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February Gardening Checklist

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Fellow Gardeners,

The gardening tips for February in this blog are as accurate as I can currently offer. During the past three decades, I have cared for, nurtured, and observed tens of thousands of plants. With the help of my many gardening friends, I have attempted to offer on these pages some useful information to help you with your February garden. Gardening is sharing. Any corrections, comments, or suggestions are appreciated and will improve future information.

Table of Contents:




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Annuals:

If you’re wondering what to plant in February, cool-season garden annuals can still be planted this month for a great color display throughout the spring. Here are some gardening tips for February to bring you healthy, colorful annual planters and beds!

For sunny areas, choose these flowers to plant in February: pansies, violas, Iceland poppies, English daisy, stock, linaria, flowering cabbage, flowering kale, schizanthus, and the ‘Bloomingdale’ series of ranunculus.

In shady spots, plant English, fairy, and Chinese primrose varieties, bedding cyclamen, and cineraria.

There are a few “spring-only” outdoor annual flowers that are uncommon but well worth planting this month for a quick shot of spring color! These include schizanthus, annual nemesia, annual mimulus, torenia, and candytuft.

● Because of their quick growth and heavy flowering potential, annual blooming plants need more fertilizing than most other plants in the garden.

Keep deadheading (removing spent flowers) your annuals to help them continue blooming abundantly.

Keep on top of weeding around your annual garden plants.

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Geraniums:

This group includes ivy geraniums, zonal geraniums (also called “common” geraniums), Martha geraniums, and the various scented geraniums, but does not include true geraniums (sometimes called “hardy” geraniums), which are discussed under Perennials.[1]

Purchase and plant most geraniums (pelargoniums) beginning this month. Ivy and zonal types may be in bloom.

If the weather is warm at the end of the month, it’s time to begin fertilizing these beloved annual blooming plants!

A key gardening tip for Martha geraniums is to pay particular attention to feeding them in February and March. This will encourage a big bloom!

Don’t do any pruning of Martha types, but continue pinching the tips regularly to create fuller plants and ultimately more flowers.

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Sweet Peas:

These old-fashioned favorites should be beginning their bloom period about now. Keep the flowers trimmed regularly to encourage more flowers; this may be as often as twice a week. Sweet peas are one of the annual garden flowers that really benefit from having their flowers trimmed.

For more information, watch & learn: World-Class Sweet Peas with Steve Hampson

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Fruiting Plants

There’s not a ton of maintenance for fruiting shrubs on the checklist this month, so I don’t have too many February gardening tips for your fruiting plants. However, it is your last chance to get strawberries planted and get started on strawberry plant care to encourage lots of fruit in the summer!

Shop Roger's Gardens Edible Plants

For more information, watch & learn: Growing Blueberries in Southern California[2]

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Cane Berries:

Apply your first application of organic, balanced fertilizer as they begin to leaf out.

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Grapes:

These should start leafing out in the next few weeks of February. In terms of grape plant care, there’s not much to do in the meantime.

Sometime this month should be your third and last application of dormant disease control. This should be a copper sulfate product, which is organic. Applying these products should be an annual chore, repeated every year to help control some very common fungal diseases. The timing of this application is the most important of them all. Apply these at the “pink-bud-stage”. This is the point in which the buds have swollen and may even be “pink”, but have not yet opened.

Early this month is still a good time to plant grapes. With some searching, you may still be able to find dormant bare-root plants now. These are a great value, but do some research to be sure that you’re selecting an appropriate variety for your climate.

As soon as the new growth has grown a couple of inches, begin fertilizing. Use a well-balanced organic product that contains trace minerals, which grapes need. Organic products are usually a good choice.

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Strawberries:

If you don’t have them planted yet—hurry! Buy big four-inch or one-gallon size plants if you’re still planting.

Pinch out the first two or three sets of flowers that your growing strawberry plants will produce to encourage better root development and a stronger overall plant.

Taking care of strawberry plants means you’ll need to feed them regularly. Periodically apply an organic acid fertilizer like cottonseed meal to keep the soil pH low, which strawberries prefer.

Plant Alpine varieties (also called “Fraise du Bois”) now. These bear small but intensely flavorful, aromatic fruit. They are small plants, with smaller foliage and do not create runners.

 

 

 

For more information, watch & learn: How to Grow the Best Strawberries with Sarah Smith

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Shrub Care

Late winter to early spring is an active time for tree and shrub maintenance! Many common spring-blooming, evergreen shrubs, like rhaphiolepis, escallonia, and abelia, can be given a quick pruning early this month. These shrubs flower on new growth, so don’t prune again until after the spring bloom has concluded. Here are some more detailed shrub care and maintenance tips for February:
For more information, watch & learn: Hardy Flowering Shrubs with Dalia Brunner

 

 

 

 

 

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Azaleas:

The flower buds on azaleas should be beginning to swell up, and a few hybrids might even be blooming this month. Keep feeding them aggressively with a high-phosphorus fertilizer from now until they have finished blooming, then switch to a standard “azalea” or “acid” fertilizer.

Some of the early-blooming azalea varieties will already be flowering. For these blooming plants, be cautious of getting the flowers wet, especially from prolonged rainstorms. The flowers will turn to mush with water on them. In a rain shower, drape a plastic bag over the plant, or even better, poke an umbrella into the ground above it.

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Camellias:

Even more varieties of Japanese camellia will be in bloom this month. In Orange County, February is an excellent month to shop for these varieties! The selection will be good and you will be able to see many in bloom. Since camellias are actually dormant (not growing) while they are in bloom, this is also the perfect month to plant them.

Feed sasanqua varieties (unless you already fed them last month) with an “acid” or “azalea/camellia” fertilizer now. Cottonseed meal is also a good organic fertilizer.

If your Japanese camellias haven’t started blooming yet, don’t worry—they will! Some varieties are later bloomers than others.

For more information, watch & learn: Gardening 101 Series | How to Plant & Maintain a Camellia

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Gardenias:

Gardenias are still unhappy about the cold weather of February. Sometime in March, they will start showing some signs of new growth. Be patient. No need to fertilize yet.

For more information, watch & learn: Gardenias for Southern California with Nicholas Stadden

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Hydrangeas:

These famous flowering shrubs are probably still completely dormant, so they’re best left alone. If, however, they are beginning to leaf out, feed them with a general-purpose or acid fertilizer.

Contrary to some references, do not prune hydrangeas in the winter. Most hydrangeas bloom on one-year-old stems. Pruning now will eliminate most of next year’s flowers.

If you want to try to get blue or lavender flowers on your otherwise pink plant, you’ll need to apply aluminum sulfate to the soil continuously. Follow the product instructions for application rates. White-flowered varieties will not be affected, and not all pinks will be affected the same way.

For more information, watch & learn: Re-blooming Hydrangeas with Nicholas Staddon[4]

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Roses:

Finish planting bare-root roses and starter shrubs now while they are still available in nurseries.

Don’t let newly-planted bare-root roses dry out. It is almost impossible to overwater a freshly planted bare-root rose for the first 30 days.

Apply your first feeding to roses when the new growth is about four to six inches long. Do not use soil-applied fertilizers that are combined with a systemic insecticide; these products are very disruptive to the soil ecosystem, such as its beneficial microorganisms, bacteria, mycorrhizal fungi, and earthworms. Many rosarians also believe they reduce the vigor of the rose.

Granular, well-balanced, organic fertilizers work particularly well for roses and most of these will encourage beneficial soil life.

Weed as needed, but avoid most herbicides around roses.

Watch for the earliest signs of diseases like powdery mildew or rust. If you spot any signs of disease, treat it immediately.

Be on the lookout for aphid infestations on new growth. Hose them off with a strong jet of water or use a mild product like insecticidal soap to eliminate them.

 

 

 

For more information, watch & learn: How to Prune Your Roses With Laura Weaver, Bare Root Roses with Dalia, & How to Plant and Care for Roses

Shop Roger's Gardens Beautiful Selection of Roses

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Trees:

February is a great time to get some tree care done before the birds start nesting. It's best to leave trees and shrubs with nests in them undisturbed so birds have the best chance of a successful hatching. Here are some February gardening tips to get your trees ready for spring:

 

 

 

This is about your last good chance to prune most trees (except for tender sub-tropical trees like ficus, coral tree, avocado, citrus, etc.). Few birds have started nesting yet.

This is an especially good time to prune coniferous trees like pines and cypress, since their pests, various bark beetles, are not active at this time of the year.

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Deciduous Fruit Trees:

Many of these trees will be in bloom now. Honeybees and native mason bees are essential pollinators for these trees. Be sure to conserve these beneficial insects and encourage them with strategically-placed bee houses.

Sometime this month should be your third and last application of dormant disease control. This may be either a copper sulfate or lime-sulfur product (do not use lime-sulfur on apricots). Both of these are organic products. Applying these products should be an annual part of fruit tree maintenance, repeated every year to avoid infestations of such diseases as peach leaf curl, shothole fungus, apple scab, brown rot, and many others. The timing of this application is the most important of them all. Apply these at the “pink-bud-stage”. This is the point in which the buds have swollen and may even be “pink”, but have not yet opened.

Apply your first feeding this month as soon as you see the buds beginning to swell, but before the flowers open. The second and last feeding of the year will be in April. At this application, apple, apricot, peach, plum, etc. should be given about ½ pound of actual nitrogen per inch of trunk diameter. (Example: 15 pounds of 20% nitrogen if a six-inch trunk; 30 pounds of 10% nitrogen if a six-inch trunk, etc.)

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Citrus:

Citrus trees are still doing very little growing this month. There will likely be fruit developing on lemons and limes. Navel oranges should be ripe, and grapefruits may be ready to harvest. Try one, but if the sugars aren’t developed enough, wait another month and try again.

Start fertilizing this month and feed every month from now until July. For citrus fruit tree care, it is important to use a fertilizer that is rich in such trace minerals as iron, zinc, manganese, copper, and others. These ingredients are usually poorly represented in synthetic fertilizers. A better choice would be an organic fertilizer like Dr. Earth.

Control ants climbing up the trunk of the tree or climbing onto the branches now. Although not directly harmful to the citrus, they “farm” such pests as scale, whiteflies, and mealybugs, which are all common on citrus trees. Continue to trim any limbs that touch the ground, fence or a wall.

If ants are present, apply Tanglefoot (a sticky, waterproof substance) around the base of the tree trunk to stop them.

For more information, watch & learn: Growing Citrus in Southern California with David Rizzo & Growing Citrus in Containers with Kathleen

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Avocados:

Apply your first feeding to avocado trees this month. A mature avocado tree should be given between ½ and 1 pound of actual nitrogen per year, per inch of trunk diameter. (Example: 15-30 pounds of 20% nitrogen if a six-inch trunk; 30-60 pounds of 10% nitrogen if a six-inch trunk, etc.)

Avocados are growing very slowly, if at all, this time of the year but will begin to wake up soon. Certain winter-producing varieties may have fruit on them that can be picked.

It is not unusual for your avocado to be dropping many of its leaves this month. New leaves may even be emerging as the old ones are dropping.

It’s still a bit early to plant or transplant an avocado.

Rains should take care of all your avocado’s irrigation needs this month.

In warm coastal gardens, avocados can be pruned in late February. They do not particularly require any specific annual pruning, but size reduction or general shaping, if necessary, can be done now.

Be sure to keep a very thick blanket of mulch, compost, or fallen leaves under mature avocados at all times. Avocados need a cool root-run for good health.

In marginal areas, continue to take precautions to avoid frost damage. (See Frost)[7]

 

 

 

For more information, watch & learn: Edible Gardening: How to Grow Avocados in Southern California with Sarah Smith

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Subtropical Fruits:

See also the fruit trees care and maintenance information under Avocados[8] and Citrus[9] .

Continue taking precautions for frost and cold weather damage on sensitive species. (See Frost[10] )

Do not fertilize subtropical fruit trees again until March at the earliest.

Do not do any pruning during the cool winter months.

Many subtropical fruits are sensitive to too much moisture around the roots during cool weather. Water very little, if at all, during the winter.

Except for the Beaumont variety, keep checking for fallen macadamia nuts. Pick them off the ground weekly, which may continue for up to three months. The Beaumont variety will be ready to be picked directly off the tree early next month.

 

 

 

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Perennials:

 

 

 

Perennial plant care and maintenance takes off in February! Now is a good time to get them planted so they have time to establish a strong root system before the heat of summer hits. Many of your perennials may be just starting to wake up now, and if you didn’t get around to dividing them in the fall, it’s best to get it done sooner than later. Here are our perennial plant care and gardening tips for February:

Depending upon your garden care, you may want to begin regular fertilizing this month. The use of a granular organic fertilizer (especially if under a fresh layer of mulch) is an excellent choice.

There is still a chance to divide some perennials that you may have meant to take care of last fall. It’s not too late for plants like ornamental grasses, cannas, hemerocallis, agapanthus, shasta daisy, coreopsis, and many others.

Many perennials are now waking up, or soon will be, and a bit of a trim may help them look a little better while stimulating flower growth. Even if you cut some of these back in the fall, another trim now may be helpful. These perennials can be cut back rather hard now if necessary (wait until the end of the month if you are in a cool inland garden): artemisia, aster (perennial types), baby’s breath (gypsophila), calla (common white), coreopsis, daylily (hemerocallis), dianthus (perennial types including carnation), gaillardia, gaura, geranium (true geranium), heliotrope, lamb’s ears (stachys), lion’s tail (leonotis), oregano (ornamental types), penstemon, phygelius, rudbeckia, Russian sage (perovskia), most salvia (sage), scabiosa (pincushion flower), shasta daisy, stokesia (stokes aster), thyme, and valerian (centranthus).

Wait another month or so until you prune sub-tropical perennials like begonias, heliotrope, impatiens, lamium, pentas (starflower), and plectranthus.

Cool-season plants are doing great right now; they’re blooming abundantly and giving the garden a feel for the spring blooms ahead. These include alstroemeria (except in very cold inland gardens), armeria, euryops daisy, forget-me-not (myosotis), hellebore, marguerite daisy, and viola (perennial types).

Those perennials that completely disappeared a couple of months ago will soon start sprouting from the soil again, either this month or next. Look for signs of life from kniphofia (red hot poker), liatris, monkshood (aconitum), and obedient plant (physostegia).

Divide some perennials now, especially if they are completely herbaceous (die down completely in winter). This includes dahlia, echinacea (coneflower), anemone hybrida (Japanese anemone), liatris (gayfeather), and sidalcea.

Tall, upright, spiking perennials like dahlia (tuberous perennial types), delphinium, foxglove (digitalis), kniphofia (red hot poker), liatris, true lilies (lilium), monkshood (aconitum), oriental poppy, and most thalictrum (meadow rue) should have their stakes put in place now to hold the soon to develop flower stalks. Staking these now will prevent root damage later and provide support for them as they grow. Thin, unpainted, natural bamboo stakes work well for this and look very pleasant in the garden.

There is still a chance of frost early in the month, especially in inland gardens. Frost-sensitive perennials such as felicia daisy, heliotrope, lamium, some lavender varieties, pelargonium, pentas, plectranthus, and scaevola, may need a little protection on a couple of these cold nights.

Removing spent or old flowers regularly, especially from the cool-season perennials, will help them to produce more new flowers.

Keep up with weeding—it never ends!

Toward the middle or end of the month, prune cane and angel-wing begonias back to three or four nodes from the soil. The common Richmondensis begonia should be cut back more lightly. Common bedding begonias can be rejuvenated now by cutting them off at one to two inches, feeding them, and letting them re-grow.

For more information, watch & learn: Gardening 101 Series | How to Use Annuals vs. Perennials with Lynn Hillman & Gardening 101 Series | Pruning Lavender & Perennials with Dalia Brunner

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Clematis:

This is your last chance to prune most clematis. If you haven’t done so yet, don’t delay. There are a few exceptions, so check your specific variety with us just to be sure.

Begin fertilizing when the new growth is about 3-4 inches long. Clematis perform best with regular feeding using a balanced fertilizer.

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Fuchsias:

Cut your fuchsias back now if you are in an inland or colder area with frost potential. Warmer coastal gardeners should have trimmed them as early as last November. Fuchsias bloom on new growth and need to be pruned fairly heavily each year. Fuchsias kept in baskets should be cut to about the edge of the container. For those growing in the ground, trim back between 30% and 50% of the plant. If you are in a very cold area, you may want to wait another month on this pruning.

If re-potting is needed, the best time to do this is at the same time as the annual cut-back.

After pruning and new growth resumes, feed all fuchsias regularly with a fertilizer high in nitrogen to promote lots of vigorous foliage growth at this time of the year.

In coastal areas, if you cut your fuchsias back in November and have been feeding them, you should continue pinching the tips of the new growth. Continue pinching the tips every couple of weeks through the end of March and then let them bloom. You’ll have a full and glorious plant with hundreds of flowers!

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Groundcovers:

Cool-season groundcovers are still growing and blooming well.

On sloped areas, this is not a good time to do any significant planting. Winter rains and erosion are too much of an issue.

California native ground cover plants, like ceanothus and arctostaphylos (manzanita) are growing nicely and may be beginning to bloom now.

Warm-season groundcovers are still sitting through the winter now. No fertilizing and no pruning are needed at this time of the year.

For more information, watch & learn How to Plant & Grow Groundcover with Dalia Brunner

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Orchids (Outdoor):

This and next month may be the peak time of bloom for most cymbidiums. Continue feeding with a high phosphorus fertilizer through the end of their bloom period.

Watch & Learn:
How to Care for and Maintain Phalaenopsis Orchids with Steve Hampson
Orchids Care

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Poinsettias:

Try to keep them indoors still, in a well-lit area away from heater vents and other drafts. They may be looking a bit rough, but those plants that you just bought a couple of months ago will be better off indoors through this last cold month.

If you do bring them outside, don’t cut them yet! Instead, keep them away from frost and cold nights.

No fertilizing is needed this month.

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Wisterias:

Big fat flower buds should be developing now and with close observation can be distinguished from the smaller, more slender leaf buds.

No pruning now or you may interfere with the blooms.

No need to fertilize now and rains should take care of any irrigation needs, except on very young plants.

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Bulbs, Rhizomes, Tubers, etc:

There are many bulbs you can plant in February. While it’s still a little early to plant bulbs, you can purchase summer blooming bulbs now from our outdoor plant boutique while they are still in good supply! The “second bulb season” in southern California includes such favorites as dahlia, tuberous begonia, gladiolus, caladium, calla, canna, tuberose, most true lilies, and Mexican shell flower (tigridia). Here are a few more bulb-specific gardening tips for February.

 

 

 

Plant gladiolus this month. Consider planting them in two-week intervals to enjoy a longer bloom season.

Some fall-planted bulbs that are just beginning their bloom cycle, especially toward the end of the month, include anemone and ranunculus.

Bulbs currently in full bloom include chasmanthe, crocus (spring-blooming types), ipheion, leucojum, and some daffodils (narcissus).

Bedding cyclamen, although not generally referred to as a bulb, is in full bloom throughout Orange County.

Many ornamental oxalis are winter-blooming, non-invasive, and naturalize easily. These are in full bloom now.

Buy tuberous begonia tubers this month, but wait until March to start growing them. Keep them in the paper bag that you bought them in and store them in a cool well-ventilated location—not the refrigerator! (See Tuberous Begonias[12] )

There’s still plenty of time to purchase summer-blooming bulbs! Examples are dahlia, gladiolus, calla, canna, tuberose, and Mexican shell flower (tigridia). Here’s a hot gardening tip; the period between the second half of February and into March is a perfect time to plant just about all of these summer bloomers!

Buy dahlias now, but don’t plant them until next month, when the soil warms up a little more. Like your tuberous begonias, keep them in the paper bag that you bought them in and store them in a cool, well-ventilated location—again, not the fridge!

Watch for germinating weeds and control them now, before they get much larger.

 

 

 

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Bearded Iris:

They still may be going through a bit of a “molt” as they are slowly pushing out new growth, while last year’s growth fades away. You may still be noticing the transition of last year’s foliage giving way to the new growth. Remove any outer (older) leaves as they turn completely brown by giving them a gentle tug.

Feed them now with a gentle, well-balanced, organic fertilizer to help them with their new growth and to set flowers.

Don’t forget your weeding!

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Dahlias (Tuberous types):

Tubers should still be out of the ground now and quietly resting somewhere in the garage or another cool, dry location.

Nurseries now have a good supply of dormant tubers in stock. Shop early while the selection is good, but don’t plant them for a little while more.

For more information, watch & learn Lew Whitney's Secrets to Growing and Maintaining Dahlias

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Cannas:

This is the perfect month to plant cannas from dormant rhizomes.

Dormant rhizomes arrived at nurseries during mid-January. The selection is good this month but wait until about the end of this month or early March to plant them.

If you didn’t cut them back in January, any cannas in the landscape should be cut to the soil. After you cut them down, they can also be easily dug up and divided if necessary.

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Tuberous Begonias:

Tubers are still in good supply at nurseries. It is still too early to plant them, but it is a good time to buy them, since they will probably be gone by next month. Store them in an open box with dry peat moss, perlite, or sawdust. Place the box in a cool, dark location until March when it’s time to sprout them.

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California Native Plants:

This is your last good month for successfully planting most natives. California native plants like to be planted in the cool fall and winter months, which is the beginning of their growing season.

This and next month can be one of the prettiest times of the year for many of our California natives. Many of these are blooming and growing well now but are already toward the latter half of their growing seasons.

An extra irrigation or two if we get an extended dry spell is justified and will keep them blooming and happy a bit longer.

If you have not visited a California native plant garden before, now through March would be an excellent time to visit. The best are Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Clairemont and The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden in Santa Barbara.


For more information, watch & learn: Gardening with Native Plants with James Maxwell

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Tropicals & Subtropicals:

See also the information under Avocados[15] , Citrus[16] , and Subtropical Fruits[17]

Plants like cannas, gardenias, ginger, begonia, and brunfelsia should be trimmed now in warm coastal gardens rather than in the fall. If you are in a cold inland location, wait another month.

Continue taking precautions for frost and cold weather damage on sensitive species. (See Frost[18] )

Do not fertilize until at least next month.

Do not prune during the cool winter months.

Many subtropical plants are sensitive to too much moisture around the roots during cool weather. Water very carefully, if at all, during the winter.

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Foliage Plants

Most non-flowering plants don’t need too much maintenance this month. Ferns and ornamental grasses may just be starting to wake up now. Here are just a few gardening tips for non-flowering plants in February:

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Ferns:

Most ferns are still pretty sleepy. There’s no need to fertilize a dormant fern, and irrigation can be minimal. While most of these winter foliage plants are evergreen in Orange County, they are growing very slowly if at all.

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Ornamental Grasses:

Some ornamental grasses are best cut to the ground each year and allowed to grow fresh foliage. But be careful, not all grasses appreciate this treatment. Some that do are Japanese blood grass (imperata), Japanese forest grass (hackonakloa), fountain grasses (pennisetum), Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia), and miscanthus.

Wondering when to cut back ornamental grasses? You can trim them to just above the soil line any time during the cool winter months. If you haven’t already cut these down, do so now, before new growth begins. What happens if you don’t cut back ornamental grasses is that they’ll be a little slower to get started, and they’ll have an overall less tidy appearance during the season.

For more information, watch & learn: Low Water Ornamental Grasses with James Maxwell

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Vegetables and Herbs

It’s time to start planning your vegetable and herb gardens! Here are a few tips to get going on your February edible gardening plan for this year's growing season.

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Vegetables:

February is a good time to start making your edible garden to-do list. There are lots of February garden chores on the list to get your garden ready for the coming season!

 

 

 

If you prefer to grow your summer herb and vegetable garden from seed rather than transplants, (the selection is much, much greater from seed), this is a good time to shop for these. However, most of these won’t go into the ground for about another month.

Cole crops, like cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower, are often attacked by caterpillars at this time. If you only have a few plants, hand-picking may be enough. Otherwise, use BT, a food-safe, effective, and organic solution.

There is still time to plant quick cool-season herbs and vegetables from transplants, especially along the coast. Use transplants now for arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, chard, collards, endive, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, peas, or spinach.

Beets, carrots, parsnips, radish, and possibly turnips can all be started this month and are only available from seed.

Fava beans are producing this month. If they are flowering but not setting fruit, try cutting off the top couple of inches of each growing tip. This will divert their energy from growing leaves into bean production.

If you didn’t start larger perennial vegetables like rhubarb, artichoke, horseradish, and asparagus last month, hurry and get them planted now! Bare-root plants may still be available. Caution: horseradish can be quite invasive, so keep it in a container.

If you want to get a head start on your warm-season vegetables from seed, plant a few on a warm windowsill now.

Feed cool-season vegetables regularly and control weeds before they get large.

For more information, watch & learn: Winter Edibles with David Rizzo & Winter Edibles with David

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Water & Irrigation:

Apply a balanced granular fertilizer application now for even better results.

Plants should be growing well now and several varieties should be in good bloom. Enjoy the show.

Irrigate the planting if Mother Nature doesn’t do the job for you.

Weed seeds are still germinating. Weed garden beds regularly or they will easily overwhelm the flowers.

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Herbs:

Many annual or short-lived herbs that can be planted now include anise, arugula, chervil, chamomile, chives, cilantro, comfrey, dill, fennel, garlic chives, lovage, parsley, salad burnet, and sorrel.

Many other herbs are essentially year-round in our mild climate and can be planted at any time of the year. Some of these include chives, comfrey, feverfew, lavender, lemon balm, lemongrass, and rosemary.

For more information, watch & learn: Unique and Unusual Herb Plants with Sarah Smith

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General Gardening

There are always plenty of gardening chores to work on, no matter what time of year! While we’re not quite into the full swing of the growing season, there are lots of things you can do to set yourself up for successful gardening this summer. Here are some miscellaneous gardening tips for February to help you stay ahead of the spring rush.

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Beneficial Insects:

Order and release native mason bees now. These are outstanding pollinators of many vegetables, full size & dwarf fruit trees.

Conserve and protect honeybees by selecting and using insecticides wisely. Avoid the use of broad-spectrum and systemic insecticides wherever you can.

Plant a few nectar sources for your beneficial insects as well as your native pollinators. Good choices for this include yarrow (achillea), alyssum, chamomile, white clover, paludosum daisy, cosmos, lantana, Queen Anne’s lace (ammi majus), tansy[19] [20] , and centranthus (sometimes called valerian or Jupiter’s beard).

Release predacious decollate snails now. These will take some time to establish themselves in your garden, so be patient. Do not use any snail baits, which will harm decollate snails.

If aphids are present in significant numbers, consider your first release of the year of ladybugs and lacewings. Two or three releases of both of these predators in the spring can reduce many pest populations significantly, very possibly eliminating the need for pesticides in a healthy garden.

 

 

 

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Fertilize:

See also the information under individual plants.

Most plants still will not need too much fertilizing this month. However, there are a few exceptions: camellia, azalea, and lilac are all setting buds now for spring bloom. You can encourage this spring bloom with a high-phosphorus fertilizer applied now.

Many potted plants will wake up before their siblings in the ground. Feed these as needed.

Feed cool-season lawns (fescue, ryegrass, and bluegrass) now.

 

For more information, watch & learn: Gardening 101 Series | How Do I Fertilize and Why? with Steve Hampson

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Frost:

There is still a good chance of frost or cold damage this month to tender plants, especially in inland gardens. January is the most likely month for damage in most Orange County gardens, although December and February may bear some frosty days as well.

Frost protection strategies include:

Moving potted plants to protected areas.

Covering tender plants with old sheets or special “frost cloths,” but do not let these touch the foliage.

Stringing sensitive plants with miniature outdoor incandescent Christmas lights. These radiate heat.

Wetting the foliage. Once the temperatures get to freezing, the water will freeze on the surface of the foliage and insulate the leaf. It really works!

If frost does occur, do not prune it off right away. Leaving the damaged foliage in place helps the plant protect itself from additional frosts. When new growth begins in spring, trim the damaged areas back to the point where healthy growth begins.

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Lawns:

Apply pre-emergent crabgrass control to all lawns to prevent the germination of crabgrass. Make a second application around the first of May.

Remember, cool-season lawns (fescue/marathon, bluegrass, ryegrass) should be mowed about a half an inch lower in the winter than in the summer.

Keep feeding cool-season lawns. This is their favorite time of year, and they will need regular feeding with a high-quality, slow-release fertilizer.

Warm-season lawns (Bermuda grass, St. Augustine, zoysia) are sleeping now.

If you over-seeded your warm-season grass with annual rye last fall, you should continue feeding it. Within the next 60 days or so, the rye will begin showing signs of heat stress and will naturally die out. At the same time, this grass is fading away, your warm-season grass will be greening up again. In a well-maintained lawn, you will hardly even notice this change.

Don’t forget your weeding!

This is a good month to aerate cool-season lawns. This is done with a coring machine, either a gas-powered model from a rental yard or a small hand-held version. Be sure that the coring device that you select actually removes a plug from the soil. After coring, apply a fine-textured top dressing to the soil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pests & Diseases:

(See also the information under the individual plants and Beneficial Insects[21] )

Bait or control snails and slugs, unless you’re using decollate snails as a beneficial.

Protect evergreen pears (Pyrus kawakami) from fireblight.

Control pests on citrus trees as necessary.

Monitor roses for the earliest signs of powdery mildew or rust; look for specks of white or brown discoloration.

Trap gophers now before the breeding season begins.

For more information, watch and learn: How to Identify & Eliminate Common Garden Pests

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Records, Catalogs, Books, and Organizations:

The newest edition of Sunset’s Western Garden Book has been released. This 9th edition includes over 2,000 new plants, many more photographs, improved line drawings, and more detailed climate zones. If you’re using an older version, it’s time to upgrade!

If you didn’t begin your garden journal last month, why not do it now? This can be one of the most rewarding and useful things you can do for both you and your garden!

Now is a good time to join an online gardening organization. Most of these groups offer informative sessions led by garden experts, a newsletter, occasional garden-related tours and, most importantly, the opportunity to share ideas and experiences with other good gardeners.

 

 

 

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Soil Care:

The soil is often pretty wet at this time of the year and sometimes even soggy. Try to keep from walking on this wet soil, which compresses it, reduces its ability to drain quickly, and depletes its oxygen content.

We have included this section, because as you know, or will discover with more experience, a good garden begins with the soil. Investing in the soil, managing the soil, and protecting the soil are not afterthoughts in a successful garden, but the foundation of garden health. Healthy soil is living and breathing, teaming with earthworms, microorganisms, beneficial fungi, bacteria, microbes, and other invisible life. This section, possibly the most important topic of all, provides some helpful guidance to good soil care.

A thick layer of organic mulch, averaging about two inches should be maintained on top of the soil just about year-round. Applied now, this thick layer of mulch will moderate the soil temperatures, reduce weed growth, and improve both soil life and soil quality.

We do not suggest the use of very high-analysis fertilizers in a garden, especially phosphorus. Examples of fertilizers to avoid are synthetic versions with formulations like 10-55-10, 10-30-10, etc. We don’t even suggest the popular 15-30-15 formula. These formulations will inhibit or even destroy much of the soil life that is so vital to a healthy sustainable soil.

We also suggest that you not use soil-applied systemic fertilizer/insecticide combinations (especially popular with rose bushes). These are very damaging to soil life.

Use insecticides only when necessary and even then use the least damaging product available. Many of these products move into the soil and interfere with invisible soil life.

If you can, begin a compost pile or purchase a compost bin. Leaves, clippings, kitchen produce scraps, and many other ingredients can be composted and returned to the garden. Home compost is one of the very best ingredients you can add to your soil as part of your garden maintenance. The benefits are huge in the areas of disease suppression, increasing beneficial microorganisms, improving soil structure and texture, nutrient retention, and nematode suppression.

For more information, watch and learn:Gardening 101 Series | What Kind of Soil Should You Use?

 

Looking for more information about a particular plant or tree? Visit our Plant Finder.

 

 

 

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Places to Visit:

Gardens that look terrific almost any time of the year include Sherman Library and Gardens (Corona del Mar), The Fullerton Arboretum (Fullerton), Los Angeles Arboretum (Arcadia), Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens (San Marino), and San Diego Botanical Gardens (Encinitas).

The UC Irvine Botanic Gardens are still blooming well this month. Enjoy the spectacular blooming aloes, Mediterranean bulbs, and many South African plants that are in bloom now.

Mediterranean and California native plant gardens are now in their peak bloom season. Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont is beginning to show lots of color this month.

Worth a quick visit, and not far away, is the relatively young and developing Niguel Botanical Preserve in Laguna Niguel. The plant focus is almost entirely on Mediterranean and California natives.

This is a perfect time for a visit to our coastal wild areas to observe our native plants. The coastal bluffs and grasslands at San Onofre State Beach and Aliso Creek are at their peak this month.

Further afield, one of the best Mediterranean botanical gardens in the country is the UC Santa Cruz Botanic Garden (in Santa Cruz). This and next month are its peaks of bloom.

The largest garden show west of the Mississippi, the Northwest Flower and Garden Show is not to be missed. Held in Seattle at the Washington State Convention Center, it is worth the pilgrimage to the garden-savvy northwest just to take this in. Five days of enormous displays, expert seminars, and a “marketplace” full of specialty and hard to find plants. Due to COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 show has been cancelled, but the show plans to resume in February 2022.

Fellow Gardeners,

The gardening tips for February in this blog are as accurate as I can currently offer. During the past three decades, I have cared for, nurtured, and observed tens of thousands of plants. With the help of my many gardening friends, I have attempted to offer on these pages some useful information to help you with your February garden. Gardening is sharing. Any corrections, comments, or suggestions are appreciated and will improve future information.




Table of Contents:




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Annuals:

If you’re wondering what to plant in February, cool-season garden annuals can still be planted this month for a great color display throughout the spring. Here are some gardening tips for February to bring you healthy, colorful annual planters and beds!

For sunny areas, choose these flowers to plant in February: pansies, violas, Iceland poppies, English daisy, stock, linaria, flowering cabbage, flowering kale, schizanthus, and the ‘Bloomingdale’ series of ranunculus.

In shady spots, plant English, fairy, and Chinese primrose varieties, bedding cyclamen, and cineraria.

There are a few “spring-only” outdoor annual flowers that are uncommon but well worth planting this month for a quick shot of spring color! These include schizanthus, annual nemesia, annual mimulus, torenia, and candytuft.

Because of their quick growth and heavy flowering potential, annual blooming flowers need more fertilizing than most other plants in the garden.

Keep deadheading (removing spent flowers) your annuals to help them continue blooming abundantly.

Keep on top of weeding around your annual garden plants.

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Geraniums:

This group includes ivy geraniums, zonal geraniums (also called “common” geraniums), Martha geraniums, and the various scented geraniums, but does not include true geraniums (sometimes called “hardy” geraniums), which are discussed under Perennials.[1]

Purchase and plant most geraniums (pelargoniums) beginning this month. Ivy and zonal types may be in bloom.

If the weather is warm at the end of the month, it’s time to begin fertilizing these beloved annual blooming plants!

A key gardening tip for Martha geraniums is to pay particular attention to feeding them in February and March. This will encourage a big bloom!

Don’t do any pruning of Martha types, but continue pinching the tips regularly to create fuller plants and ultimately more flowers.

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Sweet Peas:

These old-fashioned favorites should be beginning their bloom period about now. Keep the flowers trimmed regularly to encourage more flowers; this may be as often as twice a week. Sweet peas are one of the annual garden flowers that really benefit from having their flowers trimmed.

For more information, watch & learn: World-Class Sweet Peas with Steve Hampson

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Fruiting Plants

There’s not a ton of maintenance for fruiting shrubs on the checklist this month, so I don’t have too many February gardening tips for your fruiting plants. However, it is your last chance to get strawberries planted and get started on strawberry plant care to encourage lots of fruit in the summer!

Shop Roger's Gardens Edible Plants

For more information, watch & learn: Growing Blueberries in Southern California[2]

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Cane Berries:

Apply your first application of organic, balanced fertilizer as they begin to leaf out.

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Grapes:

These should start leafing out in the next few weeks of February. In terms of grape plant care, there’s not much to do in the meantime.

Sometime this month should be your third and last application of dormant disease control. This should be a copper sulfate product, which is organic. Applying these products should be an annual chore, repeated every year to help control some very common fungal diseases. The timing of this application is the most important of them all. Apply these at the “pink-bud-stage”. This is the point in which the buds have swollen and may even be “pink”, but have not yet opened.

Early this month is still a good time to plant grapes. With some searching, you may still be able to find dormant bare-root plants now. These are a great value, but do some research to be sure that you’re selecting an appropriate variety for your climate.

As soon as the new growth has grown a couple of inches, begin fertilizing. Use a well-balanced organic product that contains trace minerals, which grapes need. Organic products are usually a good choice.

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Strawberries:

If you don’t have them planted yet—hurry! Buy big four-inch or one-gallon size plants if you’re still planting.

Pinch out the first two or three sets of flowers that your growing strawberry plants will produce to encourage better root development and a stronger overall plant.

Taking care of strawberry plants means you’ll need to feed them regularly. Periodically apply an organic acid fertilizer like cottonseed meal to keep the soil pH low, which strawberries prefer.

Plant Alpine varieties (also called “Fraise du Bois”) now. These bear small but intensely flavorful, aromatic fruit. They are small plants, with smaller foliage and do not create runners.

 

 

 

For more information, watch & learn: How to Grow the Best Strawberries with Sarah Smith

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Shrub Care

Late winter to early spring is an active time for tree and shrub maintenance! Many common spring-blooming, evergreen shrubs, like rhaphiolepis, escallonia, and abelia, can be given a quick pruning early this month. These shrubs flower on new growth, so don’t prune again until after the spring bloom has concluded. Here are some more detailed shrub care and maintenance tips for February:
For more information, watch & learn: Hardy Flowering Shrubs with Dalia Brunner

 

 

 

 

 

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Azaleas:

The flower buds on azaleas should be beginning to swell up, and a few hybrids might even be blooming this month. Keep feeding them aggressively with a high-phosphorus fertilizer from now until they have finished blooming, then switch to a standard “azalea” or “acid” fertilizer.

Some of the early-blooming azalea varieties will already be flowering. For these blooming plants, be cautious of getting the flowers wet, especially from prolonged rainstorms. The flowers will turn to mush with water on them. In a rain shower, drape a plastic bag over the plant, or even better, poke an umbrella into the ground above it.

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Camellias:

Even more varieties of Japanese camellia will be in bloom this month. In Orange County, February is an excellent month to shop for these varieties! The selection will be good and you will be able to see many in bloom. Since camellias are actually dormant (not growing) while they are in bloom, this is also the perfect month to plant them.

Feed sasanqua varieties (unless you already fed them last month) with an “acid” or “azalea/camellia” fertilizer now. Cottonseed meal is also a good organic fertilizer.

If your Japanese camellias haven’t started blooming yet, don’t worry—they will! Some varieties are later bloomers than others.

For more information, watch & learn: Gardening 101 Series | How to Plant & Maintain a Camellia

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Gardenias:

Gardenias are still unhappy about the cold weather of February. Sometime in March, they will start showing some signs of new growth. Be patient. No need to fertilize yet.

For more information, watch & learn: Gardenias for Southern California with Nicholas Stadden

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Hydrangeas:

These famous flowering shrubs are probably still completely dormant, so they’re best left alone. If, however, they are beginning to leaf out, feed them with a general-purpose or acid fertilizer.

Contrary to some references, do not prune hydrangeas in the winter. Most hydrangeas bloom on one-year-old stems. Pruning now will eliminate most of next year’s flowers.

If you want to try to get blue or lavender flowers on your otherwise pink plant, you’ll need to apply aluminum sulfate to the soil continuously. Follow the product instructions for application rates. White-flowered varieties will not be affected, and not all pinks will be affected the same way.

For more information, watch & learn: Re-blooming Hydrangeas with Nicholas Staddon[4]

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Roses:

Finish planting bare-root roses and starter shrubs now while they are still available in nurseries.

Don’t let newly-planted bare-root roses dry out. It is almost impossible to overwater a freshly planted bare-root rose for the first 30 days.

Apply your first feeding to roses when the new growth is about four to six inches long. Do not use soil-applied fertilizers that are combined with a systemic insecticide; these products are very disruptive to the soil ecosystem, such as its beneficial microorganisms, bacteria, mycorrhizal fungi, and earthworms. Many rosarians also believe they reduce the vigor of the rose.

Granular, well-balanced, organic fertilizers work particularly well for roses and most of these will encourage beneficial soil life.

Weed as needed, but avoid most herbicides around roses.

Watch for the earliest signs of diseases like powdery mildew or rust. If you spot any signs of disease, treat it immediately.

Be on the lookout for aphid infestations on new growth. Hose them off with a strong jet of water or use a mild product like insecticidal soap to eliminate them.

 

 

 

For more information, watch & learn: How to Prune Your Roses With Laura Weaver, Bare Root Roses with Dalia, & How to Plant and Care for Roses

Shop Roger's Gardens Beautiful Selection of Roses

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Trees:

February is a great time to get some tree care done before the birds start nesting. It's best to leave trees and shrubs with nests in them undisturbed so birds have the best chance of a successful hatching. Here are some February gardening tips to get your trees ready for spring:

 

 

 

This is about your last good chance to prune most trees (except for tender sub-tropical trees like ficus, coral tree, avocado, citrus, etc.). Few birds have started nesting yet.

This is an especially good time to prune coniferous trees like pines and cypress, since their pests, various bark beetles, are not active at this time of the year.

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Deciduous Fruit Trees:

Many of these trees will be in bloom now. Honeybees and native mason bees are essential pollinators for these trees. Be sure to conserve these beneficial insects and encourage them with strategically-placed bee houses.

Sometime this month should be your third and last application of dormant disease control. This may be either a copper sulfate or lime-sulfur product (do not use lime-sulfur on apricots). Both of these are organic products. Applying these products should be an annual part of fruit tree maintenance, repeated every year to avoid infestations of such diseases as peach leaf curl, shothole fungus, apple scab, brown rot, and many others. The timing of this application is the most important of them all. Apply these at the “pink-bud-stage”. This is the point in which the buds have swollen and may even be “pink”, but have not yet opened.

Apply your first feeding this month as soon as you see the buds beginning to swell, but before the flowers open. The second and last feeding of the year will be in April. At this application, apple, apricot, peach, plum, etc. should be given about ½ pound of actual nitrogen per inch of trunk diameter. (Example: 15 pounds of 20% nitrogen if a six-inch trunk; 30 pounds of 10% nitrogen if a six-inch trunk, etc.)

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Citrus:

Citrus trees are still doing very little growing this month. There will likely be fruit developing on lemons and limes. Navel oranges should be ripe, and grapefruits may be ready to harvest. Try one, but if the sugars aren’t developed enough, wait another month and try again.

Start fertilizing this month and feed every month from now until July. For citrus fruit tree care, it is important to use a fertilizer that is rich in such trace minerals as iron, zinc, manganese, copper, and others. These ingredients are usually poorly represented in synthetic fertilizers. A better choice would be an organic fertilizer like Dr. Earth.

Control ants climbing up the trunk of the tree or climbing onto the branches now. Although not directly harmful to the citrus, they “farm” such pests as scale, whiteflies, and mealybugs, which are all common on citrus trees. Continue to trim any limbs that touch the ground, fence or a wall.

If ants are present, apply Tanglefoot (a sticky, waterproof substance) around the base of the tree trunk to stop them.

For more information, watch & learn: Growing Citrus in Southern California with David Rizzo & Growing Citrus in Containers with Kathleen

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Avocados:

Apply your first feeding to avocado trees this month. A mature avocado tree should be given between ½ and 1 pound of actual nitrogen per year, per inch of trunk diameter. (Example: 15-30 pounds of 20% nitrogen if a six-inch trunk; 30-60 pounds of 10% nitrogen if a six-inch trunk, etc.)

Avocados are growing very slowly, if at all, this time of the year but will begin to wake up soon. Certain winter-producing varieties may have fruit on them that can be picked.

It is not unusual for your avocado to be dropping many of its leaves this month. New leaves may even be emerging as the old ones are dropping.

It’s still a bit early to plant or transplant an avocado.

Rains should take care of all your avocado’s irrigation needs this month.

In warm coastal gardens, avocados can be pruned in late February. They do not particularly require any specific annual pruning, but size reduction or general shaping, if necessary, can be done now.

Be sure to keep a very thick blanket of mulch, compost, or fallen leaves under mature avocados at all times. Avocados need a cool root-run for good health.

In marginal areas, continue to take precautions to avoid frost damage. (See Frost)[7]

 

 

 

For more information, watch & learn: Edible Gardening: How to Grow Avocados in Southern California with Sarah Smith

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Subtropical Fruits:

See also the fruit trees care and maintenance information under Avocados[8] and Citrus[9] .

Continue taking precautions for frost and cold weather damage on sensitive species. (See Frost[10] )

Do not fertilize subtropical fruit trees again until March at the earliest.

Do not do any pruning during the cool winter months.

Many subtropical fruits are sensitive to too much moisture around the roots during cool weather. Water very little, if at all, during the winter.

Except for the Beaumont variety, keep checking for fallen macadamia nuts. Pick them off the ground weekly, which may continue for up to three months. The Beaumont variety will be ready to be picked directly off the tree early next month.

 

 

 

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Perennials:

 

 

 

Perennial plant care and maintenance takes off in February! Now is a good time to get them planted so they have time to establish a strong root system before the heat of summer hits. Many of your perennials may be just starting to wake up now, and if you didn’t get around to dividing them in the fall, it’s best to get it done sooner than later. Here are our perennial plant care and gardening tips for February:

Depending upon your garden care, you may want to begin regular fertilizing this month. The use of a granular organic fertilizer (especially if under a fresh layer of mulch) is an excellent choice.

There is still a chance to divide some perennials that you may have meant to take care of last fall. It’s not too late for plants like ornamental grasses, cannas, hemerocallis, agapanthus, shasta daisy, coreopsis, and many others.

Many perennials are now waking up, or soon will be, and a bit of a trim may help them look a little better while stimulating flower growth. Even if you cut some of these back in the fall, another trim now may be helpful. These perennials can be cut back rather hard now if necessary (wait until the end of the month if you are in a cool inland garden): artemisia, aster (perennial types), baby’s breath (gypsophila), calla (common white), coreopsis, daylily (hemerocallis), dianthus (perennial types including carnation), gaillardia, gaura, geranium (true geranium), heliotrope, lamb’s ears (stachys), lion’s tail (leonotis), oregano (ornamental types), penstemon, phygelius, rudbeckia, Russian sage (perovskia), most salvia (sage), scabiosa (pincushion flower), shasta daisy, stokesia (stokes aster), thyme, and valerian (centranthus).

Wait another month or so until you prune sub-tropical perennials like begonias, heliotrope, impatiens, lamium, pentas (starflower), and plectranthus.

Cool-season plants are doing great right now; they’re blooming abundantly and giving the garden a feel for the spring blooms ahead. These include alstroemeria (except in very cold inland gardens), armeria, euryops daisy, forget-me-not (myosotis), hellebore, marguerite daisy, and viola (perennial types).

Those perennials that completely disappeared a couple of months ago will soon start sprouting from the soil again, either this month or next. Look for signs of life from kniphofia (red hot poker), liatris, monkshood (aconitum), and obedient plant (physostegia).

Divide some perennials now, especially if they are completely herbaceous (die down completely in winter). This includes dahlia, echinacea (coneflower), anemone hybrida (Japanese anemone), liatris (gayfeather), and sidalcea.

Tall, upright, spiking perennials like dahlia (tuberous perennial types), delphinium, foxglove (digitalis), kniphofia (red hot poker), liatris, true lilies (lilium), monkshood (aconitum), oriental poppy, and most thalictrum (meadow rue) should have their stakes put in place now to hold the soon to develop flower stalks. Staking these now will prevent root damage later and provide support for them as they grow. Thin, unpainted, natural bamboo stakes work well for this and look very pleasant in the garden.

There is still a chance of frost early in the month, especially in inland gardens. Frost-sensitive perennials such as felicia daisy, heliotrope, lamium, some lavender varieties, pelargonium, pentas, plectranthus, and scaevola, may need a little protection on a couple of these cold nights.

Removing spent or old flowers regularly, especially from the cool-season perennials, will help them to produce more new flowers.

Keep up with weeding—it never ends!

Toward the middle or end of the month, prune cane and angel-wing begonias back to three or four nodes from the soil. The common Richmondensis begonia should be cut back more lightly. Common bedding begonias can be rejuvenated now by cutting them off at one to two inches, feeding them, and letting them re-grow.

For more information, watch & learn: Gardening 101 Series | How to Use Annuals vs. Perennials with Lynn Hillman & Gardening 101 Series | Pruning Lavender & Perennials with Dalia Brunner

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Clematis:

This is your last chance to prune most clematis. If you haven’t done so yet, don’t delay. There are a few exceptions, so check your specific variety with us just to be sure.

Begin fertilizing when the new growth is about 3-4 inches long. Clematis perform best with regular feeding using a balanced fertilizer.

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Fuchsias:

Cut your fuchsias back now if you are in an inland or colder area with frost potential. Warmer coastal gardeners should have trimmed them as early as last November. Fuchsias bloom on new growth and need to be pruned fairly heavily each year. Fuchsias kept in baskets should be cut to about the edge of the container. For those growing in the ground, trim back between 30% and 50% of the plant. If you are in a very cold area, you may want to wait another month on this pruning.

If re-potting is needed, the best time to do this is at the same time as the annual cut-back.

After pruning and new growth resumes, feed all fuchsias regularly with a fertilizer high in nitrogen to promote lots of vigorous foliage growth at this time of the year.

In coastal areas, if you cut your fuchsias back in November and have been feeding them, you should continue pinching the tips of the new growth. Continue pinching the tips every couple of weeks through the end of March and then let them bloom. You’ll have a full and glorious plant with hundreds of flowers!

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Groundcovers:

Cool-season groundcovers are still growing and blooming well.

On sloped areas, this is not a good time to do any significant planting. Winter rains and erosion are too much of an issue.

California native groundcover plants, like ceanothus and arctostaphylos (manzanita) are growing nicely and may be beginning to bloom now.

Warm-season groundcovers are still sitting through the winter now. No fertilizing and no pruning are needed at this time of the year.

For more information, watch & learn How to Plant & Grow Groundcover with Dalia Brunner

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Orchids (Outdoor):

This and next month may be the peak time of bloom for most cymbidiums. Continue feeding with a high phosphorus fertilizer through the end of their bloom period.

Watch & Learn:
How to Care for and Maintain Phalaenopsis Orchids with Steve Hampson
Orchids Care

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Poinsettias:

Try to keep them indoors still, in a well-lit area away from heater vents and other drafts. They may be looking a bit rough, but those plants that you just bought a couple of months ago will be better off indoors through this last cold month.

If you do bring them outside, don’t cut them yet! Instead, keep them away from frost and cold nights.

No fertilizing is needed this month.

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Wisterias:

Big fat flower buds should be developing now and with close observation can be distinguished from the smaller, more slender leaf buds.

No pruning now or you may interfere with the blooms.

No need to fertilize now and rains should take care of any irrigation needs, except on very young plants.

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Bulbs, Rhizomes, Tubers, etc:

There are many bulbs you can plant in February. While it’s still a little early to plant bulbs, you can purchase summer blooming bulbs now from our outdoor plant boutique while they are still in good supply! The “second bulb season” in southern California includes such favorites as dahlia, tuberous begonia, gladiolus, caladium, calla, canna, tuberose, most true lilies, and Mexican shell flower (tigridia). Here are a few more bulb-specific gardening tips for February.

 

 

 

Plant gladiolus this month. Consider planting them in two-week intervals to enjoy a longer bloom season.

Some fall-planted bulbs that are just beginning their bloom cycle, especially toward the end of the month, include anemone and ranunculus.

Bulbs currently in full bloom include chasmanthe, crocus (spring-blooming types), ipheion, leucojum, and some daffodils (narcissus).

Bedding cyclamen, although not generally referred to as a bulb, is in full bloom throughout Orange County.

Many ornamental oxalis are winter-blooming, non-invasive, and naturalize easily. These are in full bloom now.

Buy tuberous begonia tubers this month, but wait until March to start growing them. Keep them in the paper bag that you bought them in and store them in a cool well-ventilated location—not the refrigerator! (See Tuberous Begonias[12] )

There’s still plenty of time to purchase summer-blooming bulbs! Examples are dahlia, gladiolus, calla, canna, tuberose, and Mexican shell flower (tigridia). Here’s a hot gardening tip; the period between the second half of February and into March is a perfect time to plant just about all of these summer bloomers!

Buy dahlias now, but don’t plant them until next month, when the soil warms up a little more. Like your tuberous begonias, keep them in the paper bag that you bought them in and store them in a cool, well-ventilated location—again, not the fridge!

Watch for germinating weeds and control them now, before they get much larger.

 

 

 

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Bearded Iris:

They still may be going through a bit of a “molt” as they are slowly pushing out new growth, while last year’s growth fades away. You may still be noticing the transition of last year’s foliage giving way to the new growth. Remove any outer (older) leaves as they turn completely brown by giving them a gentle tug.

Feed them now with a gentle, well-balanced, organic fertilizer to help them with their new growth and to set flowers.

Don’t forget your weeding!

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Dahlias (Tuberous types):

Tubers should still be out of the ground now and quietly resting somewhere in the garage or another cool, dry location.

Nurseries now have a good supply of dormant tubers in stock. Shop early while the selection is good, but don’t plant them for a little while more.

For more information, watch & learn Lew Whitney's Secrets to Growing and Maintaining Dahlias

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Cannas:

This is the perfect month to plant cannas from dormant rhizomes.

Dormant rhizomes arrived at nurseries during mid-January. The selection is good this month but wait until about the end of this month or early March to plant them.

If you didn’t cut them back in January, any cannas in the landscape should be cut to the soil. After you cut them down, they can also be easily dug up and divided if necessary.

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Tuberous Begonias:

Tubers are still in good supply at nurseries. It is still too early to plant them, but it is a good time to buy them, since they will probably be gone by next month. Store them in an open box with dry peat moss, perlite, or sawdust. Place the box in a cool, dark location until March when it’s time to sprout them.

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California Native Plants:

This is your last good month for successfully planting most natives. California native plants like to be planted in the cool fall and winter months, which is the beginning of their growing season.

This and next month can be one of the prettiest times of the year for many of our California natives. Many of these are blooming and growing well now but are already toward the latter half of their growing seasons.

An extra irrigation or two if we get an extended dry spell is justified and will keep them blooming and happy a bit longer.

If you have not visited a California native plant garden before, now through March would be an excellent time to visit. The best are Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Clairemont and The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden in Santa Barbara.


For more information, watch & learn: Gardening with Native Plants with James Maxwell

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Tropicals & Subtropicals:

See also the information under Avocados[15] , Citrus[16] , and Subtropical Fruits[17]

Plants like cannas, gardenias, ginger, begonia, and brunfelsia should be trimmed now in warm coastal gardens rather than in the fall. If you are in a cold inland location, wait another month.

Continue taking precautions for frost and cold weather damage on sensitive species. (See Frost[18] )

Do not fertilize until at least next month.

Do not prune during the cool winter months.

Many subtropical plants are sensitive to too much moisture around the roots during cool weather. Water very carefully, if at all, during the winter.

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Foliage Plants

Most non-flowering plants don’t need too much maintenance this month. Ferns and ornamental grasses may just be starting to wake up now. Here are just a few gardening tips for non-flowering plants in February:

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Ferns:

Most ferns are still pretty sleepy. There’s no need to fertilize a dormant fern, and irrigation can be minimal. While most of these winter foliage plants are evergreen in Orange County, they are growing very slowly if at all.

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Ornamental Grasses:

Some ornamental grasses are best cut to the ground each year and allowed to grow fresh foliage. But be careful, not all grasses appreciate this treatment. Some that do are Japanese blood grass (imperata), Japanese forest grass (hackonakloa), fountain grasses (pennisetum), Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia), and miscanthus.

Wondering when to cut back ornamental grasses? You can trim them to just above the soil line any time during the cool winter months. If you haven’t already cut these down, do so now, before new growth begins. What happens if you don’t cut back ornamental grasses is that they’ll be a little slower to get started, and they’ll have an overall less tidy appearance during the season.

For more information, watch & learn: Low Water Ornamental Grasses with James Maxwell

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Vegetables and Herbs

It’s time to start planning your vegetable and herb gardens! Here are a few tips to get going on your February edible gardening plan for this year's growing season.

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Vegetables:

February is a good time to start making your edible garden to-do list. There are lots of February garden chores on the list to get your garden ready for the coming season!

 

 

 

If you prefer to grow your summer herb and vegetable garden from seed rather than transplants, (the selection is much, much greater from seed), this is a good time to shop for these. However, most of these won’t go into the ground for about another month.

Cole crops, like cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower, are often attacked by caterpillars at this time. If you only have a few plants, hand-picking may be enough. Otherwise, use BT, a food-safe, effective, and organic solution.

There is still time to plant quick cool-season herbs and vegetables from transplants, especially along the coast. Use transplants now for arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, chard, collards, endive, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, peas, or spinach.

Beets, carrots, parsnips, radish, and possibly turnips can all be started this month and are only available from seed.

Fava beans are producing this month. If they are flowering but not setting fruit, try cutting off the top couple of inches of each growing tip. This will divert their energy from growing leaves into bean production.

If you didn’t start larger perennial vegetables like rhubarb, artichoke, horseradish, and asparagus last month, hurry and get them planted now! Bare-root plants may still be available. Caution: horseradish can be quite invasive, so keep it in a container.

If you want to get a head start on your warm-season vegetables from seed, plant a few on a warm windowsill now.

Feed cool-season vegetables regularly and control weeds before they get large.

For more information, watch & learn: Winter Edibles with David Rizzo & Winter Edibles with David

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Water & Irrigation:

Apply a balanced granular fertilizer application now for even better results.

Plants should be growing well now and several varieties should be in good bloom. Enjoy the show.

Irrigate the planting if Mother Nature doesn’t do the job for you.

Weed seeds are still germinating. Weed garden beds regularly or they will easily overwhelm the flowers.

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Herbs:

Many annual or short-lived herbs that can be planted now include anise, arugula, chervil, chamomile, chives, cilantro, comfrey, dill, fennel, garlic chives, lovage, parsley, salad burnet, and sorrel.

Many other herbs are essentially year-round in our mild climate and can be planted at any time of the year. Some of these include chives, comfrey, feverfew, lavender, lemon balm, lemongrass, and rosemary.

For more information, watch & learn: Unique and Unusual Herb Plants with Sarah Smith

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General Gardening

There are always plenty of gardening chores to work on, no matter what time of year! While we’re not quite into the full swing of the growing season, there are lots of things you can do to set yourself up for successful gardening this summer. Here are some miscellaneous gardening tips for February to help you stay ahead of the spring rush.

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Beneficial Insects:

Order and release native mason bees now. These are outstanding pollinators of many fruit trees and vegetables.

Conserve and protect honeybees by selecting and using insecticides wisely. Avoid the use of broad-spectrum and systemic insecticides wherever you can.

Plant a few nectar sources for your beneficial insects as well as your native pollinators. Good choices for this include yarrow (achillea), alyssum, chamomile, white clover, paludosum daisy, cosmos, lantana, Queen Anne’s lace (ammi majus), tansy[19] [20] , and centranthus (sometimes called valerian or Jupiter’s beard).

Release predacious decollate snails now. These will take some time to establish themselves in your garden, so be patient. Do not use any snail baits, which will harm decollate snails.

If aphids are present in significant numbers, consider your first release of the year of ladybugs and lacewings. Two or three releases of both of these predators in the spring can reduce many pest populations significantly, very possibly eliminating the need for pesticides in a healthy garden.

 

 

 

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Fertilize:

See also the information under individual plants.

Most plants still will not need too much fertilizing this month. However, there are a few exceptions: camellia, azalea, and lilac are all setting buds now for spring bloom. You can encourage this spring bloom with a high-phosphorus fertilizer applied now.

Many potted plants will wake up before their siblings in the ground. Feed these as needed.

Feed cool-season lawns (fescue, ryegrass, and bluegrass) now.

 

For more information, watch & learn: Gardening 101 Series | How Do I Fertilize and Why? with Steve Hampson

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Frost:

There is still a good chance of frost or cold damage this month to tender plants, especially in inland gardens. January is the most likely month for damage in most Orange County gardens, although December and February may bear some frosty days as well.

Frost protection strategies include:

Moving potted plants to protected areas.

Covering tender plants with old sheets or special “frost cloths,” but do not let these touch the foliage.

Stringing sensitive plants with miniature outdoor incandescent Christmas lights. These radiate heat.

Wetting the foliage. Once the temperatures get to freezing, the water will freeze on the surface of the foliage and insulate the leaf. It really works!

If frost does occur, do not prune it off right away. Leaving the damaged foliage in place helps the plant protect itself from additional frosts. When new growth begins in spring, trim the damaged areas back to the point where healthy growth begins.

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Lawns:

Apply pre-emergent crabgrass control to all lawns to prevent the germination of crabgrass. Make a second application around the first of May.

Remember, cool-season lawns (fescue/marathon, bluegrass, ryegrass) should be mowed about a half an inch lower in the winter than in the summer.

Keep feeding cool-season lawns. This is their favorite time of year, and they will need regular feeding with a high-quality, slow-release fertilizer.

Warm-season lawns (Bermuda grass, St. Augustine, zoysia) are sleeping now.

If you over-seeded your warm-season grass with annual rye last fall, you should continue feeding it. Within the next 60 days or so, the rye will begin showing signs of heat stress and will naturally die out. At the same time, this grass is fading away, your warm-season grass will be greening up again. In a well-maintained lawn, you will hardly even notice this change.

Don’t forget your weeding!

This is a good month to aerate cool-season lawns. This is done with a coring machine, either a gas-powered model from a rental yard or a small hand-held version. Be sure that the coring device that you select actually removes a plug from the soil. After coring, apply a fine-textured top dressing to the soil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pests & Diseases:

(See also the information under the individual plants and Beneficial Insects[21] )

Bait or control snails and slugs, unless you’re using decollate snails as a beneficial.

Protect evergreen pears (Pyrus kawakami) from fireblight.

Control pests on citrus trees as necessary.

Monitor roses for the earliest signs of powdery mildew or rust; look for specks of white or brown discoloration.

Trap gophers now before the breeding season begins.

For more information, watch and learn: How to Identify & Eliminate Common Garden Pests

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Records, Catalogs, Books, and Organizations:

The newest edition of Sunset’s Western Garden Book has been released. This 9th edition includes over 2,000 new plants, many more photographs, improved line drawings, and more detailed climate zones. If you’re using an older version, it’s time to upgrade!

If you didn’t begin your garden journal last month, why not do it now? This can be one of the most rewarding and useful things you can do for both you and your garden!

Now is a good time to join an online gardening organization. Most of these groups offer informative sessions led by garden experts, a newsletter, occasional garden-related tours and, most importantly, the opportunity to share ideas and experiences with other good gardeners.

 

 

 

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Soil Care:

The soil is often pretty wet at this time of the year and sometimes even soggy. Try to keep from walking on this wet soil, which compresses it, reduces its ability to drain quickly, and depletes its oxygen content.

We have included this section, because as you know, or will discover with more experience, a good garden begins with the soil. Investing in the soil, managing the soil, and protecting the soil are not afterthoughts in a successful garden, but the foundation of garden health. Healthy soil is living and breathing, teaming with earthworms, microorganisms, beneficial fungi, bacteria, microbes, and other invisible life. This section, possibly the most important topic of all, provides some helpful guidance to good soil care.

A thick layer of organic mulch, averaging about two inches should be maintained on top of the soil just about year-round. Applied now, this thick layer of mulch will moderate the soil temperatures, reduce weed growth, and improve both soil life and soil quality.

We do not suggest the use of very high-analysis fertilizers in a garden, especially phosphorus. Examples of fertilizers to avoid are synthetic versions with formulations like 10-55-10, 10-30-10, etc. We don’t even suggest the popular 15-30-15 formula. These formulations will inhibit or even destroy much of the soil life that is so vital to a healthy sustainable soil.

We also suggest that you not use soil-applied systemic fertilizer/insecticide combinations (especially popular with rose bushes). These are very damaging to soil life.

Use insecticides only when necessary and even then use the least damaging product available. Many of these products move into the soil and interfere with invisible soil life.

If you can, begin a compost pile or purchase a compost bin. Leaves, clippings, kitchen produce scraps, and many other ingredients can be composted and returned to the garden. Home compost is one of the very best ingredients you can add to your soil as part of your garden maintenance. The benefits are huge in the areas of disease suppression, increasing beneficial microorganisms, improving soil structure and texture, nutrient retention, and nematode suppression.

For more information, watch and learn:Gardening 101 Series | What Kind of Soil Should You Use?

 

Looking for more information about a particular plant or tree? Visit our Plant Finder.

 

 

 

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Places to Visit:

Gardens that look terrific almost any time of the year include Sherman Library and Gardens (Corona del Mar), The Fullerton Arboretum (Fullerton), Los Angeles Arboretum (Arcadia), Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens (San Marino), and San Diego Botanical Gardens (Encinitas).

The UC Irvine Botanic Gardens are still blooming well this month. Enjoy the spectacular blooming aloes, Mediterranean bulbs, and many South African plants that are in bloom now.

Mediterranean and California native plant gardens are now in their peak bloom season. Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont is beginning to show lots of color this month.

Worth a quick visit, and not far away, is the relatively young and developing Niguel Botanical Preserve in Laguna Niguel. The plant focus is almost entirely on Mediterranean and California natives.

This is a perfect time for a visit to our coastal wild areas to observe our native plants. The coastal bluffs and grasslands at San Onofre State Beach and Aliso Creek are at their peak this month.

Further afield, one of the best Mediterranean botanical gardens in the country is the UC Santa Cruz Botanic Garden (in Santa Cruz). This and next month are its peaks of bloom.

The largest garden show west of the Mississippi, the Northwest Flower and Garden Show is not to be missed. Held in Seattle at the Washington State Convention Center, it is worth the pilgrimage to the garden-savvy northwest just to take this in. Five days of enormous displays, expert seminars, and a “marketplace” full of specialty and hard to find plants. Due to COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 show has been cancelled, but the show plans to resume in February 2022.