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Master Gardeners of Orange County, NC


Bloom · Berry

Below is a simple ‘shortlist’ of plants that are normally in bloom this month or are of interest for fruit, bark or foliage. See Bloom • Berry for comprehensive lists with links to photos and cultural information.

Perennials Shrubs Trees
Barberry (frt)
Beautyberry (frt)
Hollies (frt)
Nandina (frt)
Pyracantha (frt)
Witch Hazel
Dogwood (frt)
Hawthorn (frt)

Ornamental plants


Leaving frost-killed foliage on perennials can provide cover and food for birds and winter interest for us. In addition, butterfly bushes, hollow-stemmed species like salvias and hardy lantana, and many marginally hardy species suffer more winter damage when pruned. However, it is better to remove the foliage of the following plants and dispose (don’t compost) in order to reduce incidence of diseases that are common in our area:

RosesBlackspot overwinters in fallen leaves and appears again next spring.
PeoniesLeaves and stems can harbor botrytis blight.
Bee balm, phloxLeaves and stems can harbor powdery mildew.


Watch for cool season mites on evergreens. These mites are often only noticed after the damage is done (interior browning of foliage in early summer), when the pests are no longer present. Use the white paper test: Hold a piece of paper under a stem and shake the foliage vigorously. Observe the debris, ignoring anything that moves quickly. Watch for a speck smaller than a period on this page to begin moving.
Cool Weather Spider Mites
Southern Red Mite and Spruce Spider Mite

Planting, dividing, transplanting

  • Divide spring- and summer-blooming perennials. Because plants put enormous energy into blooms, most fall-blooming perennials, including many ornamental grasses, are better divided in spring.
  • Plant and transplant most perennials, shrubs and trees. There are exceptions:
    • Many of the newer hybrid echinaceas are tap-rooted and require a full growing season to develop a good root system. These prefer spring planting, as do warm-season ornamental grasses and some tender perennials.
    • Some fleshy-rooted trees and shrubs like magnolias and camellias prefer spring planting.
  • This is the best time of year to move plants. If transplanting in dry weather, water the soil thoroughly first to make digging easier and water the plant regularly in the new location. Adding bonemeal &/or vitamin B12 to stimulate root production and decrease transplant shock is not necessary:
    The Myth of Beneficial Bone Meal
    The Myth of Vitamin Stimulants
  • Root-prune any woody plants that you plan to move next spring.


Pruning now will promote tender new growth that cannot survive the cold.

Soil test

Test your soil if you have not done so for two or more years. Take several core samples from over the area to be tested, mix them together and fill the sample box. Sample boxes and submission forms are available from the Cooperative Extension office and some local retailers. Soil tests are free from April-November, but the state now charges $4/sample during the peak season of December-March.


Remember to water evergreen trees and shrubs thoroughly before winter sets in, particularly if weather conditions have been dry.




  • Dig sweet potatoes before frost kills the plants.
  • Dig and divide rhubarb.


Plant one-year-old asparagus crowns.


Cut asparagus foliage to the ground after it is killed by frost and remove other plant debris. This minimizes winter carry-over of insects and diseases.

Landscape idea

Look to see if windbreaks are needed around your home. Winds during winter and spring can be fierce and can cause significant evaporative loss from susceptible plants as well as erosion from dormant garden areas. Generally, a windbreak protects an area 10–15 times its average height.

A windbreak should not be solid:

  • As wind is deflected up and over a windbreak, low pressure on the downwind side draws the wind back down. The low pressure is stronger in dense windbreaks like dense evergreens or a board fence, drawing the wind down quickly and reducing the size of the protected area.
  • Windbreaks with high density also tend to decay over time due to root competition and shading and any gap (like a path or driveway or plant decline) acts to funnel wind through at high velocity.
  • A windbreak with 40–60% density in two staggered rows works well and should be comprised of a diversity of species to discourage diseases that can plague monocultures. Windbreaks also provide valuable habitat for wildlife.


Check your houseplants for insects before bringing them indoors. A few insects on plants outside can easily turn into a problem inside. Wash leaves thoroughly and soak the soil in a bucket of water for 3 to 5 minutes to encourage any insects hiding in the soil to come out.

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Lawn · Garden Moisture Index

Colors indicate inches of precipitation deficit/excess with a resolution of 4km.
Alabama State Climatologist Lawn/garden moisture index

This live feed maps the difference between recent garden-effective precipitation and the amount normally adequate for the time of year. Soil water-holding capacity is not considered, but the index still provides a good idea of current soil moisture.

Check drought conditions
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