November FAQs


Q – How late can I plant spring-flowering bulbs?
A – Until the ground freezes. However, bulbs planted later probably will flower later in the spring than established bulbs.

Q – What if I can’t plant my bulbs before the ground freezes?
A – Plant them in deep pots, spaced apart appropriately for the variety (if you have room), or one per pot for ideal spacing, in good quality soil. Water them and place them in a very cool, protected location such as an unheated basement or a cold frame. Check about once a month to make sure they are not drying out too much. By spring, they will be growing actively, so give them good light as soon as possible. Then, whether they have flowered yet or not, plant them outside in their final locations as soon as the soil is workable, and fertilize them. If planting them in the ground at the right depths will bury the leaves too much, plant the bulbs at the correct depth anyway, but don’t back-fill the hole completely until later. Then the leaves will have had a chance to develop and send good nutrients back into the bulb for next year. Fertilize while the leaves are still healthy and green.

Q – What bulbs can I plant indoors to enjoy through the holidays?         A – We recommend paperwhites and amaryllis bulbs.

Fertilizing: Don’t fertilize outdoor plants now, except for fall bulbs if you are still planting them. We recommend using “Bulb Booster”.

Flowering Holiday plants: See our information sheets.

Foliage Plants:

Q – How should I care for my houseplants during the winter?
A – Reduce water, and do not fertilize, sparingly till late winter. Apply fertilizer at low rates for African violets and orchids to promote flowers.

Holiday Decorating:

Q – How much garland is needed for a standard door or around a lamp post?
A – 20’ around most doors, 10’ around a standard home lamp post.

Q – How many lights do I need to decorate a tree?
A – See list at the end of the November section. Also check the back of the lights package.

Q – How many bunches of boxwood does it take to make a full-size boxwood tree (on one block of oasis)?
A – Approximately 3 or a little more, depending on the maker’s style. See our handout on making a boxwood tree.

Q -How many bunches of fir does it take to make a one-sided 12” wreath?
A – Approximately three. See our handout on wreath-making.

Q – How do I keep my Christmas tree fresh?
A – Make a fresh cut on the bottom of the trunk immediately before placing it in the tree stand filled with water. This means to cut off a whole cross-section of trunk to open up the tree’s vascular system, so it can draw water up into the needles. Also, use a product such as Prolong added to the water to keep it fresh. If you are able to spray the tree with Wilt-stop, that will help (spray outdoors under natural light for best results, but the temperature needs to be above 40 degress to use this product).

Q – How long can I keep a live Christmas tree inside my home? What else do I need to know about it?
A – Only a very short time. See our handout.

Q – When will you be getting in a fresh supply of greens (holly, fir, boxwood, or whatever?)
A – Ask the manager of the “greens” department. In general, we receive wreaths and boxwood by mid-November, evergreen boughs Nov. 1, holly after Thanksgiving, mistletoe by Dec. 1. Outdoor arrangements are ready the week before Veterans’ Day.

Q – How do I get my Poinsettia to re-flower?
A – See our handout on that topic. The process needs to be started in September, by October 1. Controlling exposure to light and dark conditions is critical. General cultural requirements include proper fertilizing and watering.

Q – How do I get my Christmas cactus to re-flower?
A – See our handout on that topic. Bud formation is triggered by day length and occurs in fall if the plant is exposed to only natural daylight and no extra artificial light during that period. One way is to leave the plant outside until frost (do not allow plant to get frost damage). General cultural requirements include proper fertilizing and watering according to seasonal needs.

Perennials & Roses:

Q – When and how should I mulch my flower beds?
A – Mulch after the ground is frozen, or at least after it is freezing somewhat solidly each night, and before a significant snowfall. Mulching is usually appropriate anytime in November (unless the weather is unusually warm) until Thanksgiving, if the ground is not covered with snow. If you do not mulch before snowfall, don’t lay mulch on top of the snow, as it will cause an ice layer to develop that will be damaging to the plants. Do not mulch with plastic or any material that will heat up in the sun or will prevent air from flowing through the material. Hay and straw are good if they are free from weed seeds, but sometimes it blows away. Pine needles are good if available but sometimes carry a dormant slug population. Evergreen boughs are ideal, because they allow air passage, provide insulate, are easy to remove in spring, and do not harbor many pests. Another reason to wait until late in the fall is to allow rodents to find other nesting homes for the winter first, so they will be less likely to select your nicely mulched areas.

Q – How should I protect my roses over winter?
A – See “Winter Protection of Roses” hand-out in this section.


Q – There are small tunnels running across the top of my lawn. What causes them?
A – Moles cause these tunnels. They, and other digging rodents, will eat bulbs and roots during the winter, especially in years when their population is high. Use traps or poison. Barriers of woven wire or hardware cloth sunk below the surface of the soil around prize bulbs may stop moles, but you would have to cover a wide surface area. Another method is to plant the bulbs in wire cages with mesh large enough to allow sprouts to come through in spring.

Planting: See Bulbs. Otherwise, don’t plant.

Pruning: See Sept.

Trees & Shrubs:

Q – When do I apply Wilt-stop to my evergreens?
A – Late November, and again in mid-January. Temperatures should be above 40 degrees.

Q – How do I protect my evergreen shrubs from other types of damage?
A – Tighten guy wires on newly planted trees to stabilize them through harsh winds. They still need light, so a teepee arrangement or a lathe barrier is better than burlap wrap. Never wrap with plastic. Use Deer-Off to protect from deer damage, according to package directions, and reapply every couple of weeks.

Q – Can I still plant trees & shrubs?
A – It’s getting late, and therefore risky. Especially avoid planting any types of evergreens. If you do plant, apply mulch to the ground after it freezes.

Timely Tips:
• Clean up and remove all diseased or insect-infested material, especially around roses, apples, and other plants prone to pests & disease. Remove asparagus at ground level. Don’t compost and of this material, but put it in the trash. Disease-free and insect-free plant material may be composted.
• Spray evergreens with Wilt-stop on a day when temperatures are above 40. Spray deer-susceptible plants with Deer-Off.
• Cut back perennials (not roses).                                                                              • Mow leaves and add them to your compost pile.                                          • Purchase bird-feeding supplies and indoor bulbs (amaryllis and paperwhites).                                                                                                                          • Finish planting fall bulbs.