Coastal and Tropical South

February, 2012
Regional Report

Plant Potatoes Now

February is Irish potato planting month, but catalogs don't begin shipping for weeks. Shopping locally is the very best option for potatoes, like so many plants. Visit the coop, call the garden center or ask another gardener where to get southern varieties for red new potatoes. Most grocery store varieties are treated not to sprout and may not do well for us, but if some do sprout in the kitchen, go ahead and plant them.

Stop Sagging Chives

You may think chives have died when they flop over, but that is not usually true. Like any clumping perennial, chives may need dividing and cutting back to rejuvenate them and flopping signals you that it is time to act. Particularly in our warm regions, chives grow rapidly, so keep clipping and eating them. When they sag, dig up the clump, separate the plants and start again.

Prune Butterfly Bushes

If that Buddleia davidii or butterfly bush failed to live up to expectations last year, prune it hard now. Cut each main branch of the large varieties down to 18 to 24 inches tall and remove all the debris from the area. Even the tiny sorts can be rejuvenated by pruning off a third or half of their diminutive height. As soon as new growth emerges, start fertilizing with a flower formula.

Keep Seedlings Strong

As soon as seeds pop their stems out of the peat cup, pellet or soil mix, check your light situation. Seedlings need a strong source of full spectrum light located just a few inches above their tips. Adjust the light as the seedlings grow to encourage stocky growth and healthy transplants. Fertilizer helps, of course, and regular watering, but seedlings without adequate light will be spindly every time.

Plant Wax Begonias

The little jewels of the tropical world like wax begonia can be a touch of color in a container or bed, but can also dominate any shady scene. Hard to believe, but we do not know where it actually comes from. Even so, the fast growers can crawl up around your ankles in just a few weeks with shiny green, neatly rounded leaves and flower heads in stunning shades of white, red, pink, and almost orange. They may look like they spend a lot of time in the gym, but these compact plants need little care at all. It is not even necessary to deadhead them to encourage new blooms, since they drop neatly into the clump without a care.

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