With the new year officially started, gardening may be at the bottom of the list of things to do. However, there is minimal maintenance required. We have a handy guide to southern California gardening in winter.

How To Protect Plants from Cold Weather

Although southern California may be thought of as in perpetual summer, there are places where frost and snow can occur. Frost can be found near coastal regions as well as inland counties. Winter nighttime temperatures have the potential to drop low enough for frost to form. Here are some ways to protect your plants:

  • Move Your Plants. If you are able to move your plants, this is an effective way to keep them from frost. Place them under the house eaves or in a sheltered spot, such as a greenhouse if you have one.
  • Cover Your Plants. An alternative to moving your plants is to cover them up. Place burlap totes over a floating row cover to keep them warm. This will offer protection from birds and pests as well.
    • Make a Simple Row Cover: you can easily make a row cover by using flexible PVC pipe to create arches over your garden. Then place burlap, a sheet or a blanket over the top. If using a blanket, be sure to uncover during the day to allow sunlight.
  • Don’t Prune in Frost. It is important to not prune any branches or dead flowers that were damaged by the frost. They will protect the plants’ healthy interior from further harm.

Pruning Effectively in Winter

Although we don’t recommend pruning after frost damage, pruning during warmer days in preparation will help your plants endure the winter.

  • Trim off any dead, brown branches under healthy growth from perennials and shrubs.
  • Stimulate wisteria growth by pruning the long, thin branches that grew this season. Keep a few buds at the bases of each branch.
  • For deciduous fruit trees, once they go dormant (leaves have fallen off) it is important to dormant spray them prior to pruning. Dormant Oil should be sprayed on a clear day when there is little or no breeze. The ideal temperature for application is between 40 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit; but ideally temperatures should remain over 50 degrees.
  • Be sure to prune your deciduous trees such as the pine and oak tree. In case of storms, cut down cracked or weak limbs and open canopies to allow winds to pass through easily.

What to Plant?

There are plenty of vegetable and flowers you can plant in winter. Here is a quick overview, however it may differ depending on your zone.


  • Artichokes, beets, blueberries, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chives, cilantro, garlic, kale, lettuce, onion, parley, radish, spinach and more!


  • African daisy, Alyssum, Baby’s Breath, Blazing Star, California Desert Bluebells and Poppy, Carnation, Candytuft, Foxglove, Queen Anne’s Lace, Roses, Snapdragon, Sweet Pea, Viola and more!