Winter Checklist for Garden Activities

Even in winter, indoor and outdoor plants, shrubs and trees require our attention. Follow this checklist to keep on target with plant care throughout the winter.
Winter Checklist for Garden Activities - Articles


Photo credit: Lorraine Volk-Wallace

Indoor plants

Give your indoor house plants some much-needed attention. Wipe leaves with a damp cloth, removing any holiday dust and glitter. Keep the soil moist but not soggy, as soils tend to dry out more quickly during the winter months. Snip away dead or discolored leaves. Inspect leaves and stems for signs of insects, such as mealybugs and scale. Isolate and treat plants that appear to be infected or discard the plants in the trash.

Holiday flowering plants require after bloom care.

Place poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) in bright light and keep the soil moist. Discard poinsettias that lose their leaves or show signs of insects or disease.

Pinch off spent blooms from the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera spp.) and keep this plant in bright light with moist soil.

Cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) tubers should continue to bloom during the winter months. Avoid wetting the leaves and stems and drain away excess water to prevent tuber rot. Pluck faded flowers and leaves from the plant. New leaves and blooms may appear during the blooming cycle. Offer fertilizer every other month.

Remove the floral stock from your amaryllis (Hippeastrum spp.) after the flowers have faded. Continue to water and fertilize the bulbs during the winter.

Paperwhite narcissus (Narcissus tazetta) bulbs can be discarded after blooming, as they are not likely to rebloom.

Outdoor plants

Give alkaline-loving shrubs, such as forsythia, lilac and caryopteris, a treat by sprinkling fireplace ashes around their base. Wood ashes contain phosphorus, considerable potassium and calcium, and traces of minor elements. However, before applying wood ashes, it is best to have the results of a recent soil test and know the pH of your soil. If your pH is 7 or above, offer the ashes to a friend. According to Penn State Extension, in an unleached form (directly from the stove or fireplace), wood ashes can often do more harm than good if not properly applied. The ash’s alkalinity may raise the soil pH to a point at which other elements are unavailable. A good guideline is to apply dry, unleached wood ashes at a maximum of 3 pounds per 100 square feet of soil surface in a single season.

Inspect tree trunks for large animal and rodent damage. Assure that the plastic and wire tree trunk guards are secure. Adjust or replace dislodged or broken guards and inspect the tree trunk for damage.

Remove dead, diseased or broken tree or shrub branches. Seek assistance for removing unsafe branches near homes, buildings and electrical wires. Photograph trees’ branch structures in preparation for late winter pruning. The leafless branches afford the opportunity to evaluate overlapping branches and overall tree shape and size. Consult with an arborist, if needed.

Winter garden doldrums can be vanquished with basic plant and garden maintenance activities.