February is an interesting time for gardeners in Southeastern Michigan, and by interesting, I mean that it can be dark, dreary, and soul crushingly cold. Of course, this is only the case if you don’t look on the bright side of this most despised month. There are, in fact, many wonderful tasks and activities to satisfy your pent-up plant lust. So, let’s look at a few things you can accomplish this month to get you riled up for warmer days ahead. Because honestly, if you squint hard enough you can see Spring from here.

One of the more obvious ways I get through my lack of garden time is to concentrate on my indoor garden, meaning, I pay more attention to and acquire more house plants. Just like with your outside space, there is always somewhere you can manage to shove another plant into. For all of you, like me, who lack a bit in terms of ample natural light, I will again suggest getting into artificial solutions. I have a bunch of various forms of grow lights that my indoor plants seem to adore. I mean, they’re not dying, so I take that as a sign that they love them. 

It’s always fun when you bring a new green friend into your life. Recently, I was one of many who took advantage of Westborn Markets unbelievable sale on Thai Constellation Monsteras. Until now, the lowest price I ever saw on one was $125. When I mentioned how low I thought that price was, my wife insinuated that I was out of my mind for even thinking about spending that kind of money on a plant. She of course was on the right side of logic and I became resigned to the reality that I would never own one. That was until Westborn started selling 4 inch grow pots for $39.99! Even though this was still way more than I usually will spend on something that can’t actually be justified as “important”, it was my birthday, so I treated myself. Knowing Monsteras, it will be huge before long. A monster even. Pun completely intended.

“If you squint hard enough, you can see Spring from here.”

Terrariums are sort of a subgenre of house plants that I have been really into constructing as of late. With just a few items, you can create a pretty magical little ecosystem that requires minimal effort on your part once it’s done. All you need is a glass or plastic container with a lid, some sort of gravel, horticultural grade charcoal, potting soil, little humidity loving plants, and a bunch of fun stuff to decorate it with. Starting with a cleaned container, fill it with a layer of gravel. Then spread a layer of horticultural charcoal. You can usually find some at most plant stores or online. It helps keep the circulating moisture nice and clean. Next, place in a couple of inches of potting soil. The kind you use sort of depends on the type of plant that you decide to use, but a nice general-purpose mix should do the trick. Plants go in the soil, but you probably didn’t need me to tell you that. I like getting little Ferns and even a Peperomia or two. Most nurseries have a little terrarium section that have plants that are well suited to the task. Water those in, preferably with a sprayer bottle, but work with what you have. Finally, some moss, sand, or bark to cover up any exposed soil. Oh, and don’t forget the fun stuff! Set a scene in your new little forest with gnomes, fairies, or even old action figures! I personally like using little HO scale figurines meant for model train layouts. My favorite brand is Preiser, because they have such a variety of ridiculous characters and have great detail for something so small. 

February also happens to be the month that I start the first of my flower seeds. Specifically, My Begonias and Impatiens. These both need to be started about three months before they are ready to grace a shady spot in your garden. For me, they live on my big awning covered porch. I like it to be about 70% flowers to 30% sitting area. The Begonias, Dragon Wing Hybrids, are incredibly small for months, but once outside, they grow quickly and have beautiful dark green waxy leaves and lots of whimsical little red flowers. I like to have a large amount of them, because they look great in mass plantings, but if you buy them as grown plants from the nursery, they tend to be cost prohibitive. So, I start early and baby them. The payoff is usually huge, except for last year, where the seeds all germinated but failed to grow well for me. Very disappointing! Oh well, I’m hoping I have a typically successful time with them this year. May the Begonia gods smile down upon me!

This is also a good time to get a head start with any overwintered tubers, rhizomes, or corms you might be overwintering. You technically can just put them back in the ground in late May or early June, but if you pot them up now, and put them under grow lights or in a sunny window, they will have a chance to “wake up” and start growing for you. This is especially nice to do with Elephant Ears. I have a jumbo variety that would just take too long to get going for the length of time that we have here in Michigan for the growing season. Even if you decide to wait and just put them straight in the ground, don’t forget to periodically check on them for any signs of mold or otherwise bad condition. It’s best to throw out any suspect pieces before they spread whatever they have to the rest of your collection. 

Pot Me Up!

Even if you don’t feel like getting your hands dirty this time of year, it’s still worthwhile to put some thought into your upcoming garden. If you’re anything like me, then just watching garden shows can be enough to get the creative juices flowing. I am partial to any kind of British gardening show, especially anything with Monty Don. If you haven’t seen his stuff, then do yourself a favor and find some right now! He seems to bring a calming presence to the screen that I find very soothing and informative. In particular, he has a four-episode series about the history of the British garden that I have a watched probably half a dozen times, and now that I am writing about it, I might have to watch it again. A lot of what we do with our gardens here comes from them, so it can all be applied to what you want to do in your own space.

A couple of years ago, I purchased some graph paper and some other supplies and tried to do an official plan for my garden. This didn’t work for me, but that doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t for you. My mind is a chaotic place and trying to make sense of how I put together my space has proven difficult. I think I might try it again, because it feels so official and satisfying to look at a proper plan that you can follow. My garden somehow looks orderly in spite of itself. It’s one of the things that I enjoy about it, but it also makes me feel a little ashamed that I haven’t planned it out more. I usually just walk around aimlessly with a plant until it sort of tells me where it wants to be. I of course make sure that the spot is suitable for its growing needs, but other than that, it’s sort of up to the plant.

If you haven’t purchased seeds yet, now is the time! There is nothing like curling up with a good seed catalog and letting yourself fantasize about July in your garden. I really love to sow Zinnias, Marigolds, and Cosmos throughout the summer, usually in the beginning of June, July, and August. That way, it gives your space a rejuvenated feeling of change all the way up until the first frost comes. Specialty catalogs have some amazing Zinnia selections that are not to be missed. 

So, instead of letting the winter doldrums take over, concentrate on the beautiful Spring that will be here before you know it. Honestly, there is so much to take care of before it comes, you need to get started now. Start dreaming and start growing!




Jamiel Dado is passionate about plants and wants to spread his love of gardening to anyone who will listen.