University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Winter News Article
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VALENTINE FLOWERS OTHER FEBRUARY GARDENING TIPS
 
Charlie Nardozzi, Horticulturist and
Leonard Perry, UVM Extension Horticulturist
 
 
Checking potted bulbs, giving flowers on Valentine’s Day, and buying houseplants are some of the gardening activities for this month.

If you potted some bulbs last fall for forcing, such as tulips or daffodils or hyacinths, check the calendar to see if they have received the recommended amount of cold treatment (12 to 16 weeks). If so, move them into a 50-degree (F) spot out of direct sun until the flower shoots are about two inches tall, then move the pots to a sunny 68-degree location. The warmer the temperature, the shorter the flowering stems will be and the faster the bulbs will flower and fade.
           
When we think of this month, the holiday that often comes to mind is Valentine’s Day.  Make this holiday special for someone, or several you care for, with flowers.  You can buy or send an elaborate floral arrangement, or merely a bouquet or even single-stemmed roses.  For color that should last longer, consider a potted azalea, cyclamen, or cineraria.
           
If you’re getting cabin fever, and would like a trip to Florida but don’t have the budget or time for one, bring a little of the tropics to you.  Visit a local indoor plant retailer or greenhouse for some easy-to-grow houseplants.  Grape ivy (Cissus), Rex begonias with their colorful leaves, and some of the variegated philodendrons will tolerate low light and dry conditions.  The grape ivy and philodendron often are seen in hanging baskets.
            
The peace lily (Spathiphyllum) likes lots of water, and will wilt when dry, but revives well when watered. It, too, tolerates low light as does the Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema).  The peace lily periodically has white, crescent-shaped flowers on stalks above the leaves.  The Chinese evergreen, depending on selection, has various degrees and patterns of silver in the leaves. 
           
February is too early to start most transplants for your garden (except for the very small seeds such as begonias, and perhaps some perennial flowers), but not too early to get ready.  Check to see if stored seeds are still viable.  Simply place a few between moist paper towels, and watch to see how many germinate.
           
Indoor lighting makes seed starting much easier.  You can buy small or decorative units, or simply hang shop lights in a warm basement or spare room.  “Daylight” or similar tubes should suffice, hung on chains so they can be raised as plants grow.  Look into inexpensive heating mats to keep seedling flats warm, available at complete garden stores and online. Inventory your needs for other seed starting supplies such as germination mix or flats.
           
Be sure to make plans to attend the biennial Vermont Flower Show, to be held March 1 to 3 at the Champlain Expo in Essex Junction.  A full description of the huge central display, listing of vendors, and schedule of talks and events can be found online (greenworksvt.org).  Also consider entering the amateur floral design competition, co-sponsored by the Federated Garden Clubs, with details also available online.
           
Other gardening activities for this month include keeping ice and snow from building up on trees and shrubs by brushing it off after a heavy snowfall; taking advantage of pre-season sales at garden stores; keeping bird feeders filled daily and heated bird baths cleaned every few days; and pruning branches of forsythia, crabapples and apples, red maple, serviceberry, quince, cherries, or other spring flowering shrubs for forcing into bloom indoors.
 
(Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally known horticulturist, author, gardening consultant, and garden coach; CharlieNardozzi.com). 

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