Winter Checklist for Mild-Climate Gardens

In mild-winter regions (USDA Zones 8-11), the cool season doesn't signal the end of gardening. There are plenty of things to keep you busy as the new year begins, from planting and pruning, to spraying and fertilizing. Don't know where to begin? Here’s your guide.

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Plant Bare-Root

Bare-root plants are a great bargain. Shop for roses, fruit trees, cane berries and Strawberries.  Nurseries and garden centers also carry bare-root Asparagus, Artichokes, Grape vines and Kiwi vines -  all available at just the right planting time for your area.  

The Ideal Time to Prune

Sharpen your shears and loppers, and grab your saw, then head outside to prune roses. Remove dead, damaged or weak canes, leaving just the 3-5 strongest ones. Cut-back what’s left by one-half to two-thirds. Prune before buds start to swell. Don’t forget to prune trees and shrubs. Leave the spring bloomers – you risk removing this year's flowers if you prune now. In regions where frost is still possible, wait to prune tender plants like Tibouchina or citrus until danger has passed. To find out more on how to determine average frost dates for your area; click here (link to story above The Importance of Average Frost Dates.

Spray For Pests

Apply horticultural oil, such as Natria Neem Oil, to dormant plants, including fruit trees, roses and ornamental trees. If you're pruning these plants, apply oil afterwards. Oil sprays smother overwintering insects, larvae and eggs. To help control pests and diseases, spray dormant fruit trees with horticultural oil mixed with a fungicide, according to label instructions. Consult your local Cooperative Extension System office to learn which spray to use for specific plants and pest problems. Always read and follow label instruction, especially regarding ideal weather conditions for success.


Winter is usually the rainy season for some areas, but you never know when mother nature will decide to change things up and throw in a dry spell., Besides, strong winds can dry plants, especially evergreens. So, make sure to water through dry spells. Pay special attention to last fall’ plantings, particularly Rhododendrons and other broadleaf evergreens. And don’t forget to water plants beneath wide eaves, porches or in other areas rain can't reach. Unless it gets very warm, most cactus and succulents can get through winter without supplemental water.


Fertilize cool-season annuals, such as Pansies, Violas and Snapdragons, growing in containers and beds. Emerging bulbs benefit from nitrogen fertilizer scratched lightly into soil. Feed citrus 6-8 weeks before bloom. Don’t forget to fertilize winter vegetables like lettuce, broccoli and carrots. If you are not sure about fertilizer timing, check with your local Cooperative Extension System office.

Protect From Cold

Frost and freezes can damage tender plants, such as citrus, Hibiscus, Bougainvillea and subtropical cacti, such as Adenium and Euphorbia. Cover plants with plastic tents, frost blankets or sheets if nights are predicted to be especially cold. Move tender container plants to protected locations. Here’s more information on protecting plants from cold: Protecting Plants From Cold

Design For Future Winters
Closely examine your winter garden. Take photos of different planting areas and specific views you see from inside your home through windows and doors. Could you improve some areas in terms of winter beauty?  Maybe add trees with colorful bark or strong structural presence? Or possibly, some winter bloomers? Visit local public gardens or nurseries to find plants that can help enhance the winter show in your yard.

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