December in the garden, what to do?

December is associated to short, cold and rainy days, but it can be a wonderful month in the garden.
There are also the clear, frosty sunny days when is a true pleasure to be outside. Enjoy these days the most as they can be rare.

Frosty days will cover the plants with a thin layer that creates beautiful scenes. Plants with colorful stems will feature all their best in the white ground.

There is still plenty to do outside, although you can do it without the urgency of spring and summer.

What to do in December?

Protect plants that are vulnerable to frost. Plants that are grown in pots or containers can be moved inside. Plants that are in the ground can be protected with straw.


As the deciduous plants are now in their dormancy period, it is a good time to prune shrubs and ornamental and fruit trees.
It is a good time, not only because the plants are “sleepy”, but also it is easier to see what your are doing as there are no leaves.
Pay close attention and remove all the diseased and dead wood.
Plants that have colorful stems like dogwood shrubs, japanese maples (sango-kaku, bi-ho) and willows should only be pruned in Spring because the stems are the main reason why they are grown.

Move plants in the garden

December is also a good time to move deciduous plants. Plants that have grown too big for the position or simply to reshape the garden can be lifted now and replanted. Always take a big root ball and prepare the soil of the new position enriching with organic matter.

December in the garden, what to do - Frost over leaves


Continue composting pruned material (when not diseased) and fallen leafs. You will be happy when using the result in your potting soil.


In December we can continue planting trees, shrubs and climbers. Just make sure the soil is not waterlogged or frozen, if this is the case, skip the planting and wait for another day. If the soil is not ok for planting, heel the plants in a protected area of the garden.


Taking hardwood cuttings can continue during this month while the plants are dormant. The moist and cold weather will keep the cuttings in good condition to grow roots. Here is the guide on how to propagate plants by hardwood cuttings.



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