December - What's in Katie's Garden?

In My Garden (Zone 7-8)

Katie Elzer-Peters
Katie Elzer-Peters is the author of Beginner's Illustrated Guide to Gardening, Carolinas Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, Southern Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, and many other vegetable gardening books. She lives in coastal North Carolina, where she enjoys four-season gardening. 

Sure, there are things that you could be doing in your outdoor garden right now, but if you’re anything like me, you enjoy bringing the garden inside for the holidays! There are lots of “tabletop” plants to grow inside this month, but they do require a little bit of specialized care. Here are some tips for growing the most commonly available holiday houseplants.


If you have nothing else indoors for the holidays, grow a poinsettia or six! They come in almost every available color now. There’s really no point in holding these tropical plants over from year to year, so you should just focus on keeping them looking good during the season. Keep the soil about as moist as a wrung-out sponge, but not soaking wet. Keep them in bright sunlight but away from sudden bursts of hot or cold air, so away from the door and heating vents.


It is worth keeping amaryllis from year to year. In zone 8 and higher you can actually plant these big bulbs outside. They won’t bloom at Christmas—their normal time to bloom outside is sometime in May—but when planted in masses, they’re quite striking. The key to keeping Amaryllis happy is to grow them next to a window with bright light and to turn them every couple of days. Keep the soil around or under the bulb barely moist through blooming. If you have a bulb that won’t grow, stop watering it until it starts to send up a stalk. Let me stress this again: do not over water your amaryllis. In fact, barely water them at all until they finish blooming.

Christmas Cactus

The biggest problem with Christmas Cacti is that they will drop their flower buds. To keep the plant happy so the buds will open keep the soil very sparingly moist. You don’t want the plant to have shriveled leaves, but you want to water only when the soil is dry, and water very little when you do. The plants thrive on bright light once they are in bloom.

Ivy Topiary

The secret to a happy ivy topiary is to keep it from getting spider mites. My trick to keep these plants healthy is to stick them under the sink and rinse them with cold water weekly.

Rosemary Topiary

Rosemary plants are not indoor plants, and as such, aren’t really happy growing inside. You can, however, keep them healthy enough for a few weeks during the holidays. It should also be placed in an area with bright light and rotated weekly to encourage even growth. If insects seem to be a problem increase the air circulation around the plant. (Turn on your ceiling fan!) Keep the soil barely moist.


My grandma loves cyclamen and always gets some in the winter. These are naturally cool weather loving plants, so grow them in the coolest location of your house. Definitely keep them away from the heater. Water so the soil is moist but not sopping wet.




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Gardening Tip of the Day

  • Today is the shortest day of the year. From this day, we gardeners watch with great anticipation as the hours of daylight ever so slowly increase. It is only a matter of time before we will be planting a new garden! The holdiays are a great time to settle back and curl up with favorite gardening books and the new Burpee Catalog. In addition to being packed full of traditional favorites, many new flowers and vegetables are included. Also look for the accessory section guaranteed to make your gardening even more enjoyable. To order a free copy call 1-800-888-1447.