December often brings to mind images of snow-blanketed lawns, holly berries and evergreens. Seldom does even the most avid gardener think about dragging out the rake and hoe in the midst of winter. When the ground is frozen, there are very few options for winter planting. Flowers that are in bloom or in a non-dormant stage will ultimately go into shock if their roots are exposed to the frigid and cold soil. However, if the conditions are right, gardeners can jump-start the season in time for the first blossoms of spring.
•Tulips originated from the mountainous regions of central Asia. They are accustomed to temperate climates, which is why they bloom early in the spring. According to Gardening Know How, an online garden guide, the hard rule of planting bulbs is to get them into the ground before the first frost of the season. In the northern regions of the United States, where climates are generally colder, December is generally late for bulb plantings. However, in warmer climates, it is not unreasonable to plant tulips as part of the holiday season. Tulips, along with other bulbs such as daffodils, can be planted in December but there is some risk of the bulbs rotting from excessive moisture. Plant bulbs in sandy and well-drained soil to prevent rotting or mildewing of the bulbs while they await the spring sunshine.
•Crocuses are one of the earliest flowers to blossom in the spring. They are protected from early spring frost and even snow by a waxy substance that covers the leaves and blossoms. The corms of the crocus can be planted as late as early winter in mild to warm climates. However, if the ground is extremely wet, crocus corms may rot. To ensure that crocuses planted in December survive until spring, mulch the planting site to encourage drainage as well as protect corms from extreme temperatures.
•The majority of begonia plants require shade and moderate temperatures. Begonias in their dormant period can be planted after the last frost. Begonias differ from traditional bulb and tuberous plants in that they will not tolerate a frost. However, for many regions of the United States, late December marks the end of ground-freezing temperatures. In addition to being sensitive to frost, begonias are prone to rotting in extremely wet conditions.
•Calla lilies can be planted alongside tulips and crocuses. The flowers blossom later in the season than their perennial counterparts, but these rhizomes will withstand many different soil conditions. Calla lilies can be planted in the early winter prior to the first frost. In addition, these hardy plants can be grown in pots in a sheltered environment.