February Gardening Tips
February is a perfect month to select and plant roses. Containerized plants are better for West Texas, but some bare-root plants may also be used—just make sure that they are heat-tolerant and drought resistant cultivars. Always remember to check containerized plants for circling roots and bare-root plants for unhealthy roots—don’t buy plants that have either of these symptoms.
There is still time to plant some cool-season annual flowers such as pansies, snapdragons, larkspurs, and alyssum.
If you haven’t already pruned your established rose bushes, don’t delay—mid-January to mid-February is the perfect time. In addition to removing any dead or weak canes, you should also shape the bush for future growth and flowering. Pruning cuts should be made at about a 45-degree angle, about a quarter of an inch above a leaf axil, which contains the bud that will grow into the new stem. And remember, climbing roses should not be pruned until late spring, after they have flowered.
You can now divide established summer and fall perennials, including cannas, coneflowers, mallows, asters and mums.
Planting and transplanting of trees and shrubs, including fruit trees, is best finished up this month—the weather is only going to get hotter, and the longer you wait to plant, the more difficult it will be to get them through our super-hot summer.
Seeds of warm-season vegetables should be sown indoors now for planting out in early April. Plants such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, bean, cucumbers, etc., will be ready for outdoor planting about six to eight weeks after being sown. If sowing seeds in flats outdoors, make sure to bring seedlings indoors on nights when the temperature is going to drop down below 40 degrees.
Any “last-minute” pruning of trees should be done this month. Evergreens, shade trees, fruit trees, and shrubs should be pruned before they come out of their winter dormancies. Grape vines should be severely pruned back (50 to 80%) to encourage fruiting this spring. And remember—never top trees.
If you haven’t done so already, cut back ornamental grasses such as deer grass and fountain grass to four -to six -inches from the ground. The new growth on these plants will emerge from around the outside of the dead growth, leaving a “hole” in the middle of your plant. To combat this, ornamental grasses should be divided every few years, to encourage a new and denser plant to form.
Established asparagus plants should be fertilized this month with a high nitrogen plant food to promote vigorous spear growth. You should also fertilize fescue and ryegrass lawns (but NOT Bermuda) with a 3-1-2 or 3-1-1 ratio lawn fertilizer. Newly planted or transplanted trees and shrubs should generally not be fertilized until after they have started to grow, and then only lightly during the first year.
Look for scale insects on trees and shrubs now, so that if you have these extremely damaging pests on your plant, you can treat them with dormant horticultural oil. Dormant oils cannot be used once temperatures warm up and the plant is no longer dormant, leaving you with very few reliable control measures for these difficult-to-get-rid-of insects.
Check for powdery mildew and black spot on roses and other shrubs that are prone to these diseases. If a problem is found, treat with any registered fungicide to get the problem in check before the growing season begins.
Pre-emergent herbicides should be applied mid to late February to control annual spring weeds in your lawn, but remember, these herbicides inhibit all seeds from germinating, so be careful if using them in garden beds where flower or vegetable seeds are planted.
Most established trees, shrubs and lawns still require a deep, thorough irrigation about once a month until April. Keeping roots moist now will give your plants a head start on spring growth and will help prepare them for the long, hot summer that is just around the corner.