February is the very heart of winter, so can we plant anything at all in this coldest of months? Let’s find out…
February is a good time to plant vegetables such as spinach, radishes, and lettuce, and herbs like parsley and sage. You can also plant flowers such as dianthus and primula, and start many other seeds and bulbs in pots. However, February is a bad month for planting fruit, shrubs, and trees.
Let’s discover in greater detail what we can and cannot plant in February, and also consider some of those essential backyard jobs we can do at this chilly time of year…
Is February a Good Time For Planting?
February is the month when most of us start to think about our yards again. Yes, many regions are still seeing frosts or even snow; but spring is just around the corner, and if you can’t plant, you can at least plan.
As we all know, the States covers a huge area and takes in many different climates. It could be that you can plant seeds straight into the ground where you live, or you may need to stick to indoor propagation for now. How do you know which plants you can grow in your backyard in February?
Happily, the US has been divided into “hardiness zones” for farmers and gardeners. A hardiness zone is a standardized description of the temperature and climate of a particular region, which gives you a good idea of what you can plant and when.
Simply enter your zip code into the US Plant Hardiness Zones Map to find out what region you come under. The zones range from 1-10 (cold to hot), and you’ll see things like “Suitable for zones 5-8” written on seed packs.
We’ll talk pretty generally about February gardening in this article, so make sure you double-check what’s right for your climate before you get the spade out and start digging.
What Fruits Can I Plant in February?
February isn’t the best time to plant fruit, because most of the fruits we plant in the US grow on trees or shrubs, and you shouldn’t plant these in the winter. If you live in a hot zone and you’re confident that you won’t see a frost, you may be able to plant fruit trees and bushes; however, we’d still recommend waiting.
This is because whatever your climate, you still need to follow the life cycle of your fruit tree. The tree is dormant in the fall, so it’s the least stressful time to plant it. The winter’s too late, as the ground is too hard for the roots to establish, and in spring and summer, the tree is busy growing its buds, leaves, blossoms, and fruits.
So, hang fire on planting fruit trees and shrubs in February. What you can do is prepare beds for ground crops like strawberries, or start a few seeds off indoors. You can start slow-growing seeds like melon indoors early in the year.
What Flowers Can Be Planted in February?
If you live somewhere like Florida, where you’re pretty much guaranteed a frost-free February, you can plant some flowers directly outdoors. Try calendula, sweet peas, or pansies.
Otherwise, it’s a case of sowing some seeds indoors, ready to plant out when the weather gets a little warmer. You can plant those three flowers we just mentioned above, and some other good varieties include:
- Evening primrose
Giving these flowers an early start indoors is a great way to make sure you have plenty of colorful flowers in the spring.
It’s not too late to plant bulbs. Growing bulbs in a pot indoors is a lovely winter project for younger kids. Try something pretty and colorful like tulips.
What Veg Can I Plant in February?
Again, the veg you can plant in February depends on your climate. In some regions, where the soil is warmer and there’s zero chance of frost, you can plant directly into the ground. Otherwise, you can start plants off indoors on a sunny windowsill. If you live in one of the medium zones, you can compromise and plant outdoors in a cold frame or greenhouse.
Here are a few of our favorite vegetables to plant in February:
- Spinach. This is such a cold-weather staple, and can be eaten cooked or raw
- Radishes. Again, a great crop for cooler soil
- Lettuce (but check the variety)
- Broccoli. Look out for quick-growing types.
- Peppers. You’ll need to start these indoors wherever you live. Choose as many different colors as you can
- Tomatoes. Grow them in the porch so you get that gorgeous scent
Can You Plant Shrubs & Trees in February?
No, it’s not the best time to plant trees or shrubs, whatever zone you live in. If you live in a warmer climate, you may think it’s OK to plant trees at any time, as the soil is soft and warm for the transplanted roots.
However, unless it’s an evergreen, trees are best planted in the Fall when the plant is dormant. It’s less stressful for a tree to literally be uprooted when it’s not trying to produce leaves and fruit.
Can I Plant Herbs in February?
Herbs are fabulous plants, not least because you can grow them indoors at any time of year. The winter is a good time to start an herb garden on your windowsill: we always suggest growing herbs in the kitchen, so they’re ready and waiting for you to add to your cooking.
Choose whichever herbs you like the best. Rosemary and chives can get pretty big, so you may want to wait until you can plant them outdoors. Try these planter-friendly herbs for your indoor crops:
- Thyme. This pretty herb has a nice aroma and works well with grilled and broiled meat and fish
- Parsley. An absolute star with potatoes, fish, chicken, garlic bread, pasta dishes…
- Sage. If you like a traditional broiled chicken, you need your sage
- Basil. Italian cooking wouldn’t smell right without it
- Cilantro. If you cook Asian dishes, you’ll know how essential this herb is
If you’re interested in starting a herb garden indoors, take a look at this film from Little House On The Mountain.
What Can I Plant Out in Pots in February?
Most of the plants we’ve already discussed can be started in pots in February. You can plant seeds or bulbs in pots then move them outside when the weather warms a little, or you may decide to keep your herbs or flowers in a sunny room indoors.
Here are a few ideas for your February planters:
- Bulbs. If the ground is still hard, and you didn’t get your bulbs in in the Fall, pop them in a pot now. It’s a bit late for really early flowers, so try a late Spring daffodil or some beautifully colored tulips
- Herbs. Plant your windowsill herb garden with a colorful and aromatic mix of parsley, basil, cilantro, and thyme. You can also start rosemary and oregano indoors
- Garlic and chillies. These are fantastic ingredients to always have freshly to hand
- Vegetables. Try spinach or radishes in a good-sized planter
- Flower seeds. We love sweet peas and pansies for their vibrant shades.
Can I Plant Bulbs & Seeds in February?
Yes, you can. In most climates, you’ll need to plant your seeds indoors in seed trays or pots. If it’s a bit warmer, you can try growing them under cloches, and if you’re in a really hot climate, you can plant seeds straight into the soil.
Hopefully, you’ve already planted your early season bulbs before the holidays. If not, don’t worry: you can still plant later-flowering bulbs like tulips in pots (if the ground is still hard) or in the soil (if you live in a warmer zone).
Generally speaking, the soil is the right temperature for bulbs when the average nighttime temperature is 40-50 degrees. If this is the case in your region, you can plant your bulbs straight into the garden.
Conclusion: What Jobs Can I Do in The Garden in February?
As well as planting everything we’ve already mentioned (which should keep you pretty busy), there are a few other jobs you can do in your yard in February.
- Did you do your growing plan in January? If not, spend some time now thinking about what you want your garden to produce and look like over the coming months
- Check the yard for any winter damage. Did everything survive the snow, wind, and rain? Make a list of what needs repairing for the spring
- Check your tools. What are you missing before the big spring gardening season begins?
- If you want a new greenhouse or shed, this is a good time to choose and order one, ready for the spring
- If the ground isn’t too hard, prepare beds for planting by raking and fertilizing them
- Visit a garden center! Have a lovely time dreaming and planning how you want your gardening year to go
Want to know what you can plant in March? Read the next article in our planting calendar…
Homeowner and property investor Larry James founded Take a Yard in 2020 to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >