December Yard and Garden Tips

What to do in Your Tucson Yard in December

December in Tucson varies greatly, weather-wise, year to year. Some years you may be sweating in near-ninety temps on Christmas Day, other years you might spot snow mixed in with the winter rains.

TYGR brittlebrush snow

Snow isn’t typical for Tucson in December, but it’s a good idea to cover your frost-sensitive plants when temperatures drop close to freezing

Get Those Projects Started!

No matter the weather, December is a great month to get some major projects done in your yard and garden. Even if the daytime hours are warmer, they’re still cooler than in July, so take advantage of that and use this month to move large rocks, set up a new above-ground planter, check or redo your irrigation system, install a fountain, build a greenhouse – any new project that you’ve wanted to do in your yard, now is the time to do it.

Stop Watering

We also tend to get some winter rains during the month of December, so if you have an irrigation system, turn it off or use the rain delay to prevent overwatering.

TYGR santa hat cactus

Festive hats can double as frost protection for some kinds of cactus

Protect Cold-Sensitive Plants

As was true the last few months, be sure to cover any frost-sensitive plants if the weather gets down to freezing or below. Plants in containers are especially susceptible to freezing, so cover them well or bring them inside if possible (a plant caddy can help with this).

If some of your plants or bushes do get some frost damage, avoid pruning away the frost-damaged areas until spring.

TYGR lemon tree

Citrus harvesting generally begins this month


December is also a month of harvest in the Tucson area.

Citrus tree fruits begin to ripen – depending on the variety, lemons, limes, and oranges should be ready this month. If they come off with a gentle tug, they’re ripe.

And cool-season vegetables planted in September should be ready for harvesting too. If you’ve been sowing or planting every couple of weeks, you’ll have plenty left for next month as well.

Keep Planting

If you don’t currently have any fruit trees, December is a good month to plant them. If you do, note that deciduous fruit trees will lose their leaves for the winter – that’s perfectly normal.

You can also continue planting shrubs and perennials. Although some people prefer to only plant cold-tolerant annuals this month (pansies are a great choice), it’s perfectly ok to plant nearly any other type of plant in December, including wildflowers.

Palms and cactus are the exceptions, especially if we’ve had more than the usual amount of rain.

Just realize that any plants that are frost-tender (even those that can take temperatures below freezing) will be more prone to frost damage when just planted. Be sure to provide frost protection until they’re established.

You won’t need to water December-planted trees, shrubs, and perennials as much as you would in spring or fall. Keep an eye on your irrigation to make sure you don’t over-water.

And don’t forget to visit some of our fantastic Tucson garden centers and nurseries! Many carry plants that bloom in winter; if you visit now, you can find some wonderful plants to add to your yard to brighten them up in winter. Plus, not all plants are available all year round so you’re bound to see some that you wouldn’t find in spring or fall.

Don’t Prune

Avoid pruning this month; you don’t want to force new growth that may be zapped by freezing temperatures.

TYGR pepper seed starting

You can plant tomato and pepper seeds indoors this month

Start Sowing Seeds Indoors

Looking ahead, you can begin to start tomato and pepper seeds indoors toward the end of the month. Keep in mind that they will be ready for transplanting in late February or early March, so be prepared to protect them if temperatures drop.

Plan Ahead

You can also start planning out where everything will go in your garden next year, order or buy seeds, and check that your gardening tools are clean, oiled, and sharp.

Sarah Bohl

Sarah loves exploring all that Tucson has to offer. She enjoys hiking on Mount Lemmon, trying out the new restaurants, meeting new friends at Tucson Meet Yourself, and finding new things to appreciate about the Old Pueblo.


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