Winter Gardening on the Mississippi Gulf Coast

The good thing about living in South Mississippi when it comes to gardening is that we can still get outside in the winter months and maintain our landscape. 

  So, what can we do to spruce up our gardens during winter?  If you do have plants outside that need to be protected from a few days of harsh cold, have a spot indoors for them. You may need a roller board or rolling container to bring plants out of the cold. Some avid gardeners spend the winter moving plants in and out as we do have some great sunny days during our winters. 

  Mulch or pine straw will protect your plants during the winter. If there is a frost warning, water your plants well.  Or, water as the plants begin thawing. With a little planning, we can have blooming flowers for winter time. I have listed a few that you might want to consider. 

  Pansies bloom throughout the winter. Their flower production will increase after hard freezes end in the spring. They are easy to grow and come in many different colors for your landscape. Plant them around some bulbs, like daffodils, so the pansies will encircle the bulbs when the bulbs start to bloom in the spring. It’s time to plant pansies in the fall season (sometimes our winter season) when soil temperatures are between 45 degrees F and 70 degrees F. 

  Sweet Alyssum flower through autumn, survive our winters, and bloom in the spring. They range from white to purple. They also like to stay moist. 

  Petunias, if planted in the fall, may withstand freezing temperatures and grow back from the stems and flower during early spring in Mississippi. Easy wave silver is one variety that is hardy; these are easy to grow and come in a variety of colors for your garden. 

  Paperwhite bulbs make great gifts during the holidays. Paperwhites have a beautiful white bloom that smells very good making it very popular. Paperwhites are a type of daffodil. Some consider daffodils good luck if they bloom in your home during the coming New Year. 

  To grow paperwhites, start at the beginning of December. Choose a container and plant the bulbs in soil or lay the bulbs on top of pretty stones that are in water (the bulbs will absorb the water through the stones).  They will bloom in 4-6 weeks. Watching the bulbs grow daily is certainly entertainment for kids and adults alike. Then you can gift the final flowers to friends for Christmas or gift them for a New Year’s Party hostess gift.  

  Don’t forget to dress up your front porch or patio with beautiful potted evergreens and poinsettias. You can always cover the pots creatively instead of planting them. 

  It certainly wouldn’t be Christmas without some beautiful poinsettias in and around your home. “The poinsettia is the traditional flower associated with Christmas and the top-selling flowering potted plant in the United States” (MSU Extension). The poinsettia leaves are actually called bracts. The yellow bead-like structures in the center of the poinsettia are the flowers. Poinsettias range from the traditional red to pink to white. There are even peach and bi-color poinsettias. They may last several months indoors if temperatures are kept above 50 degrees.

  Poinsettias like indirect light and moist soil. Be sure to drain properly. Set them away from drafts, vents, and heaters. These make a beautiful addition to your home over the holidays! Happy Gardening!

  Gaye Winter, Ph.D., teaches English at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and is a member of Biloxi Garden Club. Reach her at gaye.winter@mgccc.edu.

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