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February gardening: Stop to smell (and prune) the roses

Valentine’s Day means flowers, candy and, of course, roses. By pruning established roses around mid-February, Coast gardeners can help ensure frost will not damage new growth. Plants will start blooming in six to eight weeks.

Reduce rose bushes by one third, cutting out dead wood, crossing branches or diseased canes. Clean out debris from bud union with a metal brush.

New canes may have emerged close to another healthy cane you wish to keep. Sometimes you can save both by inserting a piece of waste cane between the two, allowing both to develop.

After pruning, remove all the leaves still clinging to the canes, as well as shed leaves laying under the bush. This will ensure a clean, disease-free bush. Then, apply a dormant spray to eliminate any fungal spores that may be over-wintering in the soil or mulch. The dormant spray should include a fungicide and/or a copper-based product to combat diseases such as rose canker.


  • Start seeds indoors, following packet directions and timing. Seeds sprout best at 70 degrees; but plants don’t need it that warm.
  • Continue to provide feed, water and cover for birds visiting your garden. Squirrels don’t like safflower seed; you might try it in your feeders.
  • Assess your winter landscape, noting gaps to fill with shrubs or trees.
  • Order plants by mail. Most companies will ship at an appropriate time for your zone.
  • Prepare flower and vegetable beds and rejuvenate old ones by adding organic matter and fertilizer. Turn under the top six inches of soil.
  • Water evergreen plants thoroughly when a sudden freeze is predicted. If weather has been dry, water all plants and lawns.
  • A 2-to-3-inch layer of mulch should be maintained over root systems of trees and shrubs to retain moisture and reduce weeds. In a bed you wish to encourage reseeding of last year’s annuals, leave only an inch of mulch.
  • Now is the time to plant or move shrubs and trees while they are dormant. This will allow newly transplanted shrubs and trees to overcome transplant shock and start establishing roots before the plants must put out leaves.
  • If you haven’t already, take a soil sample and have it analyzed for amendments.
  • Toward the end of February, fertilize camellias, fruit trees, shrubs, vines and ground covers. Pecan trees need a fertilizer containing zinc.
  • Gladioli planted every two weeks will extend blooming for three months.

Darlene Underwood is a National Garden Clubs of Mississippi third vice president, a nationally accredited flower show judge and Mississippi master gardener. Reach her at

Written by Darlene Underwood

Darlene Underwood is a Mississippi master gardener, national
accredited flower show judge and Garden Clubs of Mississippi
third vice-president. Reach her at

19 posts

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