Jobs to do in the garden in February – what to start planting and preparing

It might be cold outside, but there are still plenty of jobs to do in the garden this month...

grey window box with yellow daffodils and white flowers against a blue window pane
(Image credit: Future PLC / Simon Scarboro)

In February the garden may appear dormant, but as days gradually lengthen and temperatures slowly climb, there is plenty you can do to get ahead for Spring.

The easiest February garden jobs include sweeping away leaves, debris and fallen twigs and spreading flower and vegetable beds with mulch to feed the soil. Home-made compost, well-rotted manure, leaf manure and bark chippings are all good mulch choices. 

Should the weather turn too stormy to work outdoors, there’s plenty of planning to be done too. Take stock of the plants and features you already have, noting down what is planted where so you know where to look when Spring finally arrives. 

And if you’re looking for new garden ideas to make the most of your outdoor space, February is the ideal month to start your research. At this time of year, your garden’s structure will be clear, so forge ahead, whether it’s adding a wildlife pond, making space for outdoor entertaining ideas or simply making everything easier to manage. 

Jobs to do in the garden in February

1. Create an indoor garden

Houseplants in pots on wooden shelves

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Even in February, you can easily create an indoor/outdoor link by selecting a number of flowering garden bulbs such as snowdrops, crocus and early daffodils and bringing them inside. Re-plant in a decorative shallow plant container and surround them with a cushion of fresh green moss. 

No flowering bulbs? Give all your houseplant ideas an extra dose of TLC. Dry indoor air is one of the biggest enemies of healthy houseplants in winter when central heating and closed windows mean less natural ventilation. Tackle this by misting houseplants regularly. For misting, we like to use boiled water which has been left to cool. This avoids ‘shocking’ the plant with harsh cold tap water, which may also include chemicals. 

Also, check all houseplants are receiving as much natural light as possible.  February light is precious; open blinds fully during the day to maximise their exposure to sunlight, and check overhanging trees outside are not obscuring windows, which should be kept as clean as possible.

2. Plant new roses and prune existing ones

garden with white roses plants

(Image credit: Future PLC/Annaick Guitteny)

While old-fashioned shrub roses are usually pruned in November, it is best to prune modern shrub roses by the end of February before they start to put on new growth. In colder parts of the UK, many rose fans leave all pruning until at least the end of February, to avoid die-back. 

The ideal shape for a shrub rose is goblet-like. Prune so that the outside branches will curve out gently and upwards, leaving plenty of air in the centre to allow buds to flourish. 

When pruning, don't be frightened to prune with rigour and remove old wood and misshapen branches. Roses are rarely killed by hard pruning. But remember – these rules apply to shrub roses only. Give climbing roses a trim and tie them in. With ramblers, tie in then leave until after flowering in summer, when they can be pruned as required.

3. Also prune shrubs and trees

Tree in garden with blue wall

(Image credit: Future PLC / Lizzie Orme)

A very fruitful February garden job is to get ahead with the pruning now. You can prune apple trees and pear trees whilst they're still dormant. But leave plum trees, cherry trees and apricots until the summer as pruning these fruit trees now could make them susceptible to Silver Leaf disease. This is a fungus that can only be treated by removing effected branches.

Winter-hard evergreens such as Prunus laurocerasus and Viburnum tinus can be pruned now if they’ve become overgrown. Ensure that you complete any tree or shrub pruning this month before birds begin nesting.

Prune late-flowering shrubs such as Buddleja, Fuchsia, Lavatera and Ceratostigma this month. And go in hard. A rigorous approach will encourage such shrubs to produce lots more flowering wood in the Spring.

4. Prepare your pots

Potting bench with tools hanging on wall

(Image credit: Future PLC)

First, gather together all your containers and pots and make an assessment. Recycle any which have split due to hard frost or suffered other damage. Broken terracotta and ceramics can be recycled as crocks. 

Horticultural experts are divided on how much value crocks - shards of hard material laid as a layer in the bottom of a container - add. Those in favour say crocks allow container compost free drainage. Those against say that water does not flow freely from fine-textured compost into coarser elements such as crocks. This means the pot ends up waterlogged in wet weather, they argue.

Then give all your pots a good brush and wash down, using a very mild solution of warm water and washing-up liquid, adding a modest capful of household bleach to help kill germs.

5. Plant up a colourful winter container

grey window box with yellow daffodils and white flowers against a blue window pane

(Image credit: Future PLC/Nicola Stocken)

If you’re looking for easy garden ideas, planting up a winter container will add colour and charm. 

Gardener Sarah Raven loves to plant the perennial wallflower 'Erysimum 'Winter Orchid' in February. 'It’s perfect for growing in Spring containers, renowned for flowering from Spring right through the summer and often one of the first plants to come into full bloom,' she says. The heavily-scented flowers emerge as a coppery orange, turning to purple as they age. 

Sarah adds that this plant thrives in the sunniest spot in your garden, and recommends lightly trimming after flowering to prevent plants from becoming leggy. If heavy snow is forecast, move your Spring container somewhere sheltered. Should frosty conditions descend, wrap everything in protective horticultural fleece to protect plants and prevent compost from freezing.

6. Add sparkle to a winter garden

small plants flower

(Image credit: Amateur Gardening)

When the February weather is grey, and skies are leaden, liven things up by adding seasonal outdoor plants with white or silver foliage. 

To bring sparkle to our gardens in chilly winter months one of our favourites is Cyclamen Coum. These tiny plants with mottled silver and green kidney-shaped leaves and pink flowers are on the same small but perfectly-formed scale as their bedfellows – snowdrops. They're fully hardy and will offer flowers from December into March. These plants are happiest when situated under deciduous shrubs. but can also be a success when left to naturalise in short grass.

7. Lawn edge

Lawn stripes with border in front of garden room

(Image credit: Future PLC/Claire Lloyd Davies)

One of the quickest and easiest ways to make your garden look sharper and less straggly is to undertake the February gardening job of edging the lawn. 

Re-cut lawn edges using a half-moon edging iron or flat-bladed spade. This will immediately neaten up the appearance of your lawn ideas and save work later. You should also maintain a 7.5cm (3in) ‘gutter’ around the lawn edges to prevent grass spreading into your borders. Any spare turf can be used to repair bare patches of lawn.

If the weather is warm enough, you can even mow the lawn. The RHS says grass will start to grow at temperatures above 5°C – but set the mower’s cutting height to its maximum, and only mow when the grass is dry.

February is also a good time to start preparing the ground for sowing a new lawn in Spring – but only if the soil isn’t too wet, warns the RHS. Fork over the chosen area, weed thoroughly, rake level and firm lightly. Doing this several weeks in advance gives the soil time to settle, so you have an even surface for sowing in March or April.

8. Sort out seeds

plant seed packets on green wall

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

Start preparing seed beds this month and sowing vegetables under cover. Invest in seed trays, as this will make it easier when it comes to moving the fledgling plants outside. 'Try starting with some salad veg, broad beans and summer cabbages,' says Chris Bonnett, owner of Gardening Express  'You can start these in the greenhouse in seed trays, or outside under cloches to protect the seeds.'

As for flowers, Sarah Raven believes there’s very little that needs propagating this early in the year, but sweet peas, cobaea and snapdragons are the exceptions, 'These are all excellent container plants which benefit from having that bit longer to grow before the summer,' she says. 'Sowing them now ensures you have plenty of time for them to germinate and develop their roots to ensure the maximum length of flowering.'

9. Take hardwood cuttings

Don’t delay this last-chance February garden job, warns Annelise Brill, horticultural expert at Thompson & Morgan, as hardwood cuttings of plants such as buddleia, forsythia and philadelphus (Mock Orange)  need to be taken before the sap starts to rise. 'Hardwood cuttings aren’t hard!' Annelise says. 'You don’t need a greenhouse and they can be left outside to root with just the occasional watering required.'

Here's how she does it:

  • Use the length of your secateurs as a measuring guide, cutting pencil-thick stems to about 20cm.
  • Don’t confuse which way up your cuttings are. To avoid this, make a sloping cut at the top and a flat cut at the bottom.
  • Plant your hardwood cuttings deeply into sand, perlite or well-drained potting soil to prevent them from drying out. Two-thirds of the cutting should be below the soil.
  • Keep your eye on them, protect from hard frost and water lightly - unless it’s raining regularly of course, when you can let Mother Nature do the work.

10. Think outside the box

Outdoor seating area with white seats and straw hats

(Image credit: Future PLC)

On colder days, spend time planning out your garden for the months ahead, selecting the plants, fruit and vegetables you want to grow and ordering everything you will need. 

This is a great time to acquaint yourself with this year’s garden trends. For furniture and outdoor living, we’re predicting a major shift away from the greys and whites of recent years towards natural shades of soft browns, taupes and terracotta.

And when the garden is bare it’s also the best opportunity to formulate major additions such as outdoor buildings, fencing and garden structures. Research online and plan garden centre and retailer visits so you can compare styles and prices. 

What can I plant in my garden in February?

'February is ideal for planting bare-root trees and shrubs,' says Annelise at Thompson & Morgan. 'The soil is becoming warmer and drier, giving them a head start on establishing a good root system before they leaf up in Spring.'

You can continue planting any hardy plants now, but Annelise warns that you should delay planting Mediterranean shrubs such as lavender and cistus until the weather turns warmer.

What can I cut or harvest in my garden in February?

Root vegetables, hardy green vegetables such as brassicas, and stems of tinted hardy shrubs such as dogwood are all available in February. And in warmer parts of the country, you may even see catkins start to appear. 

 Annelise Brill says you can – and should – cut down deciduous ornamental grasses that have been left for winter structure, dry them and use for indoor decoration: 'Do this as soon as you see new shoots coming through. This includes Miscanthus, Molinia and Pennisetum.'

Meanwhile, evergreen grasses such as Stipa tenuissima (Nassella tenuissima), Carex and Festuca, benefit from a Spring tidy with a thorough rake through to remove dead foliage, Annelise adds.

What outdoor maintenance jobs can I do?

There are lots of outdoor maintenance jobs you can do in the February garden, says Chris at Gardening Express. 'Build raised beds If you want to grow some vegetables, get those built now [you can build from scratch with timber or invest in a kit] before growing season gets well underway. Raised beds are great for growing - the soil warms up faster and drainage is better.'

Chris also recommends investing in a water butt to save rainwater. Even if this year’s summer temperatures don’t reach the intensity of 2023 – leading to shrivelled gardens and hosepipe bans -  you’ll be helping the environment by saving water.

And also, if you have one, clean the greenhouse thoroughly. Start by sweeping or vacuuming away lose dirt, compost and soil. Wash windows inside and out with hot soapy water or a glass cleaning solution. This February gardening job will mean your greenhouse is in tip-top condition for all those new plants and seedlings in the Spring. 

Jayne Dowle

Jayne Dowle is an award-winning freelance gardening, homes and property writer who writes about everything from swimming ponds to skyscraper apartments, for publications including Sunday Times Home, Times Bricks & Mortar, Grand Designs, House Beautiful and The Spectator. Awarded the Garden Journalist of the Year accolade at the Property Press Awards in 2021, she has a degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Oxford and a lifelong love of homes, interiors and gardens.