February Gardening Tips, Tasks, & Problems


Trees & Shrubs

  • If the ground is dry and unfrozen on a warm day, water evergreens.
  • Check trees for Eastern tent caterpillar egg masses. Egg masses appear as dark brown or gray collars that encircle small twigs. Destroy by pruning or scratching off. 
  • Enjoy the fragrant blooms of the Ozark Witch Hazel (Hamamelis vernalis) and hybrid witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia) now through early April.
  • When pruning diseased wood, sterilize tools with one part bleach and nine parts water in between cuts.
  • Maple trees can now be tapped for syrup. Freezing nights and mild days encourage sap flow. Trees that can be tapped include sugar, red, silver, and black. 
  • Now is a good time to apply dormant oil sprays to trees and shrubs infected with overwintering insect pests that have caused issues in the past. These include, but are not limited to, aphids, scale, and mites. Be sure to follow label instructions.
  • Prune summer flowering shrubs from late February through early March (e.g.: Hydrangea paniculata, Lagerstroemia indica, Hibiscus syriacus, and Buddleja davidii). Do not prune spring flowering shrubs until after blooms are finished (e.g.: Forsythia spp., Syringa spp., Viburnum spp., and Hydrangea macrophylla).
  • Now is a great time to learn to identify trees based on their bark and winter twigs.

Annuals & Perennials

  • Winter aconite (Eranthis spp.) and snowdrops (Galanthus spp.) are hardy bulbs for shady gardens that frequently push up through snow to bloom now. 
  • Sow seeds of larkspur, sweet peas, poppies, and snapdragons outdoors now. For the best blooms, they must sprout and begin growth well before warm weather arrives.
  • Examine the soil around perennials for signs of frost heaving. If any plants have damage, gently tamp back down into the soil to ensure any exposed roots are covered. 
  • Inspect summer bulbs in storage to be sure none are drying out. Discard any that show signs of rot. 
  • Be sure to cut back liriope in late February or early March before new growth begins. 


  • Keep foot traffic on lawns to a minimum when they are wet or frozen to avoid injury.
  • Now is a good time to start controlling cool-season weeds, such as chickweed and dandelions. Manually remove or use an appropriate herbicide. 
  • Cool-season lawns should be fertilized in the fall but can be fertilized in the spring if needed. Warm-season lawns should start fertilizer in May. 

Fruits & Vegetables

  • Sow seeds of cauliflower, celery, kohlrabi, kale, collards, mustard greens, and bok choy, indoors this month to transplant in the garden in March and April. 
  • Grapes and bramble fruits can be pruned now. 
  • Prune apples and pears in late February through early March, after the worst of the cold is over. Trees infected with fireblight should have infected branches pruned out, sanitizing tools between cuts, by the end of February or in mid-summer during a dry spell.
  • Start onion seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before the last average frost date (April 15th).
  • Utilize season-extending devices like cold frames, hot beds, cloches, and floating row covers to get an early start to the growing season.
  • Collect scion wood now for grafting fruit trees later in the spring. Wrap bundled scions with plastic and store them in the refrigerator. 
  • Spray peach trees with a proper fungicide for control of peach leaf curl disease by early-March before bud break.


  • When sowing seeds indoors, be sure to use sterile mediums to prevent diseases. As soon as seeds sprout be sure to provide ample light and moderate moisture.
  • Branches of pussy willow, quince, crabapples, forsythia, pear, and flowering cherry, may be forced indoors. Place cut stems in water and change the water every few days. 
  • Squirrels may be seen feeding on the tender, swollen buds of elms, hickories, oaks, and other trees as spring approaches. No management is needed. 
  • Encourage birds to nest in your yard by providing water and setting up birdhouses. Planting suitable shrubs, trees, vines, and other plants will provide wild food sources and nesting habitats. 
  • Keep a careful eye out for egg masses of beneficial insects such as praying mantises. Polyphemus moth egg masses may be noticeable this month as well. The larvae do little feeding damage and egg masses should not be removed.
  • Don't work wet soil. Soil should form a ball that easily crumbles apart when squeezed. If it is too wet, allow it to dry before working. 
  • To extend the vase life of cut flowers: recut the stems with a sharp knife or scissors, remove any foliage that would be underwater, use commercial flower preservative (the packet that comes with most flowers), and display the flowers in a cool spot away from direct sunlight.
  • Scout for and remove bagworms as they are found.