Don’t forget winter watering! Unless rainfall is abundant, be sure to provide deep watering for happy, healthy plants that are less stressed and less susceptible to disease and insects.

Plant Doctor Quips

Moana Lane Plant Doctor, Jon Bruyn, says, “Monitor the precipitation that your home has received. For a thirty day period, your outdoor plants that are planted in the ground, need one inch of precipitation to penetrate the ground. One inch of rain, typically is equivalent to a foot of snow. Even though you have shoveled some snow so far this fall or it rained at location, it may have not been enough or some of it likely evaporated. Don’t forget those potted perennials or shrubs. They need water too, and because of the physical characteristics of a good potting soil, they will need twice as much and twice as often (every two weeks) even though they are dormant. All your plants will be healthier and they will also be more cold hardy, too.”

Plant Doctor, Gary Jentink, offers some tips on winter watering and insulation:

“The cold has never been so SWEET. Ever wonder why we need to water our plants during the winter months? The answer is sweeter than you think. Perennial trees and shrubs use the water we give them to start producing large amounts of sugars in their sap that helps “insulate” them from the cold. In fact, they keep their internal temperatures just lower than the freezing temperatures outside thereby avoiding hard freezes and tissue damage. Don’t believe me? This winter grab a small hibernating tree with your bare hands and feel how much colder it is than the air around it. This is why most of the syrup farms tend to tap their trees during the coldest months when the sugar content is the highest. As the days warm in the afternoon the sap is redistributed throughout the vascular system and inevitably is funneled through the taps to make that maple syrup we all love so much.”

South Virginia Plant Doctor, Michael Roth, explains the importance of mulching.  He says, “Mulch, mulch, mulch.  I can’t say enough to emphasize how much of a difference it makes for establishing plants in the landscape and making it through the winter.   Mulch can be up to 3″ thick.  Just make sure that you don’t have it right up against the trunk of your trees or shrubs.”

Our Pyramid Way plant doctor, Angela Turner, gives advice on those tender plants.  She states, “Protect any tender trees and shrubs, like Chicago Fig and Hydrangea, by stuffing straw or leaves around it. You can hold the material in place by making a wire cage, wood frame, or use a bag around it. It can take some extra work, but giving these plants some extra insulation from the cold can allow them to keep more of their last year’s growth and grow to a larger size next year.”

Wild Birds Unlimited Manager Lisa Braginton tell us that, “While we know that feeding birds year ‘round is best practice for supporting our wild bird populations’, it can be especially satisfying to set out fresh, clean feeders filled with nutritious seed and offer a suet cake this time of year. When there is snow on the ground and a nip of frost in the air, treating our feathered friends to an additional feeder or special food extends the spirit of the season and lets us reconnect with nature. It’s a great time to celebrate the joy that the beauty and behavior of birds can bring!”

South Virginia plant doctor, Steve Packer, gives the low down on Indoor Plants.

“Now that winter is upon us it’s a good time to focus our efforts on our indoor plants. When it comes to watering our indoor plants,  we should water not according to a schedule but according soil moisture. Stick your finger in the soil down to the second knuckle. If it feels dry then water thoroughly till water drains out the bottom of the pot. If on the other hand if it feels moist refrain from watering. Also be on the lookout for common insect pests such as aphids, spider mites, mealy bug, scales and whitefly. Talk to a Moana plant doctor for control measures if you find any of these insect pests.”

December Timely Tips

  • Plant paperwhites and amaryllis for holiday color.
  • When choosing a Christmas tree, select one with firm needles that don’t drop off when the tree is raised up a few inches and dropped to the ground.  The bottom of the stump should be moist with some sap present.   Cut two inches of the stump and immediately plunge tree into a bucket of warm water. Before bringing the tree inside spray with Bonide Wilt Stop to help prevent the needles from drying out, however do not spray on living christmas trees with a blue or silver in their needles because the wilt stop can remove that color pigment.. Make sure the stand is full of water each dayIf left without water, the tree will form a seal which prevents it from taking up any water.  Add SUPERthrive (1/4 tsp. per gal. of water) or Bush Doctor Boomerang (1 Tbs. per 1 gal of water) to every watering to enhance water uptake & promote tree vitality. 
  • Remove decorative foil from bottom of gift plant pots or punch holes in the foil to allow water to properly drain.
  • Cyclamen prefer cool temperatures.  Water them only when the soil dries out and avoid splashing the foliage.  Remove faded flowers and stems promptly to keep the plant blooming.
  • Poinsettias require bright light away from heating vents, fireplaces and drafty windows or doors.  Maintain even moisture; plants will wilt dramatically if allowed to dry out.  Avoid getting water on leaves.
  • Azaleas require bright light, moist soil and occasional misting.  Flowers will remain for months if old blooms are quickly removed, and the plant receives adequate moisture.
  • Water existing trees and shrubs, especially evergreens when there has been no precipitation for three weeks and there is a thaw.  This is necessary for plants in containers every two weeks.
  • Light pruning of deciduous trees and shrubs can be done this month.  Wait until late winter or very early spring before buds break to do heavy pruning.  Immediately prune back any branches damaged by snow and ice.
  • Fruit trees should also be sprayed with Bonide All Seasons Horticultural Oil Concentrate mixed to the dormant concentration to control insects such as white fly, spider mite, aphids and codling moths. Spray early on a warmer day so the oil and water have time to evaporate before the temperature drops.
  • To protect the bark of young trees and older trees that may be susceptible to winter sunscald & frost damage to the south and southwest sides of their bark, wrap their bark in the coldest months of the year.  Use a light colored and flexible tree wrap from a few inches above the ground to just below the lowest limbs. From late December through mid-March this will help prevent damage from extreme cold and fluctuations in temperature.  Leaving the wrap on year ‘round will provide habitat for pests, so make a note to take the wrap off when pea and potato planting time comes, around St. Patrick’s Day in the Truckee Meadows.
  • Remove heavy snow loads from evergreen branches by gently sweeping snow off with a broom.  If branches have been anchored to the ground, gently lift them from underneath with a broom.  Avoid beating tree branches with any heavy tools.
  • Allow any ice that accumulates on tree branches to melt.  Cracking ice with heavy objects should be avoided.
  • To protect broadleaf evergreens like rhododendron and photinia planted in exposed areas from drying winds, apply Bonide Wilt Stop this month and again in January or February.

Recycle your Christmas tree at one of Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful locations:

  • Bartley Ranch Regional Park (6000 Bartley Ranch Rd), Reno Sports Complex (2975 N. Virginia St), Shadow Mountain Sports Complex (3300 Sparks Blvd), and three Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District Stations: Station 32 (1240 East Lake Blvd.), Station 46 (500 Rockwell Blvd.), and Station 440 (130 Nectar Street, Lemmon Valley), Saturday, December 26th through Sunday, January 10th between 9 am and 4:30 pm.  A minimum $3 donation is recommended.  To volunteer, sign up at
  • Be sure all leaves and twigs are removed from your lawn before our next snowfall.
  • If voles have been a problem, apply Bonide MoleMax to those areas they typically frequent before the next snowfall.  MoleMax acts as a repellent and will protect the plant material in the treated zones.
  • Try to avoid walking on Frozen Turn (Lawn); it can cause damage that may not be repaired until spring.
  • Mulch perennial beds & roses now if you haven’t done so with 2 to 4 inches of G&B Organics Soil Building Conditioner.
  • Avoid using salt-based, de-icing products in or around garden areas for snow removal.  Moana recommends Sierra Blue Snow & Ice Melt which is friendly to the environment, pets and plants.
  • Check ponds for branches, leaves and other debris deposited by our seasonal high winds and remove them.
  • Put out seed cakes and cylinders to provide birds with a steady supply of food, even during the worst weather.  Seasonal choices such as our Cranberry Fare wreath, Buttons the Snowman, and Preston the Penguin add a festive touch to your bird feeding with additional convenience for you!  
  • Feed high fat, high caloric content seeds to help satisfy birds’ cold weather needs. Nyjer®, sunflower, safflower, peanuts and Finch Blend all add needed calories, and all of our Plus blends include Bark Butter® Bits for added fat and protein.
  • For ground feeding birds, of which many will be returning to our yards with the onset of winter, offer millet and our Wild Birds Unlimited Quail Block. Although these seeds are high in protein and not high in fat, for juncos, towhees, White-Crowned sparrows, dove, and quail, this is the perfect food, as they efficiently process those calories into the fat reserves they need.
  • Keep bird feeders filled with clean, dry, high-quality seed, and make certain that your feeders are in good repair.
  • Install weather domes and rain guards to protect feeders from rain and snow.
  • Offer a suet cylinder for easy, no-fuss feeding of all-important fats for birds’ winter survival. It is essential for birds to eat plenty of calories each day in order to maintain their strength and fitness.
  • Offer pure suet cakes during cold weather. Our suet cakes are filled with the highest quality ingredients, and their high fat content helps them to resist freezing, keeping calories available to birds despite cold days and long winter nights.
  • SuperSuet Cakes and mealworms attract insect-eating birds that are likely to be returning to our backyard feeders. This is a great time to observe warblers, kinglets, and varieties of woodpeckers we may not see in the warmer months.
  • Put out a heated birdbath to ensure a steady supply of water.  Remember, birds still need to bathe even in winter to keep their feathers conditioned for insulation and flight, in addition to their need for clean, fresh drinking water.
  • Still have hummingbirds around? Refer to Moana’s Nature News for helpful tips.
  • Store bird food in a sealed container and keep in a cool dry place to prevent spoilage.
  • Install a customized Wild Birds Unlimited bird feeding station where you can easily watch the birds it attracts.  It can be installed in the ground or on a deck.
  • Monitor houseplants for insect problems that often occur when plants become stressed due to insufficient light, overheated rooms or improper watering and fertilizing techniques.  Isolate new houseplants or gift plants for 10 days before adding to your existing plants.  Pests to look for include spider mites, scale, mealybugs, whitefly and fungus gnats.  Treat immediately.  Moana recommends Hi-Yield Systemic Granules; use according to the label.
  • Stop fertilizing all non-blooming houseplants until March.
  • Continue to fertilize orchids with Grow More 20-20-20 granular or Fertilome 9-7-9 liquid orchid fertilizer until they set flowers; run room temperature water through pots every 2-3 weeks to leach salts from soil.
  • Examine foliage to ensure it doesn’t scorch from exposure to direct southern sun.  Avoid getting water on leaves.
  • Fertilize miniature roses, geraniums, anthuriums and African violets.
  • Monitor water usage of all houseplants.  Most require less water during winter months, though forced heat can dry out plants.
  • Seasonal Containers, Garden Design, Installation and Maintenance plus proper pruning and grooming by our Gardener Services Team.  Call 825-0602 x134 for more info.
  • Indoor Plants – Interior Plant Services offers clean air plants, design, installation, maintenance & more call 825-0602 x134.
  • Irrigation system repair, tune-up & shut down) call 825-0602 x134 to schedule
  • Fall Cleanup
  • Make an appointment for an at-your site consultation with one of our plant doctors to help with the following:
    • Diagnose disease & insect problems on trees, shrubs & lawns
    • Identify existing plants in your landscape and how to care for them
    • Provide plant placement for DIY customers
View Timely Tips