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February garden calendar for Central Florida

Azaleas are in full bloom now
Azaleas are in full bloom now
Jim Ford

February is a transition month in Central Florida landscapes and gardens. We often have rapidly fluctuating temperatures from one day to the next. Early in the month you can still install transplants of cool-season annuals like alyssum, geranium, calendulas, petunias, pansies, snapdragons and dianthus. By using established transplants you will enjoy blooms until the weather heats up around late April or May. It is too late to start cool-season annuals from seed.

Late in the month plant warm-season flowers like ageratum, amaranthus, cosmos, lobelia, salvia, torenia, vinca, marigolds, coleus, celosia, impatiens and begonias. These will provide good color through early summer.

Now is also a good time to plant most types of bulbs and rhizomes. Try eucharis, haemanthus, caladium, canna, alocasia, gladiolus, gloriosa, daylily, moraea, tulbaghia, hymenocallis, zephyranthes and many types of ornamental ginger. Read up on how to plant a ginger garden.

Roses should be pruned as early as possible if you have not already done so. Remove dead, diseased or damaged canes. Cut back tall or lanky canes to improve the overall shape of the plant. After pruning, fertilize and mulch the rose bed.

Now is a good time to fertilize and mulch the rest of your young shrubs and trees as well. Mature plants do not usually need fertilization unless they show signs of deficiency. Enlarge your mulch beds and planting areas to reduce the amount of time and money you spend on lawn maintenance. For the grass that remains, follow the University of Florida's Turf Fertilization Guidelines.

Prune any plants that suffered die-back during the winter. Look for the highest point on the stem where new growth is evident and cut above that point. If there is no growth evident, but the scratched stem still shows some green, leave it alone for a few more weeks. Some plants are slower to recover after cold-damage. Read up on how to care for freeze-damaged plants.

Don't mistake a leafless dormant plant for a dead one. Deciduous trees and shrubs normally don't leaf out until the danger of freezing is past. When pruning dormant trees and shrubs, avoid committing crape murder.

The spring gardening season reaches a fever pitch by the end of the month. The average annual date of the last frost in Central Florida occurs by the middle of February and after that time it is usually safe to plant all of your warm-season vegetables. Many gardeners plant earlier, but remain prepared to protect plants if cold weather arrives. Early-maturing cool-season vegetables can be planted all month long.

Here is the vegetable list for February: arrowroot, beans (bush, pole, lima), beets, broccoli (transplants), cabbage (transplants), cantaloupe, carrots, cassava, cauliflower (transplants), celery, chinese cabbage (transplants), collards, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, endive/escarole, kale (transplants), kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, onions & shallots (sets), peas (English), peppers (transplants), potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, radish, squash, tomatoes, turnip and watermelon.

Finish digging any remaining root crops that are still in the ground. These include yuca, sunchokes, arrowroot, turmeric, tropical yams and ginger.

Harvest of citrus fruit is at its peak, in addition to carambola, glycosmis, and kumquats. If your area has avoided a hard freeze, you're probably also picking banana and papaya.

Azaleas and camellias are among the showiest landscape shrubs this month. We're also seeing a profusion of blooms on pink and yellow tabebuias as well as deciduous fruit trees like peaches and native plums.

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