Vegetables, Herbs, and Flowers to Plant in January

Gardener working with plants in a rooftop garden
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January isn't thought of as a prime gardening month in many areas, but gardeners in frost-free locales know that it's the perfect time for cool-season vegetables and flowers. Even in frost-free areas, January can still be a complicated month for gardeners. It might be warm enough to direct sow much of your garden, but with sometimes unpredictable winter weather, it is always a gamble. You would be wise to keep your row covers handy, just in case.

If you garden in a climate with long, frozen winters, your only problem will be summoning the patience to resist starting your seeds too early. Shop for your seeds and get your supplies in order. Your planting season is not far away.

Sudden storms and an unpredictable season make it difficult to know just when to start your vegetable and flower seeds in spring. Below are some guidelines based on USDA hardiness zones and the last expected frost date. Remember, however, that hardiness zones are just a measure of the highest and lowest average temperatures. Weather and growing conditions can vary widely within zones. As always, sure to use your common sense and gardener instinct.

  • 01 of 05

    USDA Hardiness Zones 1–5

    Microgreens in Pots
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    If you're in Zones 1 through 5, content yourself with growing something fresh indoors in January. Microgreen seeds are readily available in January. You can plant a mix or grow some of your outdoor favorites, such as arugula, beet greens, mizuna, and pea shoots.

    Growing sprouts is another option. They germinate in days and are packed with nutrients. Mix things up a bit and try radish, peas and even sunflowers.

  • 02 of 05

    USDA Hardiness Zone 6

    Planting seeds in 10-cell seedling germination trays
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    Zone 6 gardeners have more options in January than their Zones 1–5 counterparts.

    Indoor Vegetables and Herbs:

    Now is the time to start seed indoors for notoriously slow-to-grow celery, parsley, onions, and leeks. Celery and parsley seeds need several weeks just to germinate. Onions take several months to grow large enough to transplant outdoors, but it's worth it because seedlings have a higher success rate in the garden than bulbs do. You can also have your choice of onion varieties if you start from seed–large yellow bulbs, red torpedos, and even doughnut-shaped cipollini.        

    Indoor Flowers:

    Start early spring bloomers such as begonia, browallia, delphinium, dusty miller, pansies, and snapdragons, indoors under lights.

    Outdoor Flowers: 

    You still have time to plant daffodil and tulip bulbs you didn't plant last fall. If the bulbs have remained firm and plump and have had a sufficient chilling period, you could get flowers this year, but the bulbs will bloom later than usual. Bulbs planted in January might have smaller blooms. If the ground is frozen, plant the bulbs in containers.

  • 03 of 05

    USDA Hardiness Zone 7

    Mix of indoor vegetable and herb seedlings in starter tray
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    January weather in zone 7 is some of the trickiest to predict but offers a great possibility. 

    Indoor Vegetables and Herbs:

    If you haven't started your celery, parsley, leeks, and onions, get them started indoors. Toward the end of the month, you can also start broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and lettuce indoors. Transplant the seedlings outdoors when the weather warms.

    Indoor Flowers:

    Seeds of geranium and coleus can be started at the end of the month. The seedlings need several months to grow large enough to plant outdoors.

    Outdoor Flowers:

    Take advantage of the unpredictable January weather and direct sow flower seeds that germinate better with the stratification of freezing and thawing, like larkspur, poppies, and love-in-a-mist.

  • 04 of 05

    USDA Hardiness Zone 8

    Planting strawberry plants in soil
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    Zone 8 gardeners have some great options, too.

    Indoor Vegetables and Herbs:

    If you haven't started your celery, parsley, leeks, and onions, get them seeded early in the month. Peppers can also be sown indoors because they will need extra time to grow to transplant size. 

    Cool season cole crops, such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and other cooking greens, as well as lettuce, grow quickly and can be started indoors mid-January to be ready to transplant into the garden in about eight to ten weeks, just in time for early spring weather.

    Outdoor Vegetables and Herbs:

    If the soil is able to be worked, bare-root asparagus and strawberry plants can be planted as they become available in nurseries. January is also a good time to plant fruit trees.

    If you are having a mild winter, you can transplant seedlings of onions, broccoli, cabbage, chard, and kale. Harden them off first, and keep the row covers handy. If the ground is not still saturated from winter, you can also direct sow root vegetables and hardy greens, such as beets, bok choy, carrots, radishes, and even peas.

    Outdoor Flowers:

    It's time to direct sow early annual flowers, such as calendula, impatiens, larkspur, pansies, poppies, and love-in-a-mist.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    USDA Hardiness Zones 9–10

    Harvesting Lettuce
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    The cool growing season is in full swing in January for Zones 9 and 10.

    Indoor Vegetables and Herbs:

    Start seeds of eggplant, kale, lettuce, melon, peppers, squash, tomatoes, and basil so that transplants will be ready to harden off as the weather heats up.

    Outdoor Vegetables and Herbs:

    Transplant seedlings of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, and Asian greens. It's also safe to direct sow several vegetables in your garden, including arugula, cabbage, carrots, kale, lettuce, onions, peas, radishes, spinach, and turnips. Be sure to succession sow, to keep the harvest coming.
    Cool-season herbs such as chives, cilantro, and parsley should be sown now, as well.

    Cold-hardy fruit trees, such as peaches and nectarines, can be planted now, but hold off planting tender fruits such as citrus, until the weather is predictably warm.

    Indoor Flowers:

    If you want to get a head start, start seed indoors of cosmos, marigolds, sunflowers, and zinnia

    Outdoor Flowers:

    Only pansies and violas are hardy enough to survive a surprise hard freeze, but dianthus, nasturtiums, petunias, primroses, snapdragons, and sweet peas can handle brief cold spells. Most delphinium, foxgloves, and hollyhocks will require some exposure to cold weather to flower well, so get them out early, too.