December Gardening Tips
Curious as to the best ways to tend to your garden and give your plants all they need to succeed?
Below you'll find helpful tips and tasks to accomplish during the month of December—developed by The Missouri Botanical Garden.
- All Month:
- Water houseplants with tepid water. Cold tap water may shock plants.
- Be sure newly purchased indoor plants are well protected for the trip home. Exposure to icy temperatures for even a few moments may cause injury.
- Overwintering geraniums like bright and cool temperatures. Keep soils on the dry side.
- On cold nights, move houseplants back from icy windows to prevent chilling injury.
- Hairspray works well to keep seed heads and dried flowers intact on wreaths and arrangements.
- If you plan to have a live Christmas tree, dig the planting hole before the ground freezes. Mulch and cover the backfill soil and the planting hole to keep them dry and unfrozen. When you get the tree, store it outdoors in a cool, shady, windless area until the last minute and mulch the roots to prevent cold injury. Don't allow the tree's roots to become dry and spray the needles with an anti-transpirant to reduce moisture loss. Set the tree up in your coolest room. Don't keep the tree indoors for more than one week and plant outdoors promptly.
- Be sure the root zones of azaleas and rhododendrons are thoroughly mulched. Any organic material will do, but mulches made from oak leaves, shredded oak bark, or pine needles are preferred.
- Weeks 1, 2 & 3:
- Christmas trees hold needles longer if you make a clean, fresh cut at the base and always keep the trunk standing in water.
- Only female holly trees bear the colorful berries. There must be a male tree growing nearby for pollination, if fruits are desired.
- Hollies may be trimmed now and the prunings used in holiday decorations.
- Weeks 2, 3 & 4:
- Holiday poinsettia plants do best with sun for at least half of the day and night temperatures in the 50's or 60's. Keep plants away from drafts, registers and radiators and let the soil should dry only slightly between thorough waterings. Be sure to punch holes in decorative foil wraps to prevent soggy soil conditions.
- Week 1:
- Apply mulches to bulbs, perennials and other small plants once the ground freezes.
- All power equipment should be winterized before storage. Change the oil and lubricate moving parts. Either drain fuel systems or mix a gas stabilizing additive into the tank.
- Clean and oil all garden hand tools before storing for winter.
- If you feed rabbits corn or alfalfa, they may leave fruit tree bark unharmed.
Experiencing Pests and Problems?
The Missouri Botanical Garden offers pictures and solutions to some common problems that occur this time of year.