Growing Wisdom

November garden and houseplant care

November is not a month one typically thinks of for gardening, but there is still plenty to do in the yard. Leaf clean-up is one of the most important chores to undertake during this month. I get asked the question about whether to let the leaves remain on the garden all winter or clean them up. The answer depends on what’s growing there and what type of leaves.

lawn in fall.jpg

Not All Leaves Are The Same
Maple leaves can get matted down and rot perennials with tender crowns. I’ve had bee balm also be killed by too many wet leaves on it all winter. The roots of these plants are close the surface and can be impacted by the constant moisture.


If you want to wait until spring to clear the leaf matter, it’s fine on gardens where the perennials and bulbs are fully under the surface. The leaves will actually protect the plants somewhat as the frost won’ be able to penetrate as deeply.

In the spring, be sure to remove the leaves early to let the sunshine start warming the soil and also allow the spring rain to penetrate deeply.

Still Time To Plant
November is still a planting month. You can move perennials up until thanksgiving as they have likely gone dormant. I wouldn’t move any evergreens this month. If you get a plant at a nursery and want to winter it over, just plant it in the pot and mulch it heavily. In the spring, remove the pot from the root ball and replant.


Bulbs can be placed in the ground as long as the ground isn’t frozen. I’ve planted bulbs as late as Christmas without any issues. If the soil is dry, be sure to water the bulbs to help get them established. One good soaking should be all you need this time of year.

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Put Your Plants On A Diet

Resist the temptation to feed your lawn in November or later. The food won’t be used up by the turf and you allow your lawn to be very susceptible to winter molds. This can damage the grass and can add several week of recovery time in the spring. If you haven’t fertilized your lawn by late September, I recommend waiting until early spring.


Inside the house November is the time to stop feeding your plants and also lighten up on the water. Most plants need much less moisture in the winter than in the summer months. Resume a more regular watering schedule as the plants begin to grow again late in the winter.

If indoor houseplants are dropping leaves, don’t panic. This is typical behavior for plants that were outside all summer and then need to readjust to the indoor conditions.

Feed The Birds
November is a good time to resume feeding the birds if you took the summer off. A good mix of sunflower seed and other nutritious food will keep the birds happy all winter. Milo is one ingredient you should avoid. It’s cheap and most birds won’t eat it.


If you need to prune evergreens I would wait until the weather has turned colder in December. You can then use the greens to decorate for Christmas or as a mulch cover for tender perennials.

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