This Month in the Garden – November



Mid-Atlantic Region

November Maintenance Guide

October292008JCRA 020

NC State Farmers Market, Raleigh, NC


Once the killing frost hits, it’s time to tuck your garden in bed for the winter.   Our first frost date is unpredictable in terms of regions and microclimates. Raleigh’s first frost date, as calculated at NC State University,  is November 5th.

In my mind, November is the inspiration; in case you need more:   November Inspiration at Fine Gardening

Here are some of things we are doing in our Zone 7b gardens:


Spring Reaves 019

Plant your spring blooming bulbs this month.

Healthy bulbs will be firm and show no sighs of mold or decay. Bulb companies such as Brent and Becky’s Bulbs will ship your order at the ideal planting time for your area. If you can’t plant immediately, store them in a cool, dry place until ready to be planted.

Plant bulbs pointy end up. If no point is prominent, then look for the remains of a root and plant that end towards the earth.

Plant your bulbs in a sunny location – sunny when blooming, that is. This is a cool thing about bulbs,  Take advantage of a an area in the garden that is shady in the summer, but sunny in the winter such as areas shaded by deciduous trees.

Plant some bulbs in pots for forcing during the winter months.

Cut back elephant ears, gingers and cannas and other spent plants and add them to the compost pile.

Plant your warm-seasoned lawn with crocus. The Tommies, Crocus tommasinianus, are early blooming crocus that work well planted in the open lawn. The Tommies are nice because they are up in the winter landscape just when they are needed the most and down by the time  mowing starts.

Grape hyacinths are a happy bulb. Plant enmasse or in drifts. Many smart gardeners plant a single bulb along with the daffodils to aid as a reminder of where the daffodils were planted.

The tiny bulbs of snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) and snowflakes (Leucojum) planted now, will bring great joy in early winter and early spring, respectively. Any other time of the year, these tiny flowers would be lost in the garden, but in the winter, with little competition, they shine like beacons.

I like pairing daffodils with daylilies. While the foliage of the daff is dying back, the daylily starts to emerge, helping to hide the daffs untidiness until they are ready to be cut back.


Rosemary will not care that a frost has arrived.  This wonderful Mediterranean shrub adds value to the fall and winter landscape.  When it gets too big for an area, feel free to cut back.


If you didn’t plant annuals in October, there is still time to do so in November. Plant forget-me-nots, pansies, snapdragons, and violas.

Adding flowering kale, ornamental cabbage, and mustards add interest to the winter landscape and in container gardens.

Collect seed. Use for next year, give to friends, share with your garden club.

Seeds of larkspur, money plant, Iceland and California poppies can be sown directly.


This is the best time to plant perennials.  As long as the ground is not frozen, perennials can be planted now.  Great deals may be available at garden centers as they sell the remaining stock.


Now is the best time to plant trees and shrubs, such as Azaleas and Camellias.


BrightsFrontRaleighYoest (17)

Rose catelogues will be arriving, if not all ready.   Now is a good time to order or at least decide on my new bare root roses. I find to best to choose roses while they’re blooming. You will note when looking at a photograph of the same rose in three books or catalogues, it looks like 3 different roses. As such, I pay attention to the roses of my friend’s, my client’s, and other private and public gardens. I note what does well in our area and get an idea of their shape and color. Also, I learn about the rose’s maintenance needs. Personally, I don’t want to mess with anything fussy. I don’t spray my roses with pesticides; I don’t want anything that will put my butterflies at risk or for that matter, any beneficial insect.  But I do love roses.

After a freeze, it is OK to prune back your roses. It is not necessary to prune now; however the long canes are vulnerable to breaking in high winds or if coated with ice during an ice storm.


Rake the lawn of leaves, especially if you re-seeded your cool season grass, such as tall fescue.  Wet leaves will mat down, smothering newly sprouted grass and reducing needed sunlight.

Or don’t rake at all! I mow my leaves with a mulching mower. The bagged, chopped leaves are usually then put on the compost pile. Or they may go directly in a bed; it just depends on what I got going on. In either case, they stay with me and don’t go to the City yard waste center.

Removed the leaves from the beds; otherwise they will just drive you crazy when the move around. Rake or blow them into the grass before mowing, then you can put them back in the garden beds.


Dwarf Loblolly larvae

The cold air and soon a killing frost will help lower garden pest population.


Once the garden is bare, the weeds are more visible. Pulling now is the best time to get a head start on next year’s weed season.


Now is a great time to collect a soil sample for analysis.


Keep an eye on any new plantings.  Continue to water new plantings often to keep moist.  In the absence of rain, water new perennials once a week.

Don’t let your fountain water freeze. It is best to winter-ize your fountain by shutting off the pump, disconnecting the hose from the pump and protecting the pump. Many fountains have large reservoirs which help keep the water from freezing. Also, depending of the type of material the fountain is made of, you may need to protect it further. Metal fountains are fine if left alone. Concrete fountains do best if water is not able to set and freeze. So it is advisable to put a towel in the bottom of each tier to soak up water and have the towel do the freezing instead of the concrete. Even with these precautions, I still had a concrete fountain freeze and crack. Ceramic fountains may need to be put inside a shed or garage to protect from freezing.

Of course, a fountain is a wonderful feature to decorate for the holidays. I do various designs with my fountains. Just because it’s not running, doesn’t mean it can’t still be a showstopper. Fill it with evergreens, magnolias, pomegranates, and drape with ribbon. A metal fountain is a great opportunity to make a garden and design statement. After the holidays, it becomes a giant birdbath. When the water freezes in a tier, I send one of my kids out, usually Aster, with a hammer to break open.


Virginia Creeper

Don’t forget your bird friends.  They add so much to the garden and to the gardeners’ enjoyment.  My favorite part of the garden is when I am walking down a garden path and see and hear the birds take flight as I come through.  Be sure to provide a continual supply of seed, suet and water.

Leave any seed heads for the birds to feed over the winter and to add winter interest to the garden.


Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening With Confidence

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her Face Book friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence’s Fan page.

Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum



  1. Great tips! I sowed my seeds a week or so too early, I think. I’m having to mist them everyday since our daytime sun is so warm this week. That cool rain we had duped me!

    On planting perennials (which I’m still doing), I think the key is to make sure they are watered frequently now as the autumn air and frosts can be drying.

    Perennials that I plant in fall are twice the size of the perennials planted in the spring (during the first season). It’s almost like having mature plants the first year.

    I think I work harder in the fall than in the spring — mostly so that I can enjoy the spring blooms!

  2. Janet said

    great list (as always) Helen. I want Larkspur this spring, think I will be buying a seed packet or two within the next few days.

  3. jeff-nhn said

    I always try and plant in the fall. But I always leave some room for the new plant offerings in the spring. I just have to plant a couple new selections each spring. I need a larger year as mine is getting very, very full!

  4. TC said

    I’m a little confused by your “last frost date” being in November. Don’t you mean that’s usually when you get your first frost? Surely you have more than one frost in November. (Unless it’s a heck of a lot warmer there than I realize.)

  5. Yes, TC, that should read first frost. I’ve changed it. My area of Raleigh statistically should have first frost by November 5 (90% chance.) I believe we hare considered it done…at least on the windshield. My garden has not officially had the first frost, but my car window shield has. The ground insulated the cold just enough to keep off the frost. Other areas, particularly outside the beltline have already experience a harder frost.

  6. TC said

    Ha ha! Sorry about your windshield Ms. Helen. Perhaps you should invest in some row cover for your vehicle. ;~P

  7. […] November Maintenance Guide Lara Rose catching a […]

  8. Racquel said

    Great checklist for this month Helen. I can honestly say I’ve completed most of these items this past weekend. But I still need to winterize my fountains…thanks for the reminder. 😉

  9. […] November Garden Maintenance […]

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