How Houstonians Garden During Winter

If there was ever a good place to stay and wait out the winter months, it would be Houston. Though many people like to head down to Florida when it gets chilly, Houston offers a similar warm climate, but fewer beaches. If you’re not one to sit in the sand and watch the waves, Houston can be a great alternative to Florida.

Of course, to those of us who live here year round, Houston offers more opportunities for gardeners and those who love getting a little bit of dirt under their fingernails. Because we have a warmer climate, flowers tend to have a longer blooming season, and there are more flowers that will continue to grow and bloom in wintertime. Not only that, but there are plenty of vegetables that can be planted in wintertime and will be ready to eat next year.

For gardeners in Houston, the growing season never has to end, but not every flower can withstand the chilly temperatures. Not every vegetable can be grown during winter either. To get a sense of which flowers will grow well in winter and which vegetables should be planted in late autumn, here’s our complete guide to winter flowers and plants to grow in Houston.

Winter flowers in Houston

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean your garden has to look dull and bare. There are plenty of flowers that will stand up to the cold and keep your garden looking nice — even if it decides to snow this year.

Here are our favorite winter flowers in Houston:

Begonias

Begonias are a favorite in Houston because they bloom all year round, and they only need to be planted once. Even if you’ve seen them in one color, you should know they they come in a wide variety of not only flower colors but leaf colors as well. 

Moss roses

There’s nothing more beautiful than seeing a bright red rose blooming, even if it’s surrounded by snow. Roses can be one of the hardiest plants in your garden.They’re able to tolerate many different conditions, but they will need to be covered by a sheet or fleece if there’s a threat of frost in the forecast.

Moss roses continue to bloom all year long. They do very well in bright sunshine, and they can also withstand drier winters. Their flowers have a ruffled look to them, and they grow low to the ground. If you’re looking at add a bright pop of color to a rock garden or flower bed, these flowers will brighten and delight. 

Lantana

If you want a flower that is ready to stand up to a harsh winter climate, look no further than the lantana. This flower from the verbena family doesn’t care how cold it gets in Houston or whether or not it snows. It’s able to stand up to some harsh winter weather, and it’s a great plant to have in your garden.

Come sunshine or snow, lantanas bloom bright and pretty. You’ll find yellow and orange lantanas are common in Houston, but greenhouses may have other colors are well. Once planted in the ground, lantanas start attracting butterflies as well as bees and hummingbirds, so if you love your garden to be full of life and activity, these plants bring in plenty of pollinators. While you should cover your lantanas in winter, you can leave them unprotected without too much worry.

Lantanas grow large, so you will need to trim them in the spring and fall months. Luckily, these plants bounce back without too much issue, so you can trim your flowers without worrying about losing the bloom.

Impatients

If you have towering trees in your yard, you may struggle to get flowers to grow. Many of the big blooming bushes require a lot of sunlight, and since you don’t want to cut down a beautiful, shade-providing tree, it’s better to work with the shade than again it.

That’s where impatiens come in. These simple, unassuming flowers love the shade, so if you struggle to grow anything around your home because the trees block a lot of the sunlight, then you will love impatients. These small, flowering plants come in many different colors, so you can choose the best ones that work with your home. They don’t require a lot of care, and impatients are known for sprouting and growing rapidly once planted. After a few years, you’ll find that the few impatients you planted have turned into many more. 

Although they can grow in winter, impatients will die if a particularly harsh winter blows through. Those that are growing under a bush or near a home from which they can draw some warmth will be better protected. 

Impatients are also easy to dig up and replant elsewhere. If you have too many in one spot, you can move them around your yard without issue. You can also pot them and give them away as gifts to friends and family members.

How to plant a winter vegetable garden

You may think that the growing season ends with spring for most fruits and vegetables, and for fruits, you’d likely be correct. Most fruits need warm weather to grow. That’s not the case, however, with some vegetables. They can grow and thrive in the winter months and still produce edible vegetables. If you plant these vegetables in late autumn, then you’ll likely be harvesting them in wintertime — long before the spring planting season begins.

The key to growing a winter vegetable garden is that watching for a fierce frost. To combat a hard frost, throw some fleece down on top of your garden to protect it from the harsh temperatures. In Houston, it’s rare to see temperature dip below freezing for very long, but watch the weather reports and be ready to depend your garden if needed.

Hardy vegetables grow best in winter. Here are a few you can plant right now:

Garlic

A favorite seasoning, garlic has more uses than just keeping vampires away. Garlic is a key ingredient of a lot of Italian dishes, and like onions, it lasts a long time once harvested. Garlic works wonders in sauces, pestos and other dishes, so if you find yourself buying a lot of it after the store, it might be more economical to start growing your own.

Onions and garlic are both hardy vegetables that don’t need a lot of attention once planted, and they both have long growing seasons. Your garlic won’t be ready to eat until next summer, but you’ll find a lot of different varieties of garlic to grow, each with its own flavor.

Onions and shallots

Onions can be one of the most versatile vegetables around. Whether you grill them, caramelize them or use them as a topping, onions pack a ton of flavor, and though they may make you cry, they can add great flavor to soups, salads, sandwiches and plenty of other dishes. Onions and shallots also last forever, so if you don’t eat them right away, they will keep for a long time.

If you want to grow onions in your garden, it’s best to start planting them directly into the ground in late autumn. Once planted, you won’t have to do much work. Onions mostly take care of themselves. Be warned though: Onions do have a long growing season, so don’t expect to see them until summertime. Make sure you remember where you planted them so that when you start planting any spring vegetables or fruits, you don’t disturb or ruin your onions.

Peas

Probably your kids’ least favorite vegetable, peas grow well in wintertime because they’re hardy and quick to grow. They work well as a snack, and when combined with carrots and potatoes, they can make a mean vegetable soup. Nothing makes a winter day more enjoyable than a bowl of hot vegetable soup.

Peas can be planted in autumn and harvested about a month before the spring planting season. Doing this gives you a head start above all other growers, and you will still have time to do a w spring plant of peas. Peas also freeze very well, so if you have too much, you can always freeze some and use it later.

Asparagus

Over the last few years, asparagus plants have become a favorite vegetable of top chefs who like to prepare a vegetable that looks a little regal on the plate. If there was a vegetable that’s having a moment right now, it’s asparagus.

Good things come to those who wait for them — and asparagus is proof of that. This winter plant takes almost a full two years to properly establish, which means if you plant your asparagus right now, you won’t get to enjoy it until 2021. But once you do get your asparagus crop growing, you will have a hardy plant that produces stalks for decades to come. It’s an investment worth the wait.

Tips for gardening in winter

Just because the weather cools down doesn’t mean it’s time to turn in your garden shears. We know that you love gardening, and thanks to Houston’s warm climate, you don’t have to give up your green thumb in wintertime. 

Here are our best tips for gardening in winter:

Take down trees

No gardener ever wants to see a tree come crashing down, but when a tree dies, it’s best to cut it down and make room for new things to grow. In the winter, it’s easier to see around the tree with fewer leaves in the way, and you can start planting something new in the spring time once the tree has been removed.

Taking down a tree is no easy task, and you should call in an expert to help you cut it down. You don’t want the tree to fall on your home or your neighbor’s home, so use extreme caution when taking down a tree.

Prepare for spring gardens

If you’re like most gardeners, then you’re already planning what you want to plant in the spring time and how you’re going to move your plants around. For those than want to create a new flower bed on one side of your garden, you can start laying the foundation down in winter so that when you’re ready to plant in the spring, your plants will have healthy soil ready to help them grow.

First carve out where you want your flower bed to be and put a layer of newspaper or cardboard over it. If you’re using newspaper, layer it so you have plenty there. Then start piling organic matter on top of the newspaper or cardboard. You can use plant clippings, compost, needles from pine trees, leaves and straw. Over the winter, the organic materials will break down, returning their nutrients to the soil.

When it’s time to start planting in the spring, you’ll find the soil is perfect for new plants trying to thrive.

Bring plants indoors

Some plants that bloom all year round do need to be brought indoors. The ones mentioned earlier can stay outside, but potted plants that live on your patio need to be brought indoors. You will need to check them carefully for pests, but once you find a good spot with indirect sunlight, these plants will continue to grow and thrive while waiting for spring to arrive again.

Lay down mulch but avoid fertilizers

In the wintertime, mulch acts to trap heat, allowing it to keep the roots of your plants warm. On more mild winter days, it’s a quick task to go out and lay a little extra mulch on the ground to protect your plants for a particularly harsh frost.

You should, however, skip fertilization during the winter when plants are trying to wind down and go dormant. The last thing they want is nutrients telling them to grow. Fertilizer will disrupt the lifecycle of your plants, so let them go dormant and lay down fertilizer — or better yet compost — in the spring.

Your green thumb need not take time off in Houston. There’s a lot of planting that can be done in the chilly months. Tell us: What are your favorite winter gardening activities? Share with us in the comments.

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