Cool Season Gardening and Landscape Plants

Written by David S.

Welcome to the cooler season, and with the drop in temperature, a window opens for plants that like things a little chilly. Here’s a list of flowering plants and vegetables that love November and December in Southern California.

For Fall, Winter, and Spring Gardens

If your vegetable garden has taken a turn with the drop in fall temperatures, don’t be sad. There is an entire list of vegetables that grow wonderfully during the cooler season the rest of the world calls winter. Winter in Southern California is very much like mid- to late-spring in much of the US. It is a vast opportunity to plant and enjoy a host of leafy greens, brassica, and even peas and beans. Here are a few of the many vegetables that grow pretty well during the cooler winterly months. 

  • Chard – If you love leafy greens, chard will be a winter hit from your garden. 
  • Spinach – From smoothies to Quiche, spinach is a perfect fall and winter crop in Southern California gardens. 
  • Brassica – plants are such a diverse family of vegetables and greens. If you love spicy foods or want to add a touch of heat to meals, try the big red leaf mustard plants. They are HOT, and I find them to be a way to replace the hot peppery flavors of summer during winter. Mustards are exceptional in simple foods, from stir-fry to soups. There are also options for broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and a host of other brassica plants that will thrive right now and through spring. 
  • Roots – Carrots, fall potatoes, beets, and parsnips are all excellent options for fall and winter in Southern California. You may need to cover seeds with a cold frame while they germinate, but many of these roots taste better once they have experienced some frost. The cold converts starches to sugars, improving the sweetness of parsnips, beets, and even carrots. 

Be sure to explore the entire list of winter vegetable options for your microclimate. Then, please stop by any of the Green Thumb Nursery centers and browse our seed collection. Now is also an excellent time to buy seeds for spring because as we get closer to spring, planting, seed supplies in the last year sold out quickly. 

Winter Flowers to Brighten Your Landscape

We mostly think about flowers in spring and summer, but several do well in Fall and Winter here in Southern California. 

Winter Daphne is an excellent example of winter-blooming plants. A short shrub, winter Daphne is hardy down to zone 6 and does quite well in zone 9. It is a shrub that needs well-draining soil and will need extra water in the summer. It likes to keep its roots wet but not soggy. Daphne comes in a few varieties, and many will bloom in fall and winter. 

Right now is a beautiful time to stop into any of our five Southern California locations and take stock of what is blooming. Even if you plan a spring planting, now is a good time to wander down the aisles and take notes or ask questions. Our plant experts are here to help your garden and landscaping project succeed. 

Geraniums are another excellent choice for winter bloomers in Southern California. One of the magical things about geraniums is that they are available in so many colors. Geraniums are also easy to grow—geraniums like full sun, plenty of water, and a little phosphorus-rich fertilizer. If you prune back leggy growth, they will continue to bloom. 

For smaller plants that bloom well in winter, pick up some pansies. With their happy faces and the plethora of colors available, you can almost paint your yard with color. Pansies have short roots, so you want to keep the soil moist but also allow it to try out just a bit between waterings. Well-draining soil with compost is a must. If you hit the watering cycle perfectly, pansies will bloom throughout the winter. The same is true for viola flowers, which also come in various colors and offer excellent options for front borders and planters. 

Products that Help Vegetables and Flowering Plants Thrive in Southern California Winters 

One of the handiest of products that will help your garden in winter or help save your flowering plants from hard frosts is Row Cover, a thin fabric material that you can drape over cold-sensitive plants. Water will penetrate because it is porous, but the added cover helps block frosts down to 28°F. Row Cover is also suitable for small shrubs and trees. 

Fertilizers that focus on Root Growth – Phosphorus is the go-to choice for fertilizers when it comes to root growth. Since many plants are shedding leaves in the fall or going dormant, nitrogen is not needed. What is needed is phosphorous and potassium. If you shop by the NPK options, aim for low nitrogen, high potassium, and high phosphorous. For example, a 3-20-20 or 3-10-10 product would work. Even though trees go to sleep in the fall, their roots stay active. 

Bioactive products, including soils, are an excellent way to help produce healthy soil. Plants thrive in healthy soil. There is a massive range of bioactive products. They range from liquids to potting soil. As you choose soil or soil supplements, reach for those products that have bioactive ingredients. Ask our plant experts about bioactive products that fit your garden or landscaping project. 

Winter Watering 

Southern California winters are generally mild. Be sure to water your yard and garden according to the daily weather. Many plants need water in winter. It may be a good idea to reduce water from your summer watering schedule. Some plants will do well in low water situations, while others may not. Shallow rooted plants, fresh transplants, and container plants are all examples of plants that may need watering throughout the winter. You can set up drip irrigation, which makes watering easier. Be sure t check the drip emitters during the winter, especially after freezing weather. 

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