Winter Wrap-up of Garden To-Do’s | Satori Garden Design
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"are you thirsty little guy?"

The following are some general things to think about, look for and do in the garden this time of year. Even if you aren’t the gardener for your home – make sure someone is watching out for it properly.  For more detailed information on monthly maintenance I strongly recommend Pat Walsh’s “Southern California Gardening a month-by-month guide”  Her valuable information, along with my own experience, the above listed web sources and my trusty Western Sunset Garden Book helped me put this together.  I hope it helps.

I am available for garden coaching if you’re needing some extra help or advice.   Grow on!


  • In our mild climate we can plant most anything anytime.  I do like to wait until early spring to plant most perennials and shrubs because the selection is usually better at the nurseries and the plants appreciate the warmer conditions in getting their roots established.   Bare root plants (i.e., roses, some deciduous trees and vines, etc) and spring flowering bulbs are available in the winter, however, so planting them now is perfect. Here’s more info on the bare root season.
  • California natives can be planted in winter and appreciate the rains in getting established.  Winter through spring is a perfect planting time for California natives.
  • Vegetables that will thrive in our coldest/wettest season are:  artichoke, asparagus, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, spinach, beets, broccoli, celery, kale, kohlrabi, lettuces, peas, potatoes, radishes, chard and turnips.
  • Avoid planting if the soil is really wet especially in heavy soils.  Not only will the plants suffer from a water-logged situation (haven for water molds and fungi) but the compaction resulting from the planting activity will further cut down on the soils ability to percolate the water.
  • Azaleas and Camellias which bloom during our cold season should be planted during the cold season as well while they are blooming.  They are actually dormant during their bloom time – interesting, huh?


  • Winter is the time to prune you roses in our climate, and even if you aren’t the one out there pruning it is still important to know your maintenance person knows what they are doing.
  • This site gives some sound advice on rose pruning without being overwhelming.
  • Climbing roses need to be pruned differently.  Check out Fine Gardening’s article on pruning climbing roses.
  • For you visual types there are links to pruning how-to videos.
  • If you’re really hands-on check my calendar for rose care events around Los Angeles.
  • For plants that bloom on new growth such as Fushias and Begonias, prune them now.
  • Buddlea (Butterfly bush) appreciates being cut WAY down to the ground – leave about 6” stubs above soil
  • Phormiums can be cleaned up by removing old, faded shoots or ones that are showing color reversions (some Phormium varieties can slowly revert in their color).
  • Wisteria can be pruned now if it wasn’t pruned in summer. Plant amnesty has good tips on pruning Wisteria.  Essentially you want to remove thin young stems to promote more flowering.
  • Pat Walsh recommends Washington’s Birthday as the day to cut back tropical and sub-tropical plants such as Begonias, Ginger and Cannas.  It’s also a good time to cut back ivy, Asparagus fern and Pyracantha.
  • Prune winter dormant fruit trees.  Check out  these good tips on fruit tree pruning.

General Maintenance:

  • Make sure plant debris isn’t so piled up as to provide a habitat for snails, slugs and other nasty critters.  Snails and slugs will be particularly active now so keep them in check.  See Santa Monica’s guidelines for fighting snails and slugs.
  • Check the mulch around your plants and replenish if necessary.  Mulching will help keep down weeds, help maintain warmth and soil moisture and ultimately improve the quality of your soil.  Best to keep mulch 3-4” from base or crown of plant too prevent rotting.
  • Check the watering basins around larger plants and trees and rebuild as necessary.
  • After a good rain, check your garden for extra soggy spots, which indicate poor drainage.
  • Dead head all cool season bloomers.
  • If scale, aphids and thrips are a problem apply horticultural oil when the weather forecast is clear for a few days.
  • Mark the location of plants that have died back temporarily such as, Anemones, Alstroemeria, some Irises, etc… so they won’t inadvertently be walked on or dug up.


  • Keep a good eye on your watering and cut back as weather allows.  Most people don’t realize how much less water their garden needs in the winter so save that water.  This is especially true for larger shrubs and trees that have larger/deeper root systems.
  • Keep in mind the plants that are sheltered from winter rains (i.e., under eaves, close to walls, etc…)  Since they won’t get rain water make sure you provide them with some.
  • Although California natives are drought tolerant, they do depend on winter rains, so if we are having a dry winter make sure to give them some supplemental soakings.
  • Most succulents are winter dormant so they’ll need even less water than normal and can probably do fine on just rain alone during the winter.


  • Fertilize roses in late winter, early spring just before the buds or eyes break.
  • In general fertilizing is discouraged in the middle of winter because it can encourage new, delicate growth that suffers when the temperature drops (exceptions exist of course).  A good time to fertilize would be late winter/early spring after we get most of our rains.
  • Citrus can be fertilized in January in coastal areas.  This will promote more blossoms so more fruit!  I love the slow release fertilizer stakes that you can pound into the soil and forget about for a while.


  • If you’re winter deciduous plants are beginning to show new growth at soil level during late winter go ahead and divide them.