University of Vermont
Department of Plant and Soil Science
Winter News ArticleGROWING CACTI AND OTHER FEBRUARY GARDENING TIPS
Leonard Perry, UVM Horticulturist
and Charlie Nardozzi, Garden Consultant
Growing cacti indoors, pinching leggy houseplants, and getting the
longest life from cut flowers are some of the gardening activities
for this month.
Most cacti purchased at plant shops, garden stores, florists, and
grocery and discount stores have some culture in common-- they
prefer a growing space with plenty of sunlight and are easily killed
by overwatering. If the weather is cloudy, or even predicted to be
cloudy, don't water. If in doubt whether the soil is dry, don't
water. When watering, apply only a small amount to moisten the soil
area around the roots. Allow the soil to become dry before
With the stronger sun and longer days, houseplants will be putting
out more new growth that can become leggy. Also these succulent
shoots are very appealing to aphids. Keep pinching the growing tips
and move plants around, if needed, to give them all some time in the
sunniest windows. Rotating plants a quarter turn weekly will help
keep them growing straight.
You'll want to get to your pruning tools in February and March for
dormant-season pruning, so dig them out and clean them up if you
didn't get to that in the fall. Sharpen the blades of hand pruners,
loppers, and shears; oil the levers, and remove any rust. Check
online and local hardware stores for diamond files for sharpening.
Pruning trees will go much faster and be easier on your hands and on
the plants if you use sharp, well-maintained equipment.
If you just need some color to brighten up winter days, consider a
pot or two of forced bulbs (if you didn't start your own), or some
cut flowers. Buy cut flowers in bud, just opening, for longest
life. Keep cut flowers protected on the way home from freezing, and
put right in water containing a flower preservative (available at
most florist shops and garden stores).
You can make your own floral preservative with one cup lemon-lime
soda (regular, not sugar free), one cup water, and a half teaspoon
of household bleach. The sugar in the soda provides energy for the
flowers, and the bleach controls bacteria. If you need more liquid,
just increase the amounts proportionately.
Change the water in the vase every couple of days. Avoid using
daffodils in mixed bouquets, since they give off sap that is toxic
to other varieties in the vase. Shortening the vase life of these
other flowers. So keep daffodils in a vase by themselves. When you
change the water on cut flowers, recut about a half-inch off the
bottom of flower stems. This helps ensure the conducting vessels
don't get plugged.
To get off to a clean start with seed starting this year, disinfect
any flats and pots youíve saved in soapy water with bleach added:
one part bleach to nine parts water. The longer you can soak them
the better, then rinse well. Some prefer to use a household
disinfectant product instead, being safer to handle, with one part
disinfectant to two parts water. Cleaning pots is a good project
for a basement or garage on a warm day.
Other gardening activities for this month include ordering bare root
fruit trees and shrubs for spring delivery, ordering seeds if you
havenít already, sowing seeds of onions and other allium crops,
checking houseplants for pests, keeping bird feeders and heated bird
baths cleaned every week or two, making plans to visit a flower
show, and forcing flowering branches into bloom indoors.
Nardozzi is a nationally known horticulturist, author, gardening
consultant, and garden coach; gardeningwithcharlie.com).
Return to Perry's Perennial