January – February Gardening Tips

Helpful tips for gardening in the Triangle in January and February.


• Cut back ornamental grasses to 6-8 inches. Divide large clumps and replant.

• Prepare your garden for roses, being careful to allow for good drainage and proper soil amending. Plant bare-root roses in February.

• Cut back flowering vines.

• Shear back liriope to make room for new growth.

• Force bulbs indoors like paperwhite narcissus, hyacinths and tulips to brighten your home in winter.

• It’s time to order and then start your flower seeds indoors. Germination days are listed on the seed packet. You don’t want to start them too early. Count backwards the number of germination days from your last expected frost date to know when you can transplant the seedlings outdoors.

• Apply a teaspoon of 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 time-release fertilizer per square foot to spring-flowering bulbs when the shoots are 2 to 3 inches tall.

• Hang on to your amaryllis. You can plant it outdoors in spring.

Fruits and Vegetables

• Have your soil tested by your local county extension office.

• Prepare the vegetable garden—loosen the soil, add organic matter, browse seed catalogs.

• Start your vegetables from seed and get a jump on spring gardening.

• Plant cold hardy vegetable plants like sugar snap peas and onion sets.

• Plant dormant asparagus crowns in an organic-rich bed in February.

• Turn over the compost pile.


• Fertilize fescue lawns in February with one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. feet.

• Watch for cool season weeds—chickweed, hairy bittercress, henbit—and treat by removal or post-emergent herbicide (about 40-degrees).

• Sharpen lawn mower blade, repair and replace broken tools and power equipment before spring.

• If you want to change your lawn to a warm season grass, use this time to research the options best for your yard.

• Plagued by Japanese stilt grass? February is the time to add a pre-emergent herbicide to the affected areas in the landscape and natural areas of your yard.

• Crabgrass usually will start to germinate about the same time the Forsythia blooms. If you have had problems with crabgrass in the past, then you may want to apply crabgrass preventer (pre-emergence herbicide) when the Forsythia blooms.

• Digging up wild onion/wild garlic is the best way to get rid of these pesky bulbs, but make sure you get the bulb. If there are too many to dig up, a product with 2, 4-D works well for control. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions found on the label. Complete control may take two or more years. Apply 2, 4-D at half the recommended rate on centipede lawns otherwise it will damage the grass.

Trees and Shrubs

• Clean up camellia blooms to keep from spreading camellia blight.

• Prune woody ornamentals like hydrangea and butterfly bush that bloom in summer.

• Survey trees and shrubs for breakage from winter weather and prune damaged area.

• Keep evergreens and young plants watered during dry weather.

• Add mulch around trees and shrubs. But don’t make volcano effects, keep the mulch 3-6 inches away from the trunk.

• Mid- to late-February is the time to prune most trees, shrubs and woody ornamentals, except for those that bloom in spring. Prune those after they bloom.

• If the ground isn’t frozen, you can plant container-grown and balled and burlaped trees and shrubs. Make sure to water these.

• Don’t fertilize shrubs until you see some buds emerge on the plant.

Insects and Pests

• Apply dormant oil on fruit trees and roses if you had mealy bugs, aphids, scale or mites last year.

• Check your houseplants for insects and root rot from overwatering in winter. Fungus gnats are a sign of overwatering. Use oil spray or insecticidal soap on the soil and let the plant dry out completely to help kill the gnats. If possible, repot the plant into fresh potting soil and sterilize the pot. Remember to dust your plants.

• Animal damage occurs year-round. Continue spraying deer and other animal repellents if you do so.

For a complete list of garden maintenance activities, visit the NC Cooperative Extension web site at www.ces.ncsu.edu.

For lawn care go to the NC State Turf Files at www.turffiles.ncsu.edu.