Seeds to Sow: Early February


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.


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.


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

Sowing Seeds in February: Still a Bit Early


20150201CAs the days get longer and indoor plants begin to produce new shoots, indoor gardeners often get antsy and start looking for something – anything! – they can do to activate their green thumb. And that often includes sowing seeds too early.

Remember the old adage “slow and steady wins the race”? Aesop was obviously a gardener! Seeds have to be started at just the right time to give the best results. Yet, the opposite seems so logical! if I sow my tomatoes (or my petunias or my peppers) earlier that I’m supposed to, won’t I get faster resultst? Nope, you won’t. In fact, quite the opposite.

I get plenty of emails from people who want to know what to do about their cucumbers (just an example) that are scrambling all over their living room and beginning to bloom long before the frost is out of the ground. These overgrown plants will never fruit or bloom well indoors, yet when you finally can plant them outdoors, they just collapse. Ideally, seedlings should be young and vigorous when you plant them not, not yet in flower or even in bud. In fact, if anything, it’s better to sow seeds a bit late than a bit early. Experienced gardeners have already learned that sowing seeds too early is a mistake; it’s the neophytes who, in their enthusiasm, get going too soon in the spring.

20150201ARight now, in early February, the days are still too short for seeds to do well in front of a window except in the tropics and subtropics. The few seeds that need early sowing indoors prefer begin grown under fluorescent lights where you can provide 14 to 16-hour days..

The following are among the (very rare) seeds to sow in early February:

Tuberous begonia (Begonia x tuberhybrida) (warning: keep lighting under 15 hours for this one)
Canterbury Bells (Campanula medium)
Double datura (Datura metel) (but sow Datura stramonium direct in the garden in May)
Fairy Snapdragon (Chaenorrhinum organifolium, syn. C. glaerosum)
Dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis)
Laurentia (Laurentia axillaris or, more correctly, Isotoma axillaris )
Lavender (Lavandula)
Perennials that require a cold treatment to germinate (Aconitum, Agastache, Anemone, Astrantia, Dictamnus, DelphiniumGentiana, Helleborus, Helianthus, Hibiscus, Kniphofia, Lilium, Maianthemum, Eryngium, Paeonia, Primula, Scabiosa, Thalictrum, Trollius, etc.)

487.KCold Treatment: For these special plants, sow the seeds in February in a pot of damp growing mix, seal the pot inside a plastic bag and place it in the fridge. In mid-March or early April, expose the pot to light and heat to stimulate germination. Note also that temperate-climate trees, shrubs and evergreens almost always need a cold treatment to germinate well.

Note: The list above was developed for Northern gardeners (hardiness zones 3 to 6), that is, for a climate where planting outdoors usually begins in late May or early June. For readers who garden in more temperate regions, I suggest you consult a specialist in your area about what to sow in February.