20170131A.jpgFebruary is very early to start sowing seeds. The days are short and the sun is still weak, conditions that certainly don’t stimulate robust growth. If you have any seeds you really have to sow this early, it is therefore better grow them under fluorescent lights or LED lights where you can at least control the day length (try 14 to 16 hour days).

What to Sow in Early February

If you follow this blog, note that I will give an update every two weeks through the spring on what to sow for the current period. This particular list is extremely short, but you’ll see that it will grow considerably in length as the season progresses.

Also note that this list was developed for gardeners from northern climates, such as Canada, the Northeastern United States and colder parts of Europe, where the date of the average last frost is in late May or early June. For readers who garden in more temperate regions, I suggest you consult a specialist in your area to know what to sow in February.

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Place February-sown seeds under artificial lights for best results.

Seeds to Sow in Early February

  1. Canterbury Bells (Campanula medium)
  2. Double datura (Datura metel) (but sow Datura stramonium directly in the garden in May)
  3. Fairy Snapdragon (Chaenorrhinum organifolium, syn. C. glaerosum)
  4. Ferns
  5. Dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis)
  6. Laurentia (Laurentia axillaris or, more correctly, Isotoma axillaris)
  7. Lavender (Lavandula)
  8. Perennials and shrubs that require a cold treatment to germinate
  9. Tuberous begonia (Begonia x tuberhybrida) (warning: long days are essential for this one: they tend to fail if given short days)

Seeds That Need a Cold Treatment

If starting sows indoors in early February with the idea of stimulating rapid germination is a bit iffy, the opposite is true of plants that need a cold treatment.

Some plants from cold climates need a cold period of 4 to 8 weeks before they can germinate. It is therefore logical to expose these seeds to cold in January or February so that they’ll be ready to germinate come spring, when the days are longer.

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Many cold climate plants need a cold treatment before they will germinate.

To give seeds a cold treatement, simply sow them in a pot of moist potting soil, seal their pot in a plastic bag and place it in the fridge. In mid-March or early April, when they’ve had a decent period of cold, expose the pot to light and heat and they should germinate fairly readily.

Which Plants Need a Cold Treatment

Almost all trees, shrubs and conifers native to cold regions either need or do best with a cold treatment. This is also true of many perennials, although there are more exceptions.

Here is a partial list of a few perennials that do need a cold treatment.

  1. Aconitum
  2. Agastache
  3. Anemone
  4. Astrantia
  5. Delphinium
  6. Dictamnus
  7. Gentiana
  8. Eryngium
  9. Helleborus
  10. Helianthus
  11. Hibiscus
  12. Kniphofia
  13. Lilium
  14. Maianthemum
  15. Paeonia
  16. Primula
  17. Scabiosa
  18. Thalictrum
  19. Trollius

Best of luck with everything you sow!20170131a

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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