University of Vermont
Department of Plant and Soil Science

gmg logo   Winter (December) News Articleline


Leonard Perry, UVM Horticulturist
and Charlie Nardozzi, Garden Consultant

Buying gifts for gardeners, keeping holiday plants cool and houseplants properly watered, are some of the gardening activities for this month.

Gardeners on your holiday gift list might appreciate a decorative basket or pot, or functional garden trug, filled with handy gardening items. Plus, they're fun to put together. Some items to consider are ratchet hand pruners, an ergonomic trowel, fragrant soap, hand lotion, plant tags, paperwhite narcissus or amaryllis bulbs, and bird feeders. There are many specialty gloves to choose from for gifts, including ones that are padded, water-resistant, insulated, or with long sleeves (great for pruning roses and brambles).  If considering weather gear, look into digital and wireless thermometers and rain gauges.

There are some quite attractive light stands for starting seeds and growing plants indoors.  For that special person or big gift, what about a cold frame or even small hobby greenhouse?  If still no idea what a person would like, what about a gift certificate to a garden store or nursery?  Or, give a coupon for some help in the garden or landscape, weeding or mowing or other. 

There are many garden books to choose from for gift ideas, both instructive how-to ones and ones to inspire.  Ones by the authors include the Fruit Gardenerís Bible, New England Month by Month Gardening, and Foodscaping: A Practical and Innovative Way to Create an Edible Landscape.

If you brought in your annual geranium plants this fall and are growing them indoors this winter, chances are theyíre getting leggy by now. The cloudy, short days of November and December don't provide enough light for these plants to thrive. Cut back the plants to about one foot tall. They will resprout and grow bushier in the longer days of late winter.

Amaryllis, cyclamen, and most other blooming holiday plants will last longer if kept on the cool side and out of direct sunlight. If you wish to make sure some flowers don't fade before a big event, you can keep the plants in a cool room or part of the house (preferably above 50 degrees F) for a few days and bring them out the day you need them.

Cyclamen in particular prefer cool temperatures, so keep them back from south-facing windows that heat up during the day.  Cyclamen also need even moisture, so donít allow them to wilt and definitely donít keep them too wet or they may rot.  Youíll find these in stores and at florists in many colors including reds, pinks, purple and white, and in both large- and small-flowered selections.

Feel the soil of your houseplants.  When it's dry an inch or so deep, apply enough water so it comes out the bottom drainage hole. The larger the pot, the longer you can wait in between watering.  The larger the plant, and more root bound within the pot, the more often you may need to water.  If you have a fireplace or forced-air heat, you may have to water small pots or hanging ones every couple of days.  In general, I find once a week works for most houseplants, less for cacti and succulents.  If in doubt, donít water, as too little water is better than too much.  You also can buy watering meters which alert you when watering may be needed.      

Other gardening tips for this month include buying a locally-made evergreen swag or roping for decorating, and visiting a Christmas tree farm for a nice outing with family or friends.

Return to Perry's Perennial Pages: Green Mountain Gardener Articles-- your reliable source of gardening information for over 50 years.