What to do in your garden now, no matter where you are in the West.

Corner Indoor Plants
Sara Monika/Getty Images

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you get some time off from gardening. In fact, this might be the perfect time to get ready for spring gardening and do some maintenance. It’s also a prime opportunity to keep track of your indoor plants and maybe add some more colorful ones to the mix if you’re feeling the winter blues. With the tasks below, you’ll be busy throughout the whole season.


  • Collect cornhusks, pinecones, rose hips, and seed pods from flowers such as poppies or scabiosa to create holiday centerpieces. Group specimens together in a shallow bowl, or use one for each place setting at the holiday table.


  • To dispel winter gloom, grow potted fancy-leafed scented geraniums in a sunny window. They are available in a wide range of flower and leaf colors, sizes, and fragrances.


  • When frost is predicted, protect avocado and citrus trees, especially young ones, by wrapping their trunks and covering their canopies with cloth overnight. (Burlap placed over a removable wood frame works well for small trees; it keeps cold cloth from touching leaves.) If a hard frost is predicted, deeply water all trees so they’ll be better able to tolerate the cold temps.
  • Smother the eggs of aphids, mites, and scale insects by spraying dormant oil (find online or at your local nursery) on branches and trunks of deciduous fruit trees. 


  • Add liquid fertilizer to winter-flowering indoor plants, such as moth orchids and Christmas gift plants, during bloom. Always use half-strength when fertilizing indoor plants.
  • Record your winter lows. Microclimates can cause certain areas to be cooler or warmer than reported temperatures in those general locations. Track air temperatures throughout the winter to get an idea of what to expect in your garden when chilly weather is forecast. 
  • Remove the foil or plastic around gift poinsettias to ensure good drainage. Let the top inch of soil dry out between waterings, and be sure to water only the soil, not the leaves. Give the plant five to six hours of filtered sunlight per day; keep it at 70° to 80°F during the day and 50° to 60°F at night. 
  • Get a jump on spring by getting chainsaws, chipper-shredders, mowers, blowers, tillers, and string trimmers tuned up and blades replaced or sharpened. Look for a shop that does small engine maintenance and repair. 
  • After the holidays, move your cut Christmas tree to an out-of-the-way area of your garden to provide shelter for birds. For an added treat, dress it with birdseed ornaments. 

Read the Current Issue Here!

Get one year of Sunset—and all kinds of bonuses—for just $24.95. Subscribe now!