Your region and Hardiness Zone will determine what to plant in December. As frosty conditions increase and snow begins to fall, December is a tricky time to tend to the average garden. However, you can still plant a few things, depending on where you live and what sort of protection you can offer your plants.
When it comes to what to plant in December, a few flowers prefer cold temperatures such as hellebores, pansies, and delphiniums. Starting roses and sweet peas during these temperatures is also a good idea. Protecting vegetables such as asparagus, radishes, and microgreens may give you crops throughout winter. Finally, some boxwood shrubs and holly bushes work well in a December garden, but you may want to spend some time tidying and preparing for next year!
In this article, we’ll go over the care requirements for some plants that can be grown during the month of December. We’ll give you some tips as to how best to protect these flowers and vegetables from the chill of winter as well as some helpful gardening tips to ensure your backyard is ready for spring. Let’s get started!
What to Plant in December: Flowers
There are a few types of flowers that prefer cold temperatures over hot temperatures. Whether they have a long germination time or simply prefer frost in the air, here are some flowers that you can plant in December.
Reaching up to 2 feet tall depending on the variety, delphiniums bloom throughout the summertime. Planting them in December is a good idea since they need a few weeks to develop and establish roots. They are hardy down to Zone 3 and come in gorgeous colors. Keep in mind that delphinium plants will need support as they grow, and they are poisonous to humans and animals.
A slow-growing, sweet-smelling addition to any garden has to be sweet peas. These vining blooms come in gentle shades of pink and purple, hardy down to Zone 2. It’s recommended to plant sweet peas outdoors before your final frost date, and December may be the best time for these cold-loving flowers!
Mysterious and gorgeous, hellebores come in a variety of colors. These plants also live for years, establishing elaborate roots and thriving in cold temperatures down to Zone 3. You can plant hellebores in December from established plants found at your local nursery or garden center. Just be sure to give them a bit of mulch or cover to help them get started!
Another flower that prefers the cold has to be the pansy. These cheery blooms are the perfect addition to any container or backyard landscaping, as you can easily plant them from established plants in December. They overwinter easily, hardy down to Zone 2, and you simply clear away any dead blossoms to make way for new growth. Check out the “Bingo” and “Panola” cultivars for some extra cold hardiness!
You can still get away with planting roses during December, so long as they are bare-root starts. The great thing about roses is that you can find nearly any color built as a cold-hardy cultivar. However, most roses need protection in order to be overwintered, especially if you live beyond Zones 3 or 4. Consider wrapping them in burlap if you experience heavy snowfall or plant them alongside your home for added warmth and protection.
What to Plant in December: Vegetables
Unless you live in Zone 9 or above, you should consider protecting your vegetables in December. Most regions won’t be able to grow very much, but there are some options to consider that are fast growers and relatively easy to care for. Let’s take a look at those options now.
Many leafy greens prefer cold weather, but December is a volatile time to grow any larger established plants. That’s why you might consider growing microgreens outdoors in a small container or garden bed. Spinach, arugula, kale, and mustard greens are all great options to consider planting, as you can take leaves from your garden as needed!
Asparagus is a hearty vegetable that you can easily grow from seed. However, note that asparagus spears should not be harvested during their first growing year so that you can establish a long-lived plant. Some varieties are hardy down to Zone 2 as well as capable of producing a harvest by their second year of growth.
With some varieties germinating in as little as 20 days, radishes are easy vegetables to grow during the month of December. You can continually sow radishes and harvest their greens as needed, leaving the bulbs underground to thrive in chilly temperatures. Spicy and versatile, radishes are a great addition to any December holiday veggie plate!
If you live in a region with particularly harsh winters, an indoor herb garden is always in season. You can keep a variety of herbs on a sunny windowsill in your home, giving you a harvest throughout the month of December. Some easy-to-grow herbs include basil, rosemary, thyme, and mint. While it may be a much smaller scale of gardening, your indoor temperatures are much easier for plants to take!
What to Plant in December: Trees and Shrubs
Unless your ground is already frozen solid, you may be able to plant some trees and shrubs during the month of December. This is especially true if you are hoping to add some interesting landscaping features before the holiday season begins in earnest!
There’s a reason why holly shrubs are associated with the holiday season, as they are particularly cold-hardy and festive. English holly belongs to the Ilex genus and there are nearly 500 different species of shrub to consider. If you want some textbook red berries and glossy green leaves to decorate your outdoor areas, a holly shrub is the way to go!
Another great shrub to consider decorating with is the boxwood shrub. Depending on the variety you choose, boxwoods grow quickly and thrive with consistent shaping and pruning. You can start your boxwood in a container in December, utilizing it as a decoration until warmer conditions. Plus, any cut branches look great in a vase or as part of a holiday wreath!
Classified as Chaenomeles speciosa, you shouldn’t plant flowering quince in the ground during the month of December. However, keeping a young shrub in a container during this time of year will keep it protected and help it get established before spring. These unique shrubs often burst into bloom before their leaves appear, and they come in shades of orange, red, and pink.
December Gardening: Get Ready for the New Year!
December is a great time to tidy up around the garden and prepare for the new year. Many seedlings can be started indoors come January, so ordering seeds or specialty plants during December is a good idea. Plus, you can spend some extra time cleaning out your gutters, and garden beds, and there are no doubt some leaves left to rake!
Pay special attention to any plants that may need a bit more protection during this time of year. Some flowering plants and container plants may benefit from relocation or added warmth such as a burlap cover or additional mulching. Given just how hectic this time of year can be, it’s best to get everything ship-shape outdoors before you lose track of time and the weather gets even colder!