Gardening Tips

Helpful tips for gardening in the Triangle in November and December.


• Houseplants are semi-dormant now and do not need much water. Over-watering is the #1 killer of houseplants.

• Cut roses back to waist high so the roots stay in place when the winter winds blow.

• Cut back cannas and discard foliage.

• After frost, cut perennials to the ground and clean up the beds. Make sure to add a winter mulch. If you label dormant plants now, you’ll know where to find them in the spring.

• Plant a bulb on its side if you are unsure which way is up. The plant will always grow upright. Wait until the soil temperature drops below 60ºF – usually in November – before planting spring-blooming bulbs. Buy them now, but store the bulbs in the refrigerator until ready to use.

• When your Christmas cactus blooms, remember to keep it in bright light and reduce watering to extend the blooming period.

Fruits and Vegetables

• Continue to harvest your winter vegetable garden. Provide protection in icy weather with layers of wheat straw or row cover material, a lightweight spun polyester fabric, sold in different lengths and thicknesses that can be used to shield your plants from too much sun or freezing temperatures.

• Plant asparagus.

• Clean up the summer edible garden. Plant debris often includes fungi, bacteria, and insect eggs.

• Have your soil tested through your county extension office and get a jump on next season.

• Cut back perennial herbs to encourage better growth next year.


• Remember this tip for fertilizing cool season lawns (fescue, bluegrass). Fertilize around Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day.

• Keep leaves off the lawn, put these in your compost pile.

• Apply pre-emergent herbicides when the temperature drops below 50 degrees. Do not apply herbicides on newly planted grass.

• Watch for cool season weeds in the lawn – chickweed, hairy bittercress, henbit – and treat by removal or post-emergent herbicide.

• Keep leaves off the lawn which can damage the turf.

Trees and Shrubs

• Cut back suckers from crape myrtles.

• Delay pruning until late winter, except for minor shaping and to remove dead or diseased wood.

• Now is the time to plant trees, shrubs and fruit trees to give the roots a chance to develop and withstand the heat of next summer.

• Continue to water outdoor woody plants.


• Be on the lookout for cool season mites on junipers, conifers, azaleas, hollies, and camellias. Infested leaves turn gray or brown and may fall prematurely. Heavily infested shrubs and conifers may die. Visit for treatment options.

• When shrubs and evergreens go dormant, spray them with horticultural oil to kill any pests and eggs or fungal spores that are overwintering on them.

• Prune out and remove disease-infested branches and dispose of them so the disease doesn’t infect next year’s growth.

For a complete list of garden maintenance activities, visit the NC Cooperative Extension web site at

For lawn care go to the NC State Turf Files at