Take steps now to protect your plants

Even we southern homeowners look forward to summer. True, our southern “winters” are much milder than those up north; however, we always appreciate the warmer temperatures of spring!

If you haven’t been much involved in your yard or garden this winter, now is the time to flex those green thumbs and get ready for spring. A little planning and work now will get your plants off to a good start!

There’s plenty of outdoor and indoor activity to keep you busy as spring approaches. The more you can do now, the better prepared for spring you will be, with less work to do later.

Here are some tips to get you going, and your outdoor world growing for spring!

Late Winter Pruning

Commence pruning in February in the south, before new growth begins. Plants to prune at this time include:

  • holly and other evergreens
  • crepe myrtles
  • roses
  • hydrangea
  • butterfly bush
  • Rose-of-Sharon
  • hibiscus
  • Prune roses back 25% if you want many, medium-sized blooms. Prune them back 50% if you want fewer, larger flowers.
  • Remember to prune azaleas right after they flower in spring.
  • Trim back herbaceous perennials such as cestrum, clerodendron, flowering maple, lantana, so the plants will have an easier time becoming established in spring.
  • Begin now to prune shrubs and trees (including fruit trees) to shape them and remove dead wood.
  • Leave the spring flowering plants alone, unless they need some major pruning.

Be certain all pruning equipment is sharp and rust-free.

Indoor Seed Starting

Favorite container plants you can start from seed indoors in February include:alyssum, coleus, dusty miller, geraniums, impatiens, marigolds, perennials, petunias, phlox, portulaca, salvia, vinca and verbena.

Outdoor Planting
  • Plant hardy and half-hardy annuals or perennials in early spring when the plant is dormant.
  • Hold off on planting tender annuals until after the last spring frost.
  • Water newly planted or transplanted shrubs.
  • Fertilize winter blooming annuals.
Trees & Shrubs
  • Winter is the time to apply oil sprays to kill overwintering mites, aphids and scale on deciduous trees and shrubs. Spray oils when temperatures are above 40 degrees fahrenheit but not within 24 hours of a freeze.
  • Plant bare root stock and prune for desired growth pattern.
  • Plants that are showing signs of growth can be fed with a water soluble plant food.
  • In colder southern climates, plant dogwood, magnolia, mimosa, crepe myrtle, fringe tree and redbud.
Rose Care
  • In milder climates, finish rose pruning and planting of bare root rose bushes. Feed and water new roses well after planting.
  • Feed established plants once you see new growth.
Lawn Care
  • Apply preemergent crabgrass control when weather turns warm. In the warmest southern areas, fertilize bermudagrass, bahiagrass, St. Augstinegrass and zoysiagrass early.
  • Grubs will be moving to the surface in the warmest parts of the south.

Cool-season vegetables to plant now: lettuce, peas, herbs.

Vegetables to start indoors for March/April transplanting:

  • broccoli
  • brussels sprouts
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • collars
  • lettuce
  • spinach