What to Plant in January — 5 Ideas That Will Thrive in Your Backyard Despite the Cold

January isn't a busy month for gardeners, but there's still plenty to plant if you want a flourishing outdoor space in time for spring

A winter vegetable garden
(Image credit: Getty Images)

With this cold January spell you'd be forgiven for not wanting to venture outside at all, let alone start tending to your backyard. It might not be your typical month for gardening, but that doesn't mean you should write it off completely. If you want a flourishing outdoor space come spring, a few plants can be grown this month that promise to brighten up your backyard. 

To create a beautiful modern garden, you'll need to brave the cold. While the ground is still too hard and the risk of frost too high for many plants, others prefer these chiller conditions. It's also the perfect time to get started on seeds that can be transferred outdoors in spring, meaning there's plenty more to get started on than first thoughts would have it. 

As Zahid Adnan, founder of The Plant Bible, explains: 'For January planting, considering both transplants and immediate-growing shrubs, trees, flowers, and vegetables is a fantastic approach.' Here are five ideas you can get started on today. 

1. Blueberry bushes 

A blueberry bush in a garden with a bowl of freshly picked berries on a table

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Planting young blueberry shrubs in your backyard now will allow you to enjoy the fruits of your labor further down the line. 'January is excellent for planting blueberry bushes because they are dormant, allowing them to establish roots before spring growth,' says Zahid Adnan from The Plant Bible. 'Choose a sunny location with well-draining soil, and add acidic organic matter to the soil and water thoroughly after planting.' 

Remember that young plants will need to establish themselves before they produce fruit, so you might have to wait until next summer to enjoy the delicious sweet berries, but there's no time like the present to get started. 'during spring, mulch around the base to retain moisture and control weeds,' adds Zahid. 'don't forget to prune dead or damaged branches as needed.'

2. Herbs 

Not all your gardening has to take place outdoors. In fact, some plants will benefit best from being planted indoors first before being transplanted, and one of those is herbs. Starting an indoor herb garden will also offer a constant supply of fresh ways to flavor your cooking.

'January can be a great time to plant herbs like parsley, thyme, basil, cilantro, and chives,' says gardening expert Jeremy Yamaguchi. 'They won’t survive outside yet, but they can thrive indoors as long as they are placed in window sills where they can get plenty of sunlight (or you can use a grow light). By the time warmer weather rolls around, these plants should be pretty established, and you can transplant them outdoors where they can grow even more abundantly.'

3. Tulip bulbs 

tulips in pots

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Tulips are one of the most revered spring blooms, and some of the best bulbs for spring flowers. It's not too late to plant them and they're perfectly suited to container gardening too, which makes it easier than ever to add a bright display of petals to your outdoor space.

'Planting tulip bulbs in January allows for a stunning display come spring,' says Zahid. 'Plant bulbs at a depth of six to eight inches in well-drained soil. Water sparingly until growth appears. Deadhead spent flowers in spring to encourage bulb energy for the following year, and allow foliage to yellow before removing.' 

4. Broccoli 

If you want some fresh and healthy produce, consider planting some vegetables in January. 'People who live in zones 8-10 have a nice big selection of vegetables they can plant in January, thanks to their climate, says professional gardener, Dan Bailey. 'Brocolli is a wonderful choice, and it will be ready to harvest in April or May, saving you some trips to the grocery store if you want to cook with them.'

The good thing about broccoli (besides its many health benefits) is that it's suitable to grow in areas as cold as zone 3, just be sure to start seeds indoors if you're in a really cold climate. 'Broccoli thrives in cool weather, and January planting allows for a timely spring harvest,' adds Tony O'Neill of Simplify Gardening. 'Provide rich, well-drained soil and harvest when the heads are firm and tight, typically around 70-100 days.'

5. Peach trees

Ripe peaches growing on a tree

(Image credit: Getty Images)

You might associate fruit trees with the heat of summer, but now's a good time to plant young trees to allow them time to establish before the growing season. A classic choice for any garden is the peach tree. 'January planting helps peach trees establish strong root systems before warmer weather,' Zahid explains. 'Choose a sunny location with well-drained soil, and remove any damaged roots before planting.' 

He also suggests applying a balanced fertilizer in early spring to encourage growth, but you'll have to be patient - you won't be able to harvest the juicy fruits for several years. 

Ready to brave the cold and grow your own oasis on your little patch of turf? Time to get planting!

Color & Trends Editor

Lilith Hudson is the Color & Trends Editor at Livingetc. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.