February Garden Care

Oh man, does my yard look rough – time for Houston February garden care (applies to all of Zone 9)! I want to get out there and start hacking. If you are like me you have to restrain yourself. Step away from the hedge trimmers and pruning shears…but soon.

Check out the Farmer’s Almanac, our last spring frost date. Plug in a few other Houston area zip codes just to check because they tend to vary by up to two weeks. A good rule of thumb is to wait to do heavy pruning until at least Valentine’s Day, February 14th – the traditional day to prune back your roses. If for some reason we get a late freeze freshly pruned plants will be the most vulnerable and likely to die.

But, good news, there is plenty to do before you start pruning!

Houston February Garden Care Checklist:

  • Start weed removal
  • Mulch those freshly weeded flower beds
    • If you are okay with chemicals apply a weed barrier product like Barricade Herbicide by Nitrophos (pretty widely available at local garden centers and Ace Hardware) it’s a pre-emergent for control of grassy and broadleaf weeds) – it will not work if you’ve let your weeds go to seed
    • If you like to keep it natural I like to spray my weeds with straight vinegar (with a squirt of soap – to help it stick). The grocery delivery people always think I’m weird for ordering so much but it is okay – doin’ it for the plants!
  • When new growth appears on your perennials fertilize them
  • It’s not too late to start seeds indoors!

After danger of the last frost:

  • Plant ground cover between shrubs
  • First, you will need to give the lawn a scalping to get rid of the dead – but do not go for it until you are sure it will not freeze again. Then begin bi-weekly mowing (and set your mower to mulch, don’t bag that stuff up – your yard needs it!)
  • Trim away all freeze damage.
    • If it’s crispy and brown it’s dead, cut it back to green growth
    • If it’s mushy and gross it’s dead and could be fungal, get it out of there ASAP
    • If the whole plant seems dead cut away the dead growth and give the remaining “knob” a jiggle. If it doesn’t move the root system may be fine and it could come back. If it wiggles easily it’s dead pull the whole plant.
    • Palms are a wait and see issue, so wait and see – cut away the droopy fronds.

Care of Common Houston-Area Plants:

  • Crape Myrtles:
  • Roses:
    • Traditionally, roses are pruned on February 14th. Romantic, right?? The general rule of thumb is to cut them back to 1/3rd of the original height. They’re ready for pruning when you see new buds forming. Trim at an outward angle above a leaf.
    • Knockout roses are often said to require no pruning but you can. If they are getting too big or rangy just prune them as you would any other rose bush. They may not need yearly pruning.
  • Purple Fountain Grass (and other warm-season ornamental grasses like Pampas):
    • Tie up the dead growth and trim almost to the ground.
    • If you have cool-season grasses (they show new growth in early in spring and flower in early summer) only cut back to 1/3 of the plant’s original height)
  • Mandarin Trees and other Citrus:
    • Begin fertilization once the tree shows new growth, and continue to fertilize monthly from February to October, remove suckers as needed.
  • Hydrangeas:
    • Feed slow-release fertilizer once per year. If you apply less expensive 10-10-10 fertilizer you will need to fertilize again during the summer, for a total of twice per year.
    • If your leaves start taking on a “scorched” appearance you have over-fertilized.

All right, now it’s time to head outside and get to work on that Houston February garden!

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