In all but the warmest parts of the South, celebrate spring early by bringing branches of flowering shrubs and trees inside to force the blooms.
Cut stems of redbud, flowering pear, serviceberry, magnolia, flowering quince, or any of your favorite spring bloomers. Create unusual arrangements with stems of plants that bear catkins. This includes Corylus shrubs and alder and birch trees.
Once you bring the branches inside, submerge and recut stem ends under water. Plunge freshly cut ends in a clean bucket filled with floral preservative. Place the branch-filled bucket in a cool spot, such as a garage or porch. Allow stems to fully hydrate; it will only take a few hours.
Use the stems to create spectacular indoor arrangements. Fill vases with floral preservative solution to keep bacteria at bay. Change the solution weekly or whenever it’s cloudy. Add the cut stems, and watch buds swell and burst into bloom.
Learn more about forcing branches.
Veggies. Plant potatoes, onions, lettuce, and spinach in all but northernmost areas. In northern areas of the South, wait a few weeks.
Trees. Add trees to your landscape this month. Select trees that are compatible with your soil type. Consult your extension service or a knowledgeable local garden retailer. Plant bare-root trees unless you garden in the warmer reaches of the region. Container-grown trees are a better option for the warmer areas.
Bedding plants. Set out cool-season annuals in cooler areas. Because cool-season annuals tolerate frost, they can be planted in areas where temperatures may drop. Lobelia, pansy, dianthus, and snapdragon are all good options.
Perennials. Create pots of spring-blooming perennials to stage an instant show in your garden. Candidates include Louisiana phlox, daylily, columbine, or purple coneflower.
- Roses. When all danger of frost is past, prune roses. Cut any canes that are diseased, damaged, or dead. Remember to place cuts about one-quarter inch above an outward-facing bud.
- Trees. Many trees can be pruned now. Wait to prune spring-flowering trees until after they flower. For fruit trees, contact the cooperative extension office to learn how to prune to enhance fruit yield. Choose early summer to prune maples or birches; if pruned now, these trees bleed sap profusely. Also hold off on pruning oaks and walnuts until early summer to avoid wilt disease.
- Shrubs. Give shrubs a late winter shape-up. Prune branches to reduce height or direct growth. Thin the twiggy growth from the interior of shrubs. Prune spring-blooming shrubs after flowering. This includes Peegee hydrangea, kerria, rhododendron, Clethra, and weigela.
Test Garden Tip: In the most tropical areas of the South, fertilize palms late this month. Use a product labeled specifically for palm trees. It should contain manganese, iron, and potassium.
February Gardening Tips for the South from Better Homes and Gardens.