December Garden Tips


Winter sets in this month and a freeze is possible. Forecasts can vary greatly from the coast to the inland suburbs. I remember a time back in the early 1980s when it was 35 degrees at the Fort Lauderdale airport (about a mile from the coast), 27 degrees in Davie at the IFAS Research Center (about 10 miles from the coast) and 19 degrees along Highway 27 (about 20 miles west of the coast). 

Stay with the hardier type plants in inland locations such as wax myrtle, dahoon holly or native red maple. If a freeze threatens, cover tender plants with a sheet, box or blanket. Do not use clear plastic. Water heavily the night the freeze is expected and pull mulch away from the plants. The warm soil will release heat and raise the temperature around the low plantings and could save them. 

Plant poinsettia. After the holiday cut to 12" - 18". We will remind you to cut again in May and over the summer. For holiday blooms, no cuts after September! Think of your holiday poinsettia plant like it's your Christmas tree. Chances are good that you wouldn't tear a branch off the holiday tree and start munching on it. Likewise, with the poinsettia. Experts say if your child or pet ate 10 or 12 poinsettia leaves they might get sick, but that's highly unlikely. Researchers at Ohio University found that a 50-pound child would have to eat more than 1.25 pounds of poinsettia bracts (about500 to 600 leaves) to exceed the experimental doses. 
You can plant vegetables now — lima and snap beans, cauliflower, eggplant, turnips, tomatoes, spinach, peas, celery, radishes, onions, cabbage, beets, carrots, Chinese cabbage, broccoli and lettuce. 
Many annuals can be added to the garden —torenia, coleus, marigold, vinca, impatiens, cosmos, ageratum, celosia, portulaca, salvia, gloriosa daisy, nasturtium, alyssum, cornflower, pansy, petunia, dianthus, wax begonia, hollyhock, verbena, sweetpea, larkspur and calendula. 

This is a good month to plant roses, or transplant anything hardy. Any woody plant can be installed now if you have an adequate water supply to irrigate until the wet season begins in June. When transplanting trees: Water first, then dig the root ball 18 inches deep and 1 foot wide per inch of trunk. Citrus: Leave unripened fruit on the tree. Flavor does not improve once it is picked. Succulents: Guard against overwatering. This is their dormant season and overwatering can induce rot 

Check irrigation systems frequently. Water about twice a week if there is no rain. 

New growth has slowed down or is hardened off and some pests may go dormant. But keep alert for spider mites and thrips, which can do a lot of damage to crotons, avocados, mangoes, copperleaf and some citrus. These sucking insects attack the leaves, causing a stippling pattern and a brown spot in the center of the leaves. 

ellow elder (Tecoma stans)
Yellow elder (Tecoma stans

The yellow elder is bright and cheerful from October to December. It sometimes blooms in the spring with showy yellow trumpets up to 2 inches long that are borne in big clusters. Yellow elder is drought-and neglect-tolerant and makes a bushy tree that grows to 20 feet. However, there's one drawback: The long seed pods carried through the winter are somewhat messy. Dr. Derek Burch, a horticultural consultant from Plantation that consults with commercial nurseries, introduced a tree, Tecoma stans (`Burchii'), that blooms throughout the year. 

  • Origin — Caribbean region 
  • Foliage — Leaves pinnately compound, light green and semi-evergreen 
  • Salt tolerance — Medium 
  • Drought tolerance — High 
  • Light requirements — Needs sun to partial shade 
  • Growth rate — Fast 
  • Disadvantages — Can seed excessively 
  • Major problems — None 
  • Nutritional requirements — Low, can do without fertilizer. Use 6-6-6 or whatever you have on hand. 


All rights reserved. Reproduction or translation  of any part of this work beyond that permitted by Section 107 of the United States Copyright Act of 1976 without the permission of the copyright owner is unlawful. [Section 107 allows use of the copyrighted work for the purposes of teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, research, criticism, comment, or news reporting.] Written requests for permission  should be addressed to DePalma Enterprises,  Inc., 2117 NE 17th Terrace, Wilton Manors, FL. 33305