Article Comment 

Playing in the dirt: December tips for green thumbs (and Christmas trees)


Sharon Carrigan

Sharon Carrigan



Sharon Carrigan



Have a Holly Jolly Christmas and Happy Holidays, whichever you celebrate. But speaking of holly ... did you know there are over 400 types of holly in the world? Or that they range from trees, to shrubs, to vines? Well, if you didn't know that and want to learn all about how to plant, care for and propagate holly and many more plants, then the Master Gardener organization is for you. Come join us for the class beginning in February and learn, make new friends and beautify the community. Watch this column for exact dates and how to sign up next month. 


Tips for December are somewhat like November's -- not so many as in the spring and summer. But never fear, there are still ways to get out and play in the dirt. And with the mild weather we've had up until this writing, being outside has been very pleasant. However, if the old wives' tale that many acorns predict a hard winter is true, we are in for a doozy. The squirrels in my yard all have full pantries this year.  




This month 


  • Protect -- Moveable plants from sudden changes in temperature by bringing them indoors; tender plants by placing layers of mulch or pine straw to a depth of 6-8 inches. If there is a frost warning, water well. 


  • Plant -- Tulips and hyacinth that have been in the fridge for six weeks. This is a good time to move Japanese magnolias. Plant many types of bare root trees: fruit, nut or citrus. Plant dormant shrubs: azalea, camellia, nandina, wax ligustrum, Indian hawthorne, pyracantha, mock orange, hydrangea, flowering quince and spirea. Herbs for a sunny window: tarragon, chives, oregano, marjoram and rosemary. 


  • Prune -- Fruit trees and shade trees to remove damaged wood. Cut off tops of brown perennials, leave roots in the soil. Do not prune spring flowering shrubs. Ferns will come back from the ground, cut back brown fronds. Cut mistletoe out of trees (if you have a foolproof way of doing this, please let me know -- my menfolk used to shoot it down, but we lived in the country back then). 


  • Indoor plants -- House plants to consider: African violets, amaryllis, begonia, bromeliads, Christmas cacti, dieffenbachia, ferns, philodendron, schefflera and weeping fig. Feed houseplants every other month during the winter, until new growth appears. 


  • Christmas trees -- To maintain a live Christmas tree in good condition, mix in a 2-liter bottle: 8 ounces of non-diet soda, 2 ounces vinegar, 1 ounce mouthwash. Fill the bottle with water. Keep the base of the tree in this solution. And remember, some Christmas plants are poisonous to people and pets: Keep boxwood, holly, mistletoe and Jerusalem cherry high up and out of reach. 


    Sharon Carrigan of Columbus shares monthly tips on behalf of the Lowndes County Master Gardeners. For more information on Master Gardeners, contact the Lowndes Extension office at 662-328-2111 or visit



    printer friendly version | back to top






    Follow Us:

    Follow Us on Facebook

    Follow Us on Twitter

    Follow Us via Email