing chrysanthemums, as they are host plants for the chrysanthemum eelworm.
Maintain a cool, ventilated greenhouse.
Take cuttings of any varieties which have vigorous shoots throughout the month, but leave the single and anemone-flowered types until the end of the month. Ensure that exhibition varieties potted up last month are kept moist. Check regularly as the pots will dry out quickly on sunny days. Pot up any rooted cuttings that remain.
Continue to plant fruit trees and bushes if soil conditions are suitable; otherwise, heel the plants in or put them, still wrapped, in a frost-free shed.
Apply a general fertilizer to medium-sized fruit trees up to about 4.5 m (15 ft) tall. Less time is needed for the dissolved nutrients to reach their roots than those of large trees.
Apples and pears
Carry on pruning apples and pears except when the temperature is below freezing. Burn or shred the prunings.
Peaches and nectarine
Prune newly planted peach trees by cutting back the shoots to be retained for the main branches to 30 45 cm (12-18 in).
Peach leaf curl disease is an extremely disfiguring fungus disease. Soon after they appear, the young leaves become distorted and turn red. This gets progressively worse throughout the growing season until the leaves are completely useless and drop off.
The fungus spores spread the disease, and by late summer, the tree can be almost entirely leafless. This weakens the tree, which, after a few years, will stop fruiting, then cease to grow and possibly die.
Spray peaches and nectarines with a fungicide as soon as the buds start to swell, and again a fortnight later. Repeat at leaf-fall in the autumn. In late winter, wall-trained trees can be protected with plastic sheeting stretched over an open-sided wooden frame. This will keep the foliage dry, which will help to stop the fungus from spreading.
Peach leaf curl disease on wall-trained peaches and nectarines can be controlled by making a plastic shield for the tree, as shown above. This greatly reduces the risk of infection.
In mild years, autumn raspberries may already show signs of new growth. Prune old canes down to the ground as soon as new growth appears.
Start forcing maiden plants (those propagated last summer and which have not fruited yet). Plants growing in pots or other containers can be brought into the greenhouse straight away. With little or no heat, you can harvest strawberries from these by late May. Outdoor, first-year plants can also be brought forward simply by covering them with cloches or a plastic sheeting tunnel. These strawberries will be ready two weeks or so ahead of those in the open.
These are related to the wild, moorland bilberries, or blackberries but are much better at cropping and forming bushes than low, straggly plants. They are lime-hating plants for which acid soil with a pH of between 4 5 5 is essential. The ground must be well-drained but with adequate moisture in the summer. Late autumn to early spring is the best planting time as the plants are deciduous, but planting in February is fine when the soil is workable.
Blueberries take a while to start fruiting, but by about the fifth year, a bush can produce up to 2.5 kg (5 lb) a year from mid-summer to mid-autumn, depending on the variety of Blueberries.
The best fruit is produced on branches 2-3 years old, so prune encourages new growth by removing the oldest branch systems once the bush is 3-4 years old. It is best to prune in early spring when the buds are just coming to life.
Good varieties include ‘Bluecrop’ (midseason), ‘Bluetta'(early) and ‘Coville'(late). ‘Herbert’ is perhaps the best flavored of all.
Annuals and biennials
Sowing slow-maturing bedding
Sow slow-growing annuals as soon as possible this month to avoid late flowering. Besides, sow bedding calceolarias, cinerarias, and bedding dahlias. You can begin planting most half-hardy annuals under glass this month for pricking out towards the end of March in temperate regions.
Sow seeds in February
Begin sowing Chilean glory flower (Eccremocarpus scaber), the cup-and-saucer vine (Cobaea scandens), and morning glory (Ipomoea spp.). Soak the seeds of cup-and-saucer vine and morning glory for 24 hours before sowing. Check the seed packet for the germination temperature required. Generally, a temperature of 15-18°C (60-65°F) is sufficient.
During this month, garden centers stock a range of seedlings that are ready to prick out. These include plants that need an early start, such as antirrhinums and ones which are difficult to sow and germinate, such as Begonia semperflorens, busy lizzies, and lobelias. This is an economical way to buy bedding plants as the cost of heating, seed, and compost is included in the price, and there is little or no wastage from sources failing to germinate. To help prevent damping off, water pricked-out seedlings with a fungicidal solution.
Free-draining sandy soil should be dry enough to cultivate now. Delay cultivation on sticky, wet clay until March or April unless the earth has been covered with black plastic sheeting or cloches. To prepare seedbeds for sowing hardy annuals next month, lightly fork over the surface, breaking down large lumps, then rake the soil to a fine tilth.
Ordering young plants
Order from mail-order nurseries the young plants that you require to grow on in the spring.
As plants begin to grow in spring, they can utilize fertilizers more readily. Apply a controlled-release fertilizer or a slow-acting one, such as hoof and horn, to the soil in established borders, avoiding the new foliage. Any possible damage is minimized if fertilizer is applied shortly before the rain. Different soil conditions need other nutrients.
Sow seeds in February
Continue to sow seeds in February in pots or trays for outdoor germination using a suitable compost, and protect them from birds or other animals if necessary. Sow any quick-growing perennials that may flower this year without delay and raise them in warmth.
Frost and wind protection
Continue to check on the frost protection for all susceptible half-hardy and slightly tender perennials and new plantings. If heavy frosts or biting winds are forecasts, provide added protection with whatever materials you have available. Any protection can be removed once the temperature rises.
Bulbs, corms, and tubers
Preparing the terrain is an essential task while gardening in February. If the ground has not been prepared for gladiolus planting already, do this at the first opportunity.
Gladioli will flower earlier if sprouted before planting in February. Place single layers of corms in trays and place in full light in a greenhouse or windowsill. Maintain a temperature of around 10°C (50°F). Young shoots will soon appear, but watch out for signs of aphids.
Checking for disease
Check bulbs, corms, and tubers that you have stored, and discard any that are soft or diseased.
Planting in February
Plant begonia tubers in pots of soilless potting compost. Keep the tubers just damp until the first shoots begin to show.
Continue to bring in bulbs for indoor flowering as they become ready for extra warmth—water and deadhead plants when the blooms fade. Give the leaves of all plants a foliar feed to build up the bulb. Do not replant them outdoors until weather and soil conditions are favorable. You can put the bulbs in a greenhouse or cold frame if you have one.
Continue to keep hippeastrum moist and feed them occasionally.
Protecting early rockery bulbs
Cover dwarf winter-flowering irises with sheets of glass, plastic, or cloches if there is prolonged cold or wet weather.
Ordering bulbs and corms
Order or buy summer-flowering bulbs and corms if you have not already done so.
Tender and Half-Hardy
Pruning in February
Prune half-hardy fuchsias being kept undercover as soon as the pink ‘eyes’ (embryo shoots) appear on the branches. This will help shape the plants and encourage the new growth on which flowers are produced. Prune standards and trailing varieties to one pair of eyes to encourage tighter growth.
1. Prune fuchsia, when they start into growth and pink buds (eyes) appear on the branches. Start by removing dead and spindly stems.
2. Prune back last year’s growth by about two-thirds. You can be even more drastic if you prefer, as new shoots will be produced freely.
3. The buds grow in alternate pairs. Cut back all side shoots to leave one pair of buds on standards and trailing varieties and two pairs on other types.
Two weeks after pruning in February, sufficient young growth will have developed for repotting to be necessary. Contrary to expectation, this means potting back into smaller pots. Remove all the old soil without damaging the new white roots. Lightly prune large old roots or ones that are damaged, and pot back from 13 cm (5 in) into 9 cm (3 ½ in) pots.
Potting up cuttings
Transfer cuttings are taken in the autumn into 5 cm (2 in) pots. Newly potted cuttings will need regular spraying but avoid heavy watering as the root systems are not yet fully established and cannot cope with too much water.
Spray overwintered plants with tepid water on sunny days and keep the greenhouse well ventilated.
Towards the end of the month, if the temperature remains above freezing at night, unearth winter-stored plants ready for pruning in March.
Ordering new plants
Order new plants from nurseries this month. Garden centers will also be stocking up, but beware of buying too early if you cannot provide the light and warmth the young plants require.
Firm in any plants loosened by wind rock as gaps around the roots could allow frost to penetrate. If the long bare stems are unsightly, they can be trimmed, but do not prune them right back yet.
Preparing new beds
Dig new beds in preparation for planting in February and adjust the pH if necessary.
Examine heathers planted last autumn, remove any weeds, and gently firm into place any plants which have been lifted by frost.
Preparing a new herb garden
Cultivate the soil to about a spade’s depth. Lighten heavy soil by incorporating wood ash, leaf mold, or garden compost at the rate of two buckets per m2 (sq. yd). Many herbs grow best in warm, still air; if there is a prevailing wind, a hedge of lavender, sage or roses will provide shelter. Rosemary will make a good hedge in favorable climates, but leaves can brown in prolonged frost followed by drying winds.
Sow seeds in February
Sow parsley in pots indoors or outdoors under glass, sieving a light covering of compost over the seeds.
Mint may be increased by the long, rooted runners which form immediately below the soil surface. Uproot them, select and separate healthy runners from the parent plant, and plant them out on their own in rich, moist soil. Mint is very invasive, and it is advisable to contain it by planting in an old bucket or pot sunk into the ground.
Mint is easily propagated from the long runners that it forms beneath the ground. To increase your stock of mint, lift a plant. Separate some runners, then pot or plant them up individually.