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Polk County Lawn & Garden Checklist for February

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Lawn and Garden Checklist - February

For more info, help, and advice on these or other lawn and garden topics, contact your Polk County Extension Director, Scott Welborn

√  Pruning

February is the best time of year for major pruning and shaping of most trees and ornamental shrubs. At this time you can cut overgrown shrubs way back to rejuvenate them. You can also remove limbs from trees–but never top a tree!

Spring-Flowering Shrubs

Spring-flowering shrubs bloom on last year’s wood and should not be pruned until after flowering (if you want to preserve the bloom for this year). These include: Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Forsythia, Spirea, Flowering Quince, Kerria, Pieris, Weigela, Abelia, Oakleaf and Macrophylla Hydrangeas, Beautyberry, Clethra, and Vitex. If you desire to cut these shrubs back substantially, you can prune them in February but be willing to forego a bloom for this year.

Summer-Flowering Shrubs

These bloom on this year’s wood, as well, and should be pruned before new growth starts. On deciduous shrubs, 1/3 of the oldest shoots should be cut back to the ground. Summer- flowering Buddleia Davidii should have all shoots cut to 8-12” from the ground. Crape myrtle trees may be pruned at this time but try not to commit “crape murder” by topping.

Overgrown Established Plants

Plants Plantings of old established plants like Holly, Cleyera, Japanese Holly, Pittosporum, Ligustrum and similar broad-leaf evergreens can be cut back to 15-24” from the ground if you want to rejuvenate them.


Pine, Junipers, Fir, Spruce, Yew and Arborvitae will not withstand heavy pruning because most conifers don’t have latent buds below the foliage area and do not readily produce adventitious buds. If a branch is cut back past the foliage area, it will not re-foliate. The best time to prune conifers is just after the new growth is completed, usually in late spring or early summer. Encourage bushier growth on pines by pinching out the new candles. Hemlocks are the exception to the rule. They will tolerate heavy pruning and are sometimes used for hedge plants.

√ Tree Wound Paints

These are useless in sealing pruning cuts and may actually do harm to the tree! Avoid them.

√ Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses should be cut back before new growth starts. Mow Liriope (Monkeygrass) to remove last year’s unsightly foliage. Ornamental grasses may be divided now.

√ Fertilizing
Fescue Lawns should be fertilized in late February. Use no more than 1 pound of nitrogen per 1000 sf. Late or excessive fertilizing in spring predisposes fescue to Brown Patch disease. If a tree is in good condition, well mulched, or in a natural area, it does not need regular fertilizing. If you fertilize your lawn regularly, you are fertilizing trees in the area also. Most shrubs respond well to an application of a slow release fertilizer. Apply according to directions and distribute it evenly over the entire root area but away from the stem.
√ Fruit Trees

Apply a dormant oil spray to fruit trees and ornamentals for control of overwintering insects and eggs. Do not apply to broadleaf evergreens when freezing temperatures are expected.

√ Wild Garlic (Wild Onion)

Control Wild Garlic with 2, 4-D Amine. Add a few drops of dishwashing detergent as a surfactant to help the herbicide adhere to the narrow leaves. Spray in late February/early March, and again in late August. Control may require two years of persistence, spraying in both growth seasons.

√ Roses

Thin bush roses to 3-5 good strong canes and shorten canes to 15”. Prune climbers after they flower in early summer. Shrub Roses such as the popular variety “Knockout” need little (if any) pruning but can be pruned hard if they are overgrown.

√ Grapes

During a rainy winter period our fescue lawns can look pretty poor. You will notice yellowing and browning of the lawn due to the cold and wet conditions. You can help to mitigate this by applying a nitrogen fertilizer during warm periods of the winter. You will also want to apply a fungicide in early March to ensure all the water doesn’t lead to out of control fungal problems in the spring.

√ What to Plant in February

Around the last week of February, in Polk County, you can usually safely plant CABBAGE, LETTUCE, PEAS, RADISHES, SPINACH, CARROTS, ONIONS, TURNIPS, BROCCOLI, CAULIFLOWER, and BEETS. However, if temps drop below 26 degrees, definitely provide protection for your transplants.

NOTE: The use of brand names in this publication does not imply endorsement by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service of the products or services named nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned.