Be Winter Wise

Garden Planner: By Mary James


Be Winter-Wise


Plant camellias

Plant camellias now through March, while they are dormant. Remember that some like shade, while others tolerate sun; so check with nursery personnel when making a purchase. Whether growing in the ground or a container, be sure the root ball is 1 inch higher than soil level so the crown isn’t covered. Throughout the year, water regularly so the plant doesn’t dry out. Feed with camellia/azalea fertilizer three times a year, starting in March around St. Patrick’s Day.


Select red-hot succulents

Aloes hoist their fiery candelabras this month, dazzling locals and visitors alike. While they are in bloom is a good time to pick one to add to your landscape. Some need space, like the familiar Aloe arborescens and its many hybrids, while some smaller species, like Aloe cameronii and A. vanbalenii, offer bold foliage and flowers. Discover more options at the monthly meeting of the San Diego Horticultural Society when Arizona landscape designer Scott Cahoun discusses “Provocative Succulents.” Details at


Tree first-aid

Southern California winters take their toll on trees. If tree limbs snap during windy weather, prune out the damaged portion either back to a larger lateral branch or the trunk. To remove large limbs safely, use a saw and cut from the bottom and then the top so the falling branch doesn’t damage bark. Then remove the stub, cutting at the “collar” where the branch joins the trunk to promote fast healing. (A helpful diagram can be found in the Sunset Western Garden Book.)  If the tree suffers frost damage, wait until spring to be sure affected branches succumbed. Some may only be damaged and will sprout new growth when the weather warms.


Care for cymbidiums

Cymbidium orchids grow outside here and bloom in winter — no wonder they are so popular. Purchase them now to get your preferred flower color; choices include pastel and deep yellows and pinks, plus green and orange. Grow them in containers in a fast-draining orchid mix in bright shade. Feed monthly to promote bloom and growth and protect from hungry snails and slugs. You’ll want to stake bloom spikes to show off the long-lasting flowers. Learn more at the San Diego Orchid Society’s winter (Jan. 21-22) and spring (March 9-11) shows and sales. Details at 


And don’t forget to…

Buy and plant bare-root apple and stone-fruit trees. Consult with nursery pros to be sure selections are suited to our mild climate.


Start pruning roses, beginning with hybrid teas and ending with climbers at month’s end. Attend the San Diego Rose Society’s demo in the Balboa Park rose garden on Jan. 7.


Reduce irrigation times to reflect cooler temps and seasonal rains.


Move fading, forced amaryllis into the garden, but discard paper whites, hyacinths and other forced bulbs.


Finish pruning dormant deciduous trees and vines before leaf buds appear.


Continue planting cool-season veggies in areas free of frost.

Categories: Gardening