What to plant in January: 10 flowers and shrubs to add to your garden this month

Our list of what to plant in January will get you ready for a beautiful display this year – including bare root perennials and top seeds to sow

what to plant in january
(Image credit: M.Arai/Moment/Getty Images)

If you're wondering what to plant in January, we're here to help. Spring may be a while off, but now is the perfect time to plan ahead and prepare for warmer months.

With the festive season coming to a close and a good few weeks of winter weather to go, this month can feel a little gloomy. But nothing lifts the spirits like getting outdoors and sowing a few seeds, or planting a perennial or two to add instant color to the borders. And, if you love the thought of bringing a rose to your flowerbed ideas this year, now is a great time to get them in the ground.

We've rounded up the top choices of what to plant in January, plus plenty of advice on how to grow them successfully.

Prepare your plot for its best year yet with our list of what to plant in January

From structural shrubs to beautiful blooms, this round-up has all kinds of gorgeous picks for planting this month.

1. Hellebores

Helleborus x ballardiae 'Maestro'

Hellebores are a reliable plant for brightening the winter borders – this variety is called 'Maestro', from Sarah Raven (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Jonathan Buckley/Sarah Raven)

Hellebores are 'ideal for adding some winter color to your beds and borders,' says the team at Squire's Garden Centres (opens in new tab). 'Most are evergreen and available in an array of colors that come up each year.'

They're also a good choice if you're looking for wildlife garden ideas to give nature a hand throughout the colder months. Gardening expert Sarah Raven (opens in new tab) says, 'Bumblebees seem to come out of hibernation straight into the embrace of the nectar-rich hellebore flower. 

'Slate-crimson "Maestro" is a favorite,' she adds. It's glamorous in the garden and in containers, but it also makes excellent cut flowers if you choose the more mature stems and sear them for ten seconds in boiling water.

'Hellebores are a mainly woodland plant, so tend to thrive in full or partial shade. Give them a good soak before planting out and mulch with compost or leaf mold,' Sarah says.

You can learn lots more about how to grow hellebores with our guide.

2. Narcissus

Narcissus 'Silver Chimes'

Narcissus 'Silver Chimes' can be planted outdoors after an indoor display

(Image credit: Malcolm Haines/Alamy Stock Photo)

Learning how to force bulbs indoors will enable you to enjoy beautiful blooms over Christmas and New Year. And if you've chosen narcissi as part of your display, you can plant them outdoors afterwards, once the flowers have faded.

'Not Paperwhites, but any hardy varieties like "Silver Chimes" – an incredibly elegant, highly scented narcissus,' says Sarah Raven. 'Remove the spent flower heads to prevent seed production and feed them with a high potash fertilizer to help build up next year's flower buds. 

'Continue feeding regularly until the foliage has died back. Narcissi are hardy perennial bulbs, so with proper planting and care they will come back every year.'

3. Snapdragons

Antirrhinum majus 'Rembrandt'

The colorful 'Rembrandt' snapdragon will pep up any flowerbed

(Image credit: Clare Gainey/Alamy Stock Photo)

'Certain plants, such as antirrhinums (snapdragons), are grown as half-hardy annuals, but strictly speaking, are tender perennials,' says Sarah Raven. They're a well-loved choice when planning cottage garden ideas.

She explains how they have a long growing season and can take up to 20 weeks from seed to flower. If you get going with your seeds now, they should flower from June onwards. 

"'White Giant' is our top-selling favorite, with pure white, statuesque flowers,' Sarah continues. 'They germinate best in moist compost at around 70°F (21°C), so use a propagator or heated mat.'

Keep them in a frost-free cold frame until warmer weather comes around – usually in April–May.

4. Sweet peas

Sweet pea ‘Matucana’ flowers

Sweet pea ‘Matucana’ is a classic variety

(Image credit: Tim Gainey/Alamy Stock Photo)

Nothing says early summer in the garden like the beautiful scent of sweet peas. 'We sow sweet peas under cover just after Christmas,' says Sarah. 'Sown now, they'll give you earlier flowers in greater numbers and a longer season.

'"Matucana" is the bi-color magenta and purple sweet pea classic, against which we measure everything else – particularly scent – in all our sweet pea trials. For intense scent and beauty, you cannot beat it. 

'Sweet peas thrive with a long root run, we recommend sowing them in deep pots or Rootrainers,' Sarah continues. 'Water the compost and then push a pair of seeds in to about an inch below the surface. Cover with newspaper to keep moisture and warmth in and light out. Some heat will speed up germination but is not essential. They'll germinate in about 10 days.'

There is more info on how to grow sweet peas in our dedicated guide.

5. Camellia

pink camellia

Camellia has beautiful flowers

(Image credit: M.Arai/Moment/Getty Images)

Camellias are on Squire's Garden Centres' list for what to plant in January, and for good reason. These evergreen shrubs have beautiful flowers appearing from early spring onwards, and are available in an array of colors, including bright white and bubblegum pink. 

They are 'perfect for pots,' says the team, but they can be planted in the ground too. They like partial shade, an acidic soil type, and a sheltered position. Water newly-planted camellias regularly, ideally with water from a water butt, and deadhead flowers as they fade to keep it looking its best.

6. Cathedral Bells

Cobaea scandens

Cobaea scandens offers plenty of long-lasting blooms

(Image credit: BIOSPHOTO/Alamy Stock Photo)

Now is the best time to sow the seeds of climber plants such as Cobaea scandens (cathedral bells), which need to get to a good size before flowering, says Sarah Raven. 'If you leave cobaea too late, it will be cut down by autumn frosts just as it starts to bloom.' 

It's a 'fantastic, exotic looking plant with buds in green-white, deepening to purple as they age,' she says. Rampant climbers, they will cover garden walls quickly. 

They are 'perfect for following sweet peas, as they flower long and hard from mid-summer to winter. I've picked a bunch of these in December on a sheltered wall in Sussex,' Sarah adds.

7. Royal Lilies

royal lily

A regal addition to the garden

(Image credit: Jonathan Buckley/Sarah Raven)

Royal lily (Lilium regale) is a gorgeous variety with a beautiful scent. If you want to create a show-stopping impact with your borders or container gardening ideas this summer, then they make a top choice.

'Lilies are one of the most exciting bulbs to grow, with a scent, scale, and drama that is hard to beat,' says Sarah Raven. 'They are reliably perennial too, so make sure to bear this in mind when you choose your planting spot. 

'You can plant bulbs in pots or in the border in January during mild spells. I always plant lilies in clumps of three to five. Without these numbers, you get a very dotty effect. They prefer to have their feet in the shade and head in the sun.'

8. Bare root roses

Rosa x odorata 'Mutabilis'

Rosa x odorata 'Mutabilis', available at Sarah Raven (opens in new tab), is a lovely choice

(Image credit: Jonathan Buckley/Sarah Raven)

'January is the best time for planting bare root roses,' says Sarah. 'If the weather is mild and the ground isn't frozen or waterlogged, they can be planted out straight away.'

She suggests the China rose, Rosa x odorata 'Mutabilis' – it's super-healthy and exceptionally long-flowering. 'When planting, soak the root in a bucket of water for an hour or so and, just before planting, scatter Rootgrow – mycorrhizal fungi – generously over the roots which will help to establish the rose more quickly.'

Rosa glauca syn. Rubrifolia is another border favorite of Sarah's. It's grown for its silvery fine foliage and hips, rather than its flowers, she explains. 'The young growth is a coppery-mauve on purple stems, turning to a soft pewter as it matures. Single form flowers have a wild rose appearance, in deep magenta and white, and are followed by deep orange hips that last through winter.'

With so many different types of roses available, it's worth spending some time choosing the best one for your garden. 'Most roses look best planted in groups of three of the same variety,' Sarah adds.

Top tip: 'Allow newly planted roses to settle in for a few months before underplanting with salvias, which release a natural fungicide into the air to help combat blackspot,' says Sarah.

9. Rose milkweed

Rose Milkweed plant

This perennial is excellent for pollinators

(Image credit: Susan Hodgson/Alamy Stock Photo)

Rose milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is an absolute magnet for pollinators, says Sarah Raven. 'The clustered umbels of lilac-rose buds, opening white, will attract butterflies, hoverflies, and bees from all over.' It can be planted now as a bare root perennial.

'The plant is upright with delicate, slender willow-like leaves, thriving in sunny sites with plenty of moisture.' They're a good choice for planting near your garden pond.

Top tip: Like all bare root perennials, this should ideally be started in a pot and then transferred into the ground in spring, Sarah advises.

10. Viburnum

viburnum flowers

Viburnum opulus offers elegant flowers

(Image credit: Jonathan Buckley/Sarah Raven)

Shrubs can be overlooked, but they provide structure to a garden, and many have gorgeous flowers, and even berries, too. Plant viburnum and you'll soon realize it's a valuable addition.

Viburnum opulus 'Roseum', otherwise known as the Snowball Bush, is Sarah Raven's favorite foliage plant for late spring and early summer picking. From early May, it's covered in bright, acid-green flowers and elegant, indented leaves. 'As the flowers mature, they move through creamy-green into pure white.'

She advises digging a hole deep and wide enough to cover the root ball. Then, sprinkle mycorrhizal fungi into the planting hole and around the root ball before positioning the plant in the hole. 'Backfill with topsoil and firm down gently around the plant. Water generously and mulch with compost or well-rotted manure to help retain moisture.

'When you pick a branch or a few, sear the stem end in boiling water for 20 seconds to make the flowers last well in a vase,' Sarah adds.

The team at Squire's Garden Centres also recommends Viburnum tinus – a 'great choice for early color', with its glossy evergreen leaves and creamy white flowers throughout spring. You can find more of our top picks for types of viburnum in our dedicated feature.

Is it too late to plant bulbs in January?

Ideally, planting bulbs for spring should be done in autumn. But if you forgot, or simply ran out of time, there's no need to despair. You can still have success with January plantings.

As long as the ground isn't frozen hard, you can plant them – but do it as soon as you can. According to expert gardener Monty Don in an article in The Guardian (opens in new tab), tulips are very comfortable being planted this late. However, narcissi and crocus will generally perform better in their second season if planted later than November.

Of course, there are summer bulbs to think of as well, but wait a little longer before planting these. They should go in when the weather is warmer and the risk of frost has passed.

colorful tulips in pots

You can still plant your tulips in January to enjoy their striking color this spring

(Image credit: iBulb)
Holly Crossley
Senior Content Editor

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion.