December Garden Tips

When snow falls, nature listens.

~ Antoinette van Kleef

Fresh Cut Christmas Trees

When purchasing your fresh Christmas tree, be sure to bring a blanket or tarp to cover the tree if you are tying it to the top of your car. This will protect your tree from drying out on the way home.

Cut 1 to 2 inches off the trunk of your tree and immediately place it in water. Add some tree preservative to the water. Check the water level daily. A tree may “drink” a gallon or more of water each day. If the water reservoir gets dry, even once, the tree cut will seal and may not take up water again.

Place the tree away from heat sources, including fireplaces, wood stoves, heat vents and direct sunlight. Always turn tree lights off when leaving home or going to sleep.

Don’t forget the wonderful fragrance fresh wreaths, greens, and garlands to add to the traditional holiday atmosphere. A spray of Wilt Stop will prolong the freshness of your greens and your Christmas tree.

After Christmas, cut the branches from your Christmas tree and lay them over your perennials as added protection from cold and wind.

Put your leftover Christmas tree outside and decorate it with strings of popcorn and cranberries to feed the birds. Add pine cones which have been spread with peanut butter and rolled in bird seed. The birds will love you.


The colorful “flowers” of poinsettias are actually modified leaves called “bracts.” Poinsettias grow well in moist soil and temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees F.

Poinsettias prefer a bright area away from cold drafts and heat vents. Keep them out of direct sun. Never allow the soil of your poinsettias to dry out completely, but be sure they are not constantly wet or sitting in water inside the foil wrap.

Water the plant when the soil surface feels dry to a light touch, or pot feels lightweight when lifted. Never allow poinsettias to get so dry that they wilt. Remove from decorative foil or outer pot before watering.

Be careful of locations where the hot afternoon sun may shine directly on the colorful bracts and cause the color to fade. Temperatures ideally should not exceed 70° during the day, or fall below 65° at night.


Cyclamen are great plants for brightening your home during the holidays. They prefer a cool dry and bright place. The pink, red, white or maroon flowers will continue for weeks.

Your cyclamen needs a cool, bright spot to thrive. Keep away from direct sunlight. Keep the soil moist but do not overwater – this is a common way to kill cyclamen. If you want your plant to flower again the following autumn, you will need to let it go dormant over the summer, reducing watering.

Holiday Cacti

With their colorful pink, red, or white flowers, holiday cacti are a beautiful addition to holiday décor. To ensure flowers for Christmas, keep your plant in a room with bright daylight hours and no light after sunset. They prefer cooler rooms.

Keep the soil on the dry side in November. Flower buds should set and the plants will be in flower by late December. Stop in and pick up our care sheet for year-long care of your holiday cactus.


Amaryllis bulbs will bloom 7-10 weeks after planting. Choose a pot about 2″ wider than the bulb and one that is heavy enough to keep from tipping. Fill the pot part way with potting mix. Set the bulb so that the top 1/3 of the bulb will be above the top of the soil when you fill the pot to 1″ below the top edge of the pot.

Give the plant about 4 hours of bright light a day. Plant every 2 weeks for a spectacular color show all winter.


Paperwhites are bulbs that can be planted indoors every two weeks for continuous flowering through the holidays. Paperwhites come in white or yellow and are wonderfully fragrant.

Paperwhites will bloom approximately six weeks after planting. To ensure strong healthy plants, paperwhites are best grown in bright, indirect light and in temperatures around 65° – 70°F. Add water as needed as the stems begin to appear. Stems grow tall and straight, with flower heads appearing when they reach 12 – 18 inches.

Norfolk Island Pines

Norfolk Island pines make great living Christmas trees and wonderful houseplants after the holidays. Be sure you use very lightweight ornaments and cool burning twinkle lights when you decorate these beautiful trees. Keep these plants away from drafts and heating vents.

Norfolk Pine prefers bright indirect light to direct sunlight. It will appreciate a boost in humidity during the winter months. You can increase humidity by using a pebble tray, placing a humidifier nearby, or grouping it near other plants.

Holiday Fragrance

To bring extra fragrance into your home during the holidays don’t forget herbs! Rosemary, lavender and thyme, along with many other herbs, will add a delightful aroma to the home.

Echter’s Plant Doctors are available during store hours seven days a week to answer your gardening questions. For accurate diagnosis, it helps to bring in a sample.