University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Winter News Article


Charlie Nardozzi, Senior Horticulturist
National Gardening Association, and
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

Checking potted bulbs for forcing, sowing leeks and onions, and choosing fragrant flowers for Valentine’s are some of the gardening tips for this month.

Check the calendar to see if your forced bulbs have received their recommended amount of cold treatment (12 to 16 weeks). If so, move them into a 50-degree spot out of direct sun until the flower shoots are about two inches tall, then move the pots to a sunny 68 degree F location. The warmer the temperature, the shorter the flowering stems will be and the faster the bulbs will flower and fade.

Geraniums that you brought indoors this winter are probably getting tall and leggy by now if they're not growing under artificial grow lights. Prune back errant branches and take 4- to 6-inch cuttings to root. Strip off the bottom set of leaves, dip the cut ends in rooting hormone powder, and stick the cuttings in a pot filled with moistened potting soil. Keep the soil moist, and they should root in a few weeks.

Long-season alliums, such as leeks and onions, should be started from seed now. Sprinkle the seed on top of seed-starting mix, keep it moist, and as soon as the seedlings emerge, place the flats under grow lights. Snip the ends periodically to keep them about three to four inches tall and help them grow strong.

Give the gift of fragrance this Valentine's Day with freesias, tuberoses, Oriental lilies, hyacinths, or any other flowers that will perfume the air. Or make a fragrant spring gift basket with small pots of hyacinths and other bulbs set in a larger basket, topped with Spanish moss. Or splurge on a gift certificate for fresh flower bouquets every month (or less) from a local florist.

As soon as the buds start to swell, it's time to begin pruning apple, plum, and cherry trees. Plum trees should be pruned to an open center, while apple and cherry trees grow best pruned to a modified leader (center is more closed and tree is more upright). Remove any dead, diseased, or broken branches, as well as crossing branches and twiggy, nonproductive growth.

While you're pruning flowering trees, such as crab apple and plum, cut some two-foot sections of pruned limbs with flower buds on them (flower buds are larger than leaf buds). The best way to hydrate the stems is to lay them down in a bathtub of water overnight. If anyone in your house objects, just recut the stems, place them in a bucket of warm water, and keep them in a cool place for a week or so. When flowers begin to open, bring them into your living room and your house will smell of spring even though the snow may still be flying outdoors.

Return to Perry's Perennial Pages, Articles