Things to Do This Month

December

Ornamental Annuals and Perennials

  • Apply mulch once the ground freezes to reduce heaving/thawing damage to susceptible perennials.

Lawns

  • Keep leaves off lawn to avoid bare spots.
  • Avoid using salt de-icers, which can damage lawns and nearby plants.

Trees and Shrubs

  • Trim hollies for holiday decorating.
  • Continue to monitor soil moisture and water, especially evergreens, as needed. Protect newly planted broadleaf evergreens like azaleas, rhododendrons and boxwoods with a burlap screen, especially in open, unprotected areas.

Miscellaneous

  • Move houseplants away from windows on cold nights.
  • Make a fresh cut to your Christmas tree before placing it in the stand. Check water frequently.
  • Live trees should be kept inside for the shortest time possible—no more than a week. Keep away from heaters. Dig planting hole early in December before ground freezes, then cover with plywood. Plant tree immediately after Christmas.

January/February

Houseplants

  • Don’t overwater. Plants may take up less water in winter.
  • Remove spent flowers of amaryllis, and continue to care for as a houseplant, watering as needed and fertilizing with a liquid houseplant “food.”
  • Water with room temperature water, as cold water can damage plants. Avoid wetting leaves in bright sunlight.
  • Give plants a “shower” occasionally to remove dust from leaves for more efficient photosynthesis.
  • Monitor plants for insects. Sticky “honeydew” around plants indicates sucking insects such as whiteflies, scale or mealybugs are present. Treat with insecticidal soap. Individual insects can be killed with alcohol applied with a cotton swab.

Outdoor Plants

  • Prune storm damaged limbs as soon as possible.
  • Birdseed or sand are plant-friendly traction substitutes for salt on ice and snow.
  • Continue to water evergreens on mild days in periods of drought.
  • Provide unfrozen water along with your bird-feeding practices.
  • Check stored summer bulbs for signs of rot or excessive drying.
  • Remove heavy snow from shrubs and trees as much as possible to avoid damage.
  • Apply dormant oil to shrubs and trees with histories of scale or other insect problems.

Miscellaneous

  • Sow cool-weather annuals like larkspur, sweet peas and snapdragons where they will grow in the garden.
  • Start seeds indoors of impatiens, petunias, ageratum, coleus, geraniums and other slow growers.
  • Use a cold frame, cloches or row covers to get an early start on spring vegetables.
  • Prune fruit trees in February according to recommendations.
  • Extend the life of cut flowers by replacing water frequently and giving fresh cuts to stems.
  • Take cuttings of floweringquince, redbud, forsythia and other ornamentals for forcing indoors.
  • Grab a handful of seed and plant catalogs, sit by a warm fire and enjoy a time when not much needs to be done in the garden!

For more gardening tips for this month, go to

Kemper Center for Home Gardening Garden Calendar