December Gardening & Planting Tips

It's time to snip greenery from your yard and enjoy amaryllis.

Colorful and elegant amaryllis are great for adding color to your home or as a holiday gift. Photo: Van Chaplin

Grow Now: Amaryllis
These are some of the most elegant flowers of the holiday season. Buy them potted and ready to bloom, or buy bulbs to grow. Bloom colors include reds, whites, pinks, and even greens. Miniature selections are also available. Enjoy a single amaryllis, or use several of the same type to create a living arrangement of color on a table or mantel. Tuck in a few small potted ferns and mosses to fill out the display. Sometimes, the large flowers of amaryllis need a little help standing straight and tall. Bamboo stakes, available in the natural tan color or dyed green, work well. Wrap twine or raffia around the stakes to keep the bloom stalks straight. For a great selection of mail-order amaryllis, visit

Display Hollies
With bright red berries and glossy green leaves, hollies are ideal living Christmas trees. ‘Oakland' and ‘Robin' hollies are outstanding evergreens both as specimens and for large hedges. They will grow about 12 to 15 feet wide and 15 to 20 feet tall. Display your living tree inside or out. Outside, use it on your porch or near an entry, such as a gate. Dress up your tree by placing it in a galvanized bucket, or wrap it in burlap. Keep it well watered. You can use it inside for about 7 to 10 days. Afterward, plant it as a specimen in a sunny spot in your yard. Both selections are part of the Southern Living Plant Collection. Buy them at a local nursery, or learn more at

Feed Birds
Bird feeders are a great way to encourage these wonders to visit your yard. Place them where you can enjoy the show from a window or from your porch or deck. Visit your local garden center, a Wild Birds Unlimited store, or for a great selection of bird feeders. Deter squirrels by using a spicy birdseed such as Cole's Blazing Hot Blend Bird Seed or treating the seeds with Cole's Flaming Squirrel Seed Sauce ( Birdbaths and birdhouses will also lure feathered friends to your yard.

Add Mulch
After the first frost, add a 2-inch layer of pine straw or finely shredded pine bark mulch around the bases of your trees and shrubs. You can also use fallen leaves: Rake them into a pile, and chop them up with a lawn mower; then gather them, and spread them around your plants. They'll appreciate the extra protection during winter months.

Buy Watering Cans
Colorful watering containers are great gifts for any gardener. (Find more gifts at Consider keeping several in handy places close to your garden projects both inside and out for easy watering. Antique galvanized watering cans are very collectible. Colorful modern cans brighten any garden too. Look for them at a local nursery, or purchase from ($49.95 for small and $59.95 for large).

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