What to Plant in January: A Simple Guide to Winter Flowers and Plants

frozen leaf
Contrary to what some people think, there is a lot of planting you can do in January as well. Today we are going to look at what to plant in January depending on the area you live in. We are going to split the plants you can start in the first month of the year by the well-known USDA hardiness zones. First, we will look at the characteristics of each zone, which is useful in case you live on a different continent. Then, we are going to see what plants are characteristic to each of the zones and when.

USDA Hardiness Zones – Brief Guide

To start with a brief history, you need to know that back in 2012 the United States Department of Agriculture decided to set the standard for all the gardeners and growers. Based on this, you can find out which plants are most likely to thrive in a certain area. Here you have a table showing you the average minimum temperature corresponding to each area:
Zone Number Average Minimum Winter Temperature
1 Less than -50° F
2a -50 to -45° F
2b -45 to -40° F
3a -40 to -35° F
3b -35 to -30° F
4a -30 to -25° F
4b -25 to -20° F
5a -20 to -15° F
5b -15 to -10° F
6a -10 to -5° F
6b -5 to 0° F
7a 0 to 5° F
7b 5 to 10° F
8a 10 to 15° F
8b 15 to 20° F
9a 20 to 25° F
9b 25 to 30° F
10a 30 to 35° F
10b 35 to 40° F
11 Above 40° F
what to plant in January USDA hardiness zones map
USDA hardiness zones map. Image courtesy of statebystategardening.com

Is It Too Late to Start Preparing for Spring if I Didn’t Do Anything in January?

Is It Too Late to Start Preparing for Spring if I Didn’t Do Anything in January? Well, fear not! It’s never too late to dive into gardening. Starting in February? No problem! Here are some fantastic february gardening tips to get you on track for a successful spring. Embrace this month as a fresh start and begin planning, pruning, and prepping your garden beds.

What to Plant in January Depending on the USDA Hardiness Zone You Live in

1. Zones 1 – 5

In this area, it is a good idea to start growing something indoors in January. You can find plenty of seeds of microgreens, which are readily available during this month. Moreover, you can plant a mix of them or simply go for some of your favorites, if you happen to have some. Here you have a couple of suggestions:
  • Beet greens;
  • Arugula;
  • Mizuna;
  • Pea shoots, etc.
Alternatively, you can also start growing sprouts. The best thing about them is that they germinate in days and are full of nutrients. If you’re up for a creative challenge, you can go for peas, radish, and even sunflowers.
what to plant in January arugula seedlings
Arugula seedlings

2. Zone 6

Luckily, those who practice gardening in zone 6 have more options than those who live in zones 1 to 5. January is the perfect moment to start seeds indoors for the plants that grow slower, such as parsley, onions, and leeks. For example, the parsley and celery seeds will need several weeks only for germination. Meanwhile, onions will require a couple of months to grow big enough to be transplanted outdoors. However, it’s good to start it right now, because the seedlings will have a higher success rate in the garden, compared to bulbs. If you don’t know what to plant in January, it’s a good idea to have a look at flowers as well. If you’re aiming to grow them indoors, here you have some suggestions:
  • Browallia;
  • Begonia;
  • Dusty miller;
  • Pansies;
  • Snapdragons, etc.
These are early spring bloomers which you can start indoors. Remember to use special lights for them. Meanwhile, if you’re planning on starting flowers outdoors, you can head to daffodils and tulip bulbs. If the bulbs are firm and you take care of them, you’ll have some beautiful flowers this year.
what to plant in January white daffodil bunch
White Daffodils.

3. Zone 7

Planting in January in Zone 7 can be quite tricky since the weather here is hard to predict. However, it offers some great possibilities as well. The same options for celery, leeks, parsley, and onions go for starting indoors. At the end of the month, you can start some lettuce, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, etc. In this way, you can transplant them outdoors when the weather gets warm. Regarding flowers and what to plant in January from this field, you can choose coleus or geranium. Plant them at the end of the month as well, to allow them several months to grow mature enough to survive a transplant. Outdoors, you can take advantage of the stratification of freezing and thawing. Some flowers germinate better under these circumstances, such as Nigella, larkspur, or poppies.
what to plant in January red poppy flower
Red poppy flower.

4. Zone 8

The list of what to plant in January in Zone 8 also starts with onions, leeks, celery, and parsley. Now you can also add peppers to sow indoors since they need more time to grow as much as you need to transplant them. Cole crops are great ideas as well (cauliflower, broccoli, kale, cabbage, etc.). If you can work with the soil, it’s a good idea to start planting bare-root asparagus, together with strawberry plants. As they become available in nurseries, you can start planting them. Think of fruit trees as well. Another good idea is to plant root vegetables and hardy greens: peas, carrots, radishes, beets, bok choy, etc. In January you can also sow early annual flowers, such as impatiens, larkspur, poppies, calendula, Nigella or pansies.
what to plant in January bunch of carrots
Carrots planted in January.

5. Zones 9 – 10

Here, the cool growing season is in full bloom, which means you need to be careful with your plants. When it comes to indoor vegetables and herbs, you can add to your list of what to plant in January the following:
  • Eggplant;
  • Lettuce;
  • Kale;
  • Tomatoes;
  • Melon;
  • Peppers;
  • Basil;
  • Squash, etc.
As the weather heats up, the transplants will be just right to harden off. If you’re thinking of planting outdoors, you should think of Asian greens, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, or chard. It’s safe to direct sow various vegetables in the garden, such as cabbage, kale, lettuce, onions, carrots, arugula, radishes, peas, turnips, or spinach. Regarding herbs, you should consider cilantro, chives, and parsley, while for fruit trees, it’s a good idea to start up nectarines and peaches. However, you might want to wait until the warm weather settles in to plant tender fruits like citrus. For flowers, you can only rely on violas and pansies to survive a hard freeze that comes by surprise if you’re currently considering what to plant in January outdoors. However, you can also think of sweet peas, primroses, nasturtiums, dianthus, petunias, or snapdragons. Other species, such as foxgloves, delphinium, or holly locks, also need to be exposed to cold weather. On the other hand, if you want to plant indoors, you should choose from zinnia, cosmos, sunflowers, or marigolds.
what to plant in January sunflower crop
Sunflower crop.

When Should I Start Planting Winter Flowers and Plants in Preparation for Spring?

It’s never too early to start preparing your backyard garden for spring. Depending on your location, you can start planting winter flowers and plants as early as late summer or early fall. This will give them time to establish and bloom once the weather starts to warm up.

What Other Things You Need to Do in January

Besides deciding on what to plant in January, it’s important to know what other things you need to do this month. Here you have a brief list of the chores that need to be taken care of in each zone:

Zones 1 – 5

Check whatever seeds you have left and make a list of what you need to order. Order them early if you want to avoid any substitution. Organize the seeds you have: make sure you get rid of those that are too old. Now is also the time to draw a garden plan if you don’t have one already. Remember to check the state of your gardening equipment, in case you need to buy some new one. Replenish the supplies of organic fertilizers as well.

Zone 6

After you decided on what to plant in January, it’s time to make up a plan of the new structures. Maybe you’re bored of the way your old garden looks, or maybe you want to incorporate some new elements in it. Either way, see where would new arbors or pathways would go. You can still get rid of the old seeds and order some new ones. Keep in mind that you need to rake heavy snow off the shrubs if that’s the case.

Zone 7

If you happen to have mild days now in zone 7, it’s time to remove the winter weeds, such as chickweed or wild onions. Towards the end of the month, weed the bed for the plants you already set up and feed them. If you notice any thinning mulches, make sure you renew it.

Zone 8

Cover the root crops that are still in the ground by using an extra layer of mulch. Check the weather prediction, and if you see cold temperatures coming, make sure you protect the transplants of cabbage, broccoli, onions, and chard with a row cover. Dark compost is often used over the planting rows to warm up the soil. Now is also the time to sow the seeds of annual flowers in the places where you want flowers.

Zone 9 – 10

Check where are standing puddles and note where do you need to improve the drainage of the plants. Finish pruning the vines, fruit trees, and bushes. Now you can take care of other transplants as well, and when the weather warms up you can start harvesting radishes, carrots, or Brussels sprouts – they are sweetened by frost. Here you have a short clip with other tips for January gardeners:


The list of what to plant in January is perhaps longer than you might expect it. There are plenty of plants that can do just fine if you start with them in the first month of the year. However, if you’re planting outdoors, make sure you meet the survival conditions for each plant. Images source: pixabay.com
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