What To Do In Your Southern California Garden In December

We are heading full throttle into the holiday season, and lucky Southern Californians still have gardening chores to do! Don’t complain, instead of shoveling snow, you are shoveling sunshine (and raking leaves).

Here is your monthly garden chore list for December, tack it to your fridge and plow through it or… have a cup of eggnog and leave it to next year – your choice!

1. Rake leaves – Keep those holiday decorations in view (and some of the beautiful plant we are lucky to be able to enjoy) by keeping up on those leaves. We always have some windy days this time of year, so they are going to pile up for sure! While the east coast is shoveling, we are raking and as a transplant I am thankful for that every year.

2. Plant winter blooming shrubs, perennials, and vines – Some of my favorites are Hardenbergis, Ceanothus, Clivia, Carolina Jessamine, Breath of Heavenm and Cyclamen. You can use the cyclamen as holiday décor and since they are bulbs and the weather here is mild, you’ll likely have them come back a few years in a row.

3. Water your living Christmas tree regularly – If you have a fresh cut tree you need to check it each day to make sure that it doesn’t dry out and start dropping needles. The heaters in our homes add to the drying effects and speed evaporation.

4. Start Patioscaping – It is time to update your container designs! I have pumpkins and squash adorning my harvest based planting designs, so it is time to cook them and replace them with white pumpkins, plastic icicles, and this year I’m adding strings of lights to the taller plants!

5. Add winter annuals for holiday décor – If you add some festive annuals to your perennial garden they will be the icing on your holiday decorating cake! Cyclamen (mentioned above) begonias, and pansies can be planted in swaths that will greet your guests as they arrive at your beautifully decorated entry!

6. Prune fall blooming shrubs & vines – Shrubs and vines that have bloomed can be trimmed back now in readiness for their next season.

7. Tis the season…for planting California natives – Continuing on through fall and winter. Timing is great because your plants will receive the winter water that comes around and they appreciate not to be planted in the hot, hot heat that we are sure to have come summer.

8. Feed flowering plants with high phosphorus fertilizer – Yes, I said it was getting cold for fertilizer utilization but if you have showy blooming plants like Plumeria which bloom June and later it is a good time to fertilize them. The phosphorus (second number on the label) is absorbed over time, so giving it six months to work on those blooms is a good idea.

9. Plant winter veggies – You can still plant leafy greens, bok choy, perennial & cool weather loving herbs (parsley, dill, & cilantro). Succession planting of the leafy greens is a great idea because you can harvest as you make salad and always have more for next week!

10. Keep your eyes open for bare root plants – You can keep an eye open for bare root plants, in California we can plant them right through February. Fruit trees, grapes, roses – keep a look out for your favorites and save money!

11. Watch for signs of frost – Read my blog post about the warning signs, pay attention to the weather and think about protecting your citrus trees by stringing some Christmas lights on them to keep the air warm around them, and they’ll be extra festive!

12. Mulch! If you didn’t throw that 3” blanket of mulch on your plants in November – now is a great time to do it. The mulch will keep them warm, discourage weeds, and help retain the winter rains.

I know it is a busy month, so I hope having this list helps you organize your garden time so you can spend some holiday time with the ones you love! Feel free to contact me if you have any other questions. If you want to see more of my designs take a look at my website.

Happy Gardening!




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