What to do in the garden in February

winter scene

February at a glance

  1. Pruning time for Clematis, Wisteria, Winter Jasmine, Hydrangea, Buddleia, Cornus, Mahonia, Evergreen shrubs, Climbing and Bush roses. 
  2. Sow early seed under glass with extra heat and light.
  3. Plant summer flowering bulbs.
  4. Cut back Sedum.
  5. Sow Sweet Peas.
  6. Chit Potatoes 

February in the Garden

 Gardening is seasonal, but because of the variations in our weather, and range of conditions across the UK, the rules about what to do  in the garden and when, are not hard and fast rules. The weather moderates gardening advice. No two Springs are ever the same, (who can forget the Beast from the East,) and the weather can make a difference. 

What to do in the garden in February depends in part where in the country you garden. If you garden in the south of England or have a garden which is sheltered, more can be done earlier, but northern gardeners, especially those with exposed plots, may need to leave tasks to late February or even early March. All gardening calendars are just a guide. It depends on your garden and the weather. 

During mild spells in February, shrubs, climbers and bare rooted roses can be planted. If you are looking to buy shrubs with late winter and early spring interest, follow this link for ideas.  

Pruning Clematis and Wisteria in February

Considering it is so early in the gardening year, February is a busy month.

February is pruning month for two tricky climbers: Clematis (except Group 1) and Wisteria. Below are links to the advice pages and short videos explaining how to prune both climbers.

Wisteria is more likely to flower if pruned correctly. 'How to make Wisteria flower' is one of the most frequently asked questions and here is video on how to prune wisteria, (viewed over 280,000, so I hope it is helpful) and a video on winter prune wisteria

Before pruning a clematis, it is first necessary to work out to which pruning group the Clematis belongs. This is because pruning requirements vary with different types of Clematis. Video advice: Clematis pruning groups 1,2 and 3 explained, How to prune Group 2 and Group 3 Clematis.  

Ideas to brighten up your garden in February - shrubs and plants at their best and flowering in February.

pruning clematis

Prune Clematis

 In February and early March, during mild spells, is the time to tackle pruning Clematis groups 2 and 3. 

If it's a group 2 Clematis (in short, characterised by large flowers in midsummer) it needs a lighter prune. If it is a group 3 Clematis (flowers bloom from mid to late summer) it's a harder prune. The words "pruning" and "Clematis" are scary, but here is how to make it easy.

Do not routinely prune early flowering Clematis. These are any Clematis which flower between February and May, and they are varieties such as Clematis Montana, Alpina, Armandii and known as Group 1 (see types of Clematis.)

Because these types of Clematis flower early in the year, if you were to prune now, you would cut off the branches carrying the flower buds. They only need pruning if they get out of control.

You do need to prune Groups 2 & 3 Clematis. How do you know if it is a group 2 or 3 ready for pruning now?

clematis

You can check out the Sunday Gardener video about Groups 1,2 & 3 explaining the differences between the various Clematis groups and the Clematis pages.

If you don't have the label, to decide to which group your Clematis belongs is a bit of a headache, so you can only apply a rule of thumb (which the video explains,) and which is explained on the growing Clematis pages.  

Group 1 flower from very early February up to around May;  Group 2 tend to flower in early summer and Group 3 flower late summer.

pruning wisteria

Prune Wisteria

February is also the time to prune that other tricky climbing plant, Wisteria. Follow the links for detailed advice on how to Grow and Prune Wisteria and how to make sure your Wisteria flowers. To get Wisteria to flower, it needs to be pruned twice a year, winter and summer. There is a detailed explanation on the Wisteria page and also video on winter and summer prune. If you want your Wisteria to flower, or it has stopped flowering, get pruning.

Other Shrubs and Plants Suitable for Pruning In February

February/ March is the correct time to prune several plants and shrubs:-

Clematis groups 2 and 3

Wisteria

Winter Jasmine

Hydrangea

Buddleia

Climbing and bush roses

Cornus

Mahonia 

Over grown shrubs which need renovating

Do not prune any shrubs which are spring-flowering or you will cut off the potential flowers. Spring flowering shrubs flower on "old wood", - more information about this. Spring flowering shrubs are always pruned after flowering, usually in the early summer. For more information and a guide to pruning plants and shrubs.

Cornus red stems

Prune Cornus

During a mild spell in Feb/March you can prune Cornus, common name Dogwood (image left) which has lovely red stems in the winter. The one illustrated is Cornus Alba 'Sibirica' fully hardy, deciduous and easy to grow in any soil. Pruning in late winter helps to produce the bright winter stems next year.

Cut right back almost to ground level and be assured it will regrow in the spring. Cornus is a great, easy to grow shrub, red stems in winter and variegated foliage. The pruning offcuts are useful for making plants supports, see free plant supports.

Cucumber seed emerging

What to sow in February

To germinate seeds this early in the year, it is essential to create a warm, benign environment for germination and the early stages of the seedlings. Very few gardeners can afford the luxury of a heated greenhouse, which means bringing seed trays into the house, not ideal, or using a heated propagator mat and site the seed trays in a porch or unheated conservatory. Seeds will need to be placed into a sealed propagator to create a warm atmosphere which will not dry out. Once germinated, remove and keep frost free. Light levels are very low in February, so seeding is difficult and plants need to be turned regularly to keep even growth. 

The benefits of seeding in February, if all goes well, is that the plants will mature earlier. Sowing in March and April is easier because of the extra light and warmth. Lots of information and advice at How to Sow Plant and Veg Seeds, 10 top tips for successful sowing and germination and what to do with leggy seedlings.

Video advice on sowing seeds and germination.

Suitable for seeding under glass in February are: aubergines, beetroot, chilies, Broad beans, lettuce and rocket and tomatoes. Flower seeds, many of the popular garden plants such as Ageratum, Antirrhinum, Calendula, Cornflower, French Marigolds, Nigella, Rudbeckia, Salvia, Scabious, Sweet Peas and Zinnia. 

The hardier plants such as Broad Beans, Lettuce, Sweet peas will be easier to sow early because they will withstand the cooler temperature. Equally, the more tender plants, courgettes, cucumbers, ipomoea should be left to later. 

Towards the end of the month and into March, it is easier to germinate and grow on seeds because of the increasing light and warmth. The further north you are in terms of prevailing weather and chill factor, the more you may wish to delay first sowings.

Allium globemaster

Planting bulbs for late spring and summer

 We associate spring with bulbs, daffodils, crocus, hyacinth. However, there are many lovely summer bulbs which although usually planted in the Autumn, if you missed the slot, early spring provides another opportunity. Allium, (illustrated left Allium 'Globemaster') makes a fabulous display and mixes so well with many popular plants. You  can plant Alliums in February, which will flower in late spring and early summer. Allium are easy to grow and once established return reliably each year.

Plant Lilies in Feb/March for a great scented display. Lilies dislike heavy soil, which can make them less reliable in subsequent years. If your garden conditions are not ideal with wet heavy clay conditions, it is better to plant in containers.

Anemone can be planted now. The corms (bulbs) are best soaked overnight before planting. There are lots of summer flowering bulbs in the garden centres from now onward. Check the packets carefully as not all are fully hardy, those which are not frost hardy need to be planted later. The best chance of ensuring summer bulbs flower the following year is to feed them during the growing season, right up to flowering. A Tomato feed is ideal.

This is also planting time for crocosmia to flower in late summer. Crocosmia is easy to grow and return reliably each year. Some varieties can be invasive, which is not uncommon with some easy to grow plants. At the end of the season, when the crocosmia is dying back, I pull/tug and dig out some new growth along the edges of the patch to keep it in check.

Sedum ready for cutting back

Cut back Sedums

It's just great to get January over with, February presents as a turning corner to-wards spring. The garden appears dormant, but there is growth at ground level with tiny buds and shoots appearing. The image left shows early growth on a Sedum reminding us what lies ahead. February is an ideal time to cut back the old top growth, avoiding damage to the new growth coming through. If cutting back is left too late, it's harder to cut back without damaging the new growth.

Sweet Pea High Scent

Sow Sweet Peas

From February onwards, it's time to sow sweet peas which are easy to germinate. They make a showy and scented addition to the garden, climbing up an obelisk or fence and are great as cut flowers. YouTube Video how to sow sweet peas. Illustrated is Sweet Pea 'High Scent', which as the name implies, is a strongly scented variety. Sweet peas need a fair amount of attention and for long, straight stems, you need to know about the tendrils and how to remove them.  Advice on how to grow sweet peas from seed and growing tips. Video on how to plant sweet peas. 

Mahonia

Prune Mahonia

It's time to prune Mahonia when it has finished flowering. If the Mahonia is looking healthy, with lots of growth and is in good shape, prune it by simply removing the spent flowers. If it is a little straggly, prune out the long shoots and tidy up. 

However, as it matures, Mahonia has a tendency to become leggy with bare stems at the base of the plant, which requires a hard prune. How to renovate a Mahonia

Snowdrops in the lawn

Divide and plant Snowdrops

If you want to bulk up your snowdrop display for next year, now is the time to plant snowdrops in the green, or to divide up mature clumps.

Plant to the same depth so that the white part of the stem in under the soil and the leaves and flower above. Water well to get established for next year.

Prune Rosa Rugosa

In February you can prune Rosa Rugosa, with care, as they have very prickly stems. Take out the oldest shoots at ground level and a half of the rest for a good display of flowers and hips later in the year. Rosa Rugosa is suitable to grow in a coastal garden for more ideas of plants and shrubs which tolerate sea side condition check out plants for coastal gardens.

Prune Evergreen Shrubs

If you want to tidy up or reduce the size of evergreen shrubs, you can prune in February. In a mixed border, pruning the lower stems nearer the ground on shrubs lifts the canopy to allow more light for plants close to or under the shrub. 

 Plants which flower on last year's growth need to be pruned later, after flowering, which is usually later spring/summer not late winter/spring; otherwise, you will cut off the stems on which flower buds are forming.

 Whilst it's tempting to prune as the garden comes awake and clearing the borders, each shrub is different, and bears checking out individually. Pruning at the wrong time can be the answer to why a shrub doesn't flower as expected.

mould on plant

Mould in the Greenhouse

Late winter is the time there can be problems in the greenhouse, as the image left, which shows a mould attack. Botrytis is also known as grey mould. This frequently occurs in the winter when the days are cold and damp, especially the damp. Even watering sparingly,(which is essential in the winter) the lack of sun allows the air to remain cold and damp which is a threat to the plants. Check the greenhouse plants regularly, physically feel the soil and don't water unless it is dry, which may only be monthly or less. On Mild winter days, open up the greenhouse doors and manual vents to let as much air in as possible. If you get an attack of mould, cut off all infected leaves and if it is severe, move the plant out of the greenhouse to prevent the spread of infection.

February in the Veg plot

Is it too early to sow?

In some parts of the country, in the south and sheltered gardens, February is the right time to prepare the veg plot by warming up the soil ready for early plantings. This can be done either by covering with polythene, (well pegged down to be secure in the event of gales) or with cloches. If this is too much faff just wait a month or so, and let do the warming for you.

If you are a keen gardener and in a sheltered spot, it is possible to start some veg growing but only a few and specific named varieties. Only plant during a mild spell and protect with cloches. There are some very hardy Broad beans, such as Aquadulce Claudia. Also, garlic can be planted in sheltered areas with light soil. Some garlic is suitable for autumn planting and some for spring, so you need to check the variety and also there is soft neck and hard neck. Garlic is easy to grow and can even be grown in between other veg, and in pots. Importantly, garlic needs a light soil and lots of sun. 

You can germinate under glass hardier varieties of Peas, Beetroot, (the Bolthardy variety would be suitable) radishes, lettuces can be started in the greenhouse, such as the cut and come again varieties, and rocket. You can propagate (with heat) leeks, cabbages, Brussels and chilies which need a long growing season. Remember, once germinated, the seedlings will need to continue growing under glass or frost free until all risk of frost has passed. If space is a problem, it's sometimes easier to germinate later when the weather is better. Broad beans can be sown indoors into root trainers or cardboard tubes. 

Top tips on germination and sowing seeds.

Time to start Potatoes

February is also the time to chit potatoes ready for planting out in the spring. Place them in a cool and light area and from the "eyes" shoots will form over the next few weeks until planting out. This is said to help get the potatoes off to a good start. Don't worry if there is not time to do this before planting, as the jury is out on how much good chitting actually does.

High levels of blight have been a problem in wet summers. It's hard to avoid, but there are varieties of potato which are blight resistant, such as the Sarpo varieties. Another possibility is to grow early cropping potatoes such as Charlotte, Pink Fir, Rocket, Anya (all sold in garden centres and on line) which may crop before the blight arrives. If you have grown potatoes in containers, it is worth scrubbing them out with disinfectant to eradicate any remnants of blight. It is best not to reuse compost which has had blighted potatoes grown in it. Also, to reduce pests and disease, rotate the crop

Look after strawberries

Strawberries are a hardy perennial, which means by late winter they can be looking a bit tired. This is a good time to to remove the old brown foliage to encourage fresh growth and to let in more light. This also reduces disease and more air circulation, which helps to keep botrytis at bay later in the year.

If you want to get an early crop of Strawberries cloche them later this month/early March, but remember to water under the cloches periodically. 

Chitting Potatoes

chitting potatoes

Broad bean in root trainer

broad bean in root trainer

Before cutting back

Strawberries before cutting back

last updated 25.01.2022