Garden to-do list: Protect from frost, add more color

December offers opportunities and challenges for Sacramento gardeners. Plant for holiday and spring color – while protecting what you may already have.

•  Is a frosty night in the forecast? Mulch, water and cover to protect tender plants. Succulent plants are at particular risk if temperatures drop below freezing. Mulch helps insulate roots. Irrigate before the sun goes down; that extra moisture keeps the ground warmer and hydrates the plant. Cloth is more effective than plastic sheeting for overnight protection. Make sure to remove coverings during the day.

•  Brighten the holidays with potted poinsettias and amaryllis. Indoors, poinsettias will last longer if placed in a warm, sunny location away from heating vents or drafts. Poke holes in the foil wrapper for drainage and place the potted plant on a plate or saucer.

• Outdoors, add color to the garden with calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

• Time to get the tulips out of the fridge and into the ground. Also plant such spring-flowering bulbs as daffodils, callas and Dutch iris.

• Bare-root season has begun. Besides fruit trees and rose bushes, plant dormant cane berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb.

• Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

• After storms, dump standing water that may have collected in saucers under potted plants to avoid root rot.

– Debbie Arrington