There are some flowers to sow in February. On the whole, it is a quiet month in the garden and rightly so, the temperatures are cold and the light levels are low.
It is worth exercising some caution with early sowings. Half-hardy species will need artificial warmth until the risk of frost is past. In some areas that could mean provide shelter from the risk of frost for up to five months!
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But if you have the space, a heated greenhouse or propagator and have growing lights, you can sow a few seeds to provide early plants for the flower garden. For vegetables and herbs, read my suggestions of what to sow in February.
Be cautious of sowing too many seeds this early in the growing season. You will need to provide ideal growing conditions for all the plants until the weather is suitable for them to be planted out.
Once seeds have germinated and the first four to six true leaves have grown, seedlings can be pricked out. This is the process of moving them from seed trays into pots or seeds trays with wider spacings. Each plant then has more space to grow without crowding from nearby plants.
Take care when handling seedlings. Lift them from underneath with a plant label or similar and hold gently by the leaves. Avoid holding the fragile stems as once crushed, they will not recover.
As plants grow and the weather warms, harden off the plants. To acclimatise the plants to outdoor growing conditions, take the pots or trays of plants outside during the day. Place them in a light, sheltered position. Ensure that they are returned to the protection of cover at night.
Repeat this process for a week or two. At this point, as long as the risk of frost has passed, the plants are ready to be planted in their final positions or kept outside in pots until needed.
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Flowers grown as annuals
Sow Begonia seeds in February with warmth and protection. Sow onto the surface of moist compost and press down lightly. Do not cover the seeds and do not exclude light, it helps them to germinate. Cover the seed tray with a cloche to prevent the compost from drying out.
The tiny seeds of Lobelia (Lobelia erinus) are best sown on the surface of moist compost. Do not cover them with anything as they need light to germinate. Germination occurs in 10 -21 days and once large enough to handle, they can be pricked out into small clumps approximately 5cms (2 inches) apart. Lobelia are ready to plant eight to twelve weeks from sowing, but as a half-hardy plant, they will need to be hardened off. This is the process that gradually acclimatises plants to outdoor growing conditions.
Sow Pelargonium, often known as geranium in February with heat. Their cheerful flowers held above the foliage are a common sight in containers and window boxes.
Salvia can also be sown in a heated greenhouse or propagator. They come in a variety of colours to provide bedding plants, which are ideal for tubs, containers, and hanging baskets.
Climbing flowers to sow in February
Sweet peas like a long growing season, so these are ideal flowers to sow in February. Seeds may be soaked in water for 24-48 hours prior to planting to encourage germination. They do not need additional heat to start growing, but it will encourage them to germinate more quickly.
In common with most members of the pea family, they do not like root disturbance. Sow seeds into deep pots to allow a long root run and do not prick out. They can be moved into larger pots if necessary, but do not disturb the root ball in doing so.
During mild weather, Lily bulbs can be planted in containers and borders. Ensure that they do not sit in water by providing good drainage. A handful of horticultural grit beneath the bulb can help in this. In tubs and containers ensure that there are adequate drainage holes in the pots.
Gladioli can also be started in late February in pots and containers. It may be worth waiting until mid to late March to plant them in the garden to reduce the risk of rotting in the ground before it is warm enough for them to grow.
Perennial flowers to sow in February
Many perennial flowers can be sown now. Most grow into small plants during the first year and produce flowers from the second season onwards. However, giving them an early start in the growing season might mean that they flower in the first year.
Growing perennials from seed is an economical way to fill your garden with long lasting plants.
Gaura lindheimeri is a slightly untidy plant that forms a loose clump of foliage with slender stems rising from it. The nodding flower stems are produced from early summer to autumn. This provides interest over a long period. Gaura is useful as a filler plant. Ideal for use in a cottage garden or in naturalistic gardens.
Alchemilla mollis is ideal for edging paths and as a cut flower. The clusters of lime green to yellow flowers provide filling material for bouquets and other flower arrangements.
Achillea millefolium has flat heads of tiny flowers that are loved by bees and other pollinators. A wide range of colours are available. These plants are ideal for the middle to front of a border. They are a useful plant to fill gaps because they spread quickly.
Aquilegia are another favorite of the cottage garden flowers to sow in February. It is also known as Columbine, Granny’s bonnet and many other names. Sown at the start of the month as the seeds need a period of cold to trigger them to germinate. They can either be sown in pots or sown in the open in the garden. Once established, they seed themselves freely in the garden.
Back of border plants
The globe thistle, Echinops ritro, is ideal towards the back of the border. It has spiky leaves and silvery grey flower stalks. The globe of blue bristle-like flowers borne above the leaves during July and August are offer good structure and are ideal for cutting.
Hollyhocks, Alcea, are generally unfussy plants that need little care and attention. Sown in late February, they can be hardened off slowly and planted out in June. Unlikely to flower in the first year, but an early sowing may produce a show of flowers.