This Month in the Garden – December



Mid-Atlantic Region

December Maintenance Guide

December can be a quiet time in the garden. Most of us are busy with other things, so the timing is good. Here is some of what we are doing in our Zone 7b gardens.

If you are in need for garden December garden inspiration, you may enjoy this – December Inspiration


  • Rosemary topiaries are widely available now from nurseries, garden centers, big box stores, and grocery stores.  They make an excellent seasonal display, provide fragrance and decor for the table top inside or in a container outside.  If kept outside, protect from freezing the first year.  Potted Rosemary can easily dry out.  Keep an eye on this.  That shouldn’t be a problem since you will be going by often for a snip for cooking.


  • I love Amaryllis at Christmastime! I start looking for the bulbs in October and begin planting them every other week. This way, I’ll have them blooming throughout the holiday season. It is also a good idea to buy after Christmas when they go on sale. Pot them up and enjoy during Valentine’s Day. Come spring, these bulbs can be planted in the garden.  You might find this interesting. The Amaryllis Lives on in the Garden.

  • Forgot to plant your spring-blooming bulbs such as daffs and tulips? Not to worry, they can still be planted as long as you can work the soil. A good rule of thumb is to plant with the pointed end up, at a depth 2 times the size of the bulb and add a bulb fertilizer to supply the nutrients necessary for a spring showstopper. So, if the bulb is 2 inches from tip to root, then plant 4 inches deep.


  • Cut back Cannas after frost and put in the compost pile. Be sure the cut them back though, leaf rollers that might be present can over-winter in the plant. Using a large kitchen knife, a quick slice at the base of the plant makes short work of this garden maintenance task.


  • Cut back and remove Peony leaves after a killing frost. This helps prevent harboring of disease and tidies up the garden. Remember peonies need the chilling cold during dormancy for proper plant development. So be careful when mulching, keeping the “eyes” exposed. Peonies are heavy feeders and perform well using compost or well-rotted manure to feed. I like to use composted leaf mulch. Mulch around the plant. Usually an inch or two for established plants is all that is needed.


  • Prune roses about half their size.


  • We are in Sasanqua Season.  How can you miss with these drought tolerant evergreens shrubs that flower in December?  They may be slow-growing, but they are long-lasting.  Yuletide is nice for their red blooms during the holiday.  I’m partial to the white Camellia sasanqua ‘Sestugekka’


  • Deck the halls with boughs of Holly. Whip out those clippers and look christmas-mantels-027around the garden. There is so much to use to add festive natural adornments to your home, both inside and out. Wreaths on the windows or door; accent the mailbox and the light post and reindeer holding court in your front garden greeting your visitors.


On a warm day this month, lightly fertilize annuals, then water. Be mindful on unseasonably warm days this month with little rain, check to see of annuals need watering.


  • Now is a good time to take hardwood cuttings of deciduous woodies like forsythia, Quince, Mock orange, spirea, and viburnum.


  • Remember the birds through spring. Actually, I tend to my bird friends year ‘round. This is something I do that gives me a great deal of pleasure. They add so much to the garden and to the gardeners’ enjoyment. Be sure to provide a continual supply of seed, suet and water. Did you know that a bird is 3 times more likely to die from lack of water in the winter than lack of food? Break the ice, if need be.
  • Birdhouses make great holiday gifts and can look indoors or out.


Winter solstice begins December 21, marking the end of fall and the beginning of winter.

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

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

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



  1. […] More here: This Month in the Garden – December « Gardening With Confidence ™ […]

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  5. Janet said

    Once again, a great list.

  6. Carole said

    Break the ice, I like that. Thanks for reminding us that water is so important for birds in winter. If only I would remember to get the Amaryllis out of the basement….Seems I forget every year.

  7. […] For maintenance tips for the month of December, please visit This Month in the Garden – December […]

  8. […] There is still maintenance to do in the garden, if you are so inclined, This Month in the Garden – December […]

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