What To Plant In January: Getting A Head Start In Cold Climates

Regardless of your climate zone, if you experience winter, this guide will help you get a head start on your gardening. In this article, I’m focusing on seeds you can start in January indoors. Don’t worry too much about last frost dates; with a few tricks like low tunnels, greenhouses, or even a simple milk jug greenhouse, you can effectively modify your micro-environment for transplant.

What To Plant In January: Getting A Head Start In Cold Climates

Artichokes: A Versatile Choice

Green Globes and Cardon

Start with artichokes, which are not only edible but also make for decorative pieces. The ‘Green Globe’ variety boasts large edible bulbs and can reach up to six feet in height. They’re perennials in zones 8 and above. On the other hand, the ‘Cardon’ (not an actual artichoke) is more decorative, growing about four feet tall with numerous flowers.

Imperial Star

The ‘Imperial Star‘ variety, with a shorter 85-day growing period, is ideal for later starting, around March. Suitable for container gardening, this variety balances between decorative and edible, making it a versatile choice for any garden.

Artichoke Varieties Comparison Table:

VarietyHeightEdibleDecorativeGrowth Period
Green Globe6 feetYesYesLong Season
Cardon (cousin of Artichoke)4 feetLimitedYesModerate Season
Imperial StarMediumYesYesShort Season (85 days)

Onions: Timing is Key

One of my favorites to start early is Onions. They prefer cold soil for transplanting to avoid bolting. Starting them from seed early can result in larger bulbs compared to sets. Sweet onions or storage varieties are good choices. I won’t say too much here as I have an entire article about How To Grow Onions From Seeds.

  • Early Start: Onions benefit from early planting in cold soil to prevent bolting.
  • Seed vs. Set: Seeds generally produce larger bulbs than sets.
  • Varieties: Consider ‘Kelsae’ for large bulbs and good storage.

Some Popular Onion Variety Choices:

  1. Kelsae Sweet Giant Onions – https://amzn.to/3RV8cmv
  2. Walla Walla – https://amzn.to/3vgb1Ws
  3. Ailsa Craig – https://www.johnnyseeds.com/vegetables/onions/full-size-onions/ailsa-craig-exhibition-onion-seed-485.html

Lavender: Fragrant and Beautiful

French and Spanish Varieties

Lavender is renowned for its mesmerizing fragrance and lovely blooms, making it a favorite among gardeners. Growing lavender, especially from seed, can be a rewarding experience. Here’s an expanded look at cultivating lavender in your garden:

Varieties: French and Spanish

Lavender comes in various species, each with its unique characteristics. The two most popular are:

  • French Lavender (Lavandula stoechas): Known for its traditional, potent fragrance and iconic purple blooms, this variety is ideal for creating potpourris and essential oils. It thrives in warmer climates but can be grown as an annual in cooler regions.
  • Spanish Lavender (Lavandula pedunculata): This variety is distinguished by its unique, rabbit-ear-like flower spikes and a strong, pleasant aroma. It’s more tolerant of humid conditions compared to French Lavender and can add an exotic touch to your garden.

Growing Conditions

  • Soil: Lavender prefers well-drained, slightly alkaline soil. Consider adding lime if your soil is too acidic.
  • Light: Full sun is ideal for lavender. Ensure your plants receive at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily.
  • Watering: Lavender is drought-tolerant once established. Water moderately, ensuring the soil is not overly damp.

Planting and Care

  • Starting Seeds: Lavender seeds should be sown in January or early February. Use a light seed starting mix and place the seeds on the soil surface, as they need light to germinate.
  • Germination: Lavender seeds can take a while to germinate, sometimes up to a month. Patience is key.
  • Transplanting: Once seedlings are sturdy enough, transplant them to individual pots or directly into your garden, spacing them about 12 to 24 inches apart.

Overwintering and Pruning

  • In Colder Climates: In regions where lavender is not perennial, consider overwintering plants indoors or in a cold frame.
  • Pruning: Regular pruning is essential for maintaining plant health and encouraging growth. Trim back in early spring and after the first bloom to promote a second flowering.


  • Culinary: Lavender can be used in baking, cooking, and tea-making.
  • Aromatherapy and Crafts: Its dried flowers are perfect for sachets, potpourri, and essential oils.

Lavender Cultivation Table:

VarietyIdeal ClimateFlower CharacteristicsUses
French LavenderWarmer, less humidTraditional purple, potent fragrancePotpourris, oils
Spanish LavenderTolerant to humidityUnique ‘rabbit-ear’ flowers, strong aromaGarden aesthetics, crafts

Growing lavender requires patience, especially from seed, but the rewards of its beautiful blooms and delightful fragrance are well worth the effort. Whether for culinary use, aromatherapy, or simply to enhance your garden’s beauty, lavender is a versatile and enchanting choice.

Eucalyptus: An Unconventional Annual

Eucalyptus, with its unique aroma and attractive foliage, is becoming an increasingly popular choice for gardeners, even in cooler climates. Here’s a deeper dive into growing this unconventional annual:

  • Start Early: January is the ideal time to sow eucalyptus seeds. This early start is crucial because eucalyptus requires a longer period to develop into a sturdy plant capable of withstanding outdoor conditions.
  • Germination Environment: Eucalyptus seeds need a warm, moist environment to germinate effectively. Consider using a heat mat or placing your seed trays in a warm spot to encourage germination.
  • Post-Germination Care: Once the seeds have germinated, treat the young eucalyptus plants like houseplants. They prefer bright, indirect light and well-drained soil. Be cautious of over-watering, as eucalyptus plants do not like soggy roots.
  • Transition to Outdoors: Before moving your eucalyptus plants outdoors, they need to be acclimatized to outdoor conditions. This process, known as hardening off, involves gradually exposing the plants to outdoor temperatures and light conditions over a week or two.
  • Growth Habits: Eucalyptus plants can grow quite large, even in a single season. Ensure they have ample space to spread out. They are known for their fast growth and can add a unique texture and scent to your garden.
  • Overwintering Possibilities: In colder climates, eucalyptus is grown as an annual. However, you can attempt to overwinter smaller varieties indoors. They require a bright, cool spot and reduced watering during the winter months.
  • Uses: Apart from their ornamental value, eucalyptus leaves can be used in floral arrangements, homemade potpourris, and even as a natural insect repellent.

Eucalyptus Growing Guide:

Sowing TimeJanuary
Germination EnvironmentWarm, moist
LightBright, indirect
WateringModerate (avoid over-watering)
Hardening OffGradual exposure to outdoor conditions
SpaceAmple room for growth
OverwinteringPossible for smaller varieties in bright, cool conditions

Rosemary: A Perennial Favorite

Rosemary thrives in longer growing seasons, particularly in zones 8 and above. Starting it early can lead to a larger plant and more harvest, though it does experience significant growth later in the summer. Check out my more in-depth article on growing Rosemary.

Cut Flowers and Pollinators

For a beautiful yard or a cut flower garden, start perennials indoors for early spring blooms. Good choices include roses, columbines, violas, and foxgloves. Avoid plants sensitive to transplanting, like poppies.

Cut Flower and Pollinator Planting Guide:

PlantBloom TimeTransplant FriendlyAttracts Pollinators
RosesEarly SpringYesYes
ColumbinesEarly SpringYesYes
ViolasEarly SpringYesYes
FoxglovesEarly SpringYesYes


January is the perfect time to start a variety of seeds indoors, regardless of your gardening zone. Experiment with different plants and share your seed-starting setups and tips. Your garden can start thriving even in the coldest months with the right approach. Happy gardening!


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    Author, blogger, podcaster, homesteading and permaculture enthusiast. I have a passion for sharing what I learn and helping others on their journey. If you're looking for me, you'll usually find me in the garden.

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