Grow citrus Sunset climate zones 12-–13: Midmonth or after the average last frost for your area is the best time of year to plant citrus. Consider unusual and tough trees such as ‘Improved Meyer’ lemon, ‘Marrs’ sweet orange, ‘Melogold’ grapefruit, ‘Minneola’ tangelo, and ‘Nagami’ kumquat. You can also attend a citrus tasting to find out what you like best: At Tucson’s Mesquite Valley Growers, customers can debate the gustatory merits of ‘Oroblanco’ and ‘Redblush’ grapefruits or ‘Dancy’ and ‘Honey’ mandarins picked from the nursery’s vast greenhouses (9–2 Feb 28–Mar 1 and Mar 7–8; free; 8005 E. Speedway Blvd.; 520/721-8600).
Plant seed-grown ocotillos Zones 11–13: Opt for seed-grown ocotillos (Fouquieria splendens) that are rooted in containers, since they’re much easier to establish than wild-collected plants. They’re typically available in 5-gallon pots and 16-inch boxes, and range in height from 3 to 6 feet. Shop for seed-grown ocotillos at nurseries that sell native plants.
Start veggies Zone 10: Outside, sow seeds of broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, lettuce, radishes, and spinach. Indoors, start seeds of eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes for transplanting in six weeks. Zones 11–13: Sow seeds of cucumbers, jicama, melons, okra, summer and winter squash, and sweet corn. Near month’s end, set out transplants of artichokes, peppers, and tomatoes.
Try a native verbena Zones 2–3b, 10–12: For a low-growing perennial native that produces lavender-pink flowers all summer, grow ‘Annie’ verbena. Unlike more tropical verbenas, ‘Annie’ is solidly cold-hardy even in Flagstaff and Santa Fe. For a fetching pink and gold combination, combine it with prairie zinnia (Z. grandiflora). Both are available from High Country Gardens (800/925-9387).
Use a showy grass Zones 10–13: Plant Muhlenbergia lindheimeri ‘Autumn Glow’, a bold, tall ornamental grass with blue-green leaves and elegant yellow flower spikes in fall. This native of Texas and Mexico is excellent at the back of borders or mixed with other tall perennials such as penstemon. Give it enough room to achieve its full and glorious 5- by 5-foot stature. Available at nurseries that carry native and low-water-use plants.
Tend your plot
Divide agaves Zones 10–13: For agaves that reproduce by offsets, or pups (small versions of the plant that pop up next to the mother plant), dig up the offsets, let the roots callus in a shaded spot for a few days, and replant in pots or in the ground.
Fertilize Give established plants a dose of a balanced organic fertilizer this month. Feed fruit and ornamental trees, shrubs, lawns, groundcovers, perennials, and annuals.
Prune frost-tender shrubs Zones 11–13: At the end of the month, or after any chance of frost is past, prune off frost-damaged foliage and branches from bougainvillea, dalea, lantana, oleander, and other tender shrubs.
Water As temperatures warm, adjust your irrigation schedule accordingly. Citrus and other fruit trees need water every 10 to 14 days.
Next: Plant romantic blooms
Plant rich, romantic blooms
You might do a double take: Are these exotic roses? Miniature peonies? Nope. They’re Maché ranunculus. With luscious petals that look like layers of brightly pigmented tissue paper, the 4-inch-wide blooms sit atop sturdy stems and foliage.
They’re available in seven colors, including the rose and purple pictured here. Find them as blooming potted plants in 4-inch
containers at nurseries this month and next. Treat Maché like an annual and remove plants when blooms fade, typically as summer