What To Do In January

HAPPY 2012, EVERYONE! I took a stroll through the garden this morning, and what did I find? Well, I found April. As in 50 degrees. As in bulbs popping up. Even my Phlox subulata, above, had sported a pink New Year’s Day blossom. Is it strangely-warm where you live, too? You can let me know by leaving a comment. In the meantime, here’s my to-do list for January, which I somehow feel should include “open the swimming pool:”

Seeds. Order these from catalogs now, especially if you have specific colors or varieties of plants in mind. Among other things, I hope you’ll order Berlandiera lyrata, the “Chocolate Flower.”  This bright yellow, cocoa-scented wonder will delight you all summer long. It’s a great plant to winter-sow.

Winter-Sowing. Plant your perennial and hardy annual seeds outdoors in containers now, and in spring you’ll have enough plants to furnish your entire neighborhood. This nifty method of seed-sowing is fun, fun, fun!

Forsythia. It’s not too early to force these branches.  Cut sprays at varying lengths, mash the ends with a hammer, and submerge in a tub of cool water for several hours or overnight. Then arrange in a vase. In a bright but cool window,  a brilliant bouquet of goldenrod-yellow will emerge in about 3 weeks time.  I like to display forsythia with pink begonia semperflorens and purple and white primula obconica in my parlor window (above). More tips for forcing the branches of spring-flowering trees and shrubs.

African Violets.  How these loathe the dry air that defines the heating season! To increase moisture, I set my plants on a humidifying tray of pebbles and water. Pictured above is  the 2-inch deep galvanized “Boot” tray I painted to match the bookcase in my upstairs bath.

Amaryllis. Has the flower bud emerged on your new plant? If so, move it gradually to light and sun and heat (not more than 70F), and increase water as need indicates. Check your older stored amaryllis for signs of growth. Then renew the top layer of soil and provide water. Keep cool and dim until the flower-stalk is about three inches high. My amaryllis growing-guide.

Cyclamen. Take care that there is always water in the saucer (or bowl) beneath this plant. Provide food, too, if you intend to re-bloom the tuber next year.

Geraniums (Pelargoniums).  Move rested plants back to sun and warmth (not more than 65F, please). As growth develops, water more freely and feed regularly with a high-phosphorous formula.

Hardy Bulbs. If, in October, you potted tulips, hyacinths and other Dutch bulbs, you can bring them out of cold-storage now. That is, as long as they’ve received their required chilling period.

Poinsettia.  To insure months of beauty, keep cool and just barely moist. How I grow and re-bloom my poinsettias.

Primroses. Fragrant malacoides and buxom obconica both require coolness and constant moisture. As with cyclamen, keep water in the saucer at all times.  My favorite Primula for winter-bloom indoors.

Don’t miss anything at A Garden for the House…sign up for Kevin’s weekly newsletter.

Related Posts:
Who’s Winter-Sowing this Year?
Eye-Candy for Winter Windows
Pan de Mie: French Sandwich Bread


  1. It was so warm today I went out to work on the gardens, clearing last year’s asparagus, etc. I cleared some hosta leaves and found a green tip about a half inch sticking out of the ground…the lilac and forsythia look confused as well with buds that are rather good sized. Hopefully Winter will kick in tomorrow and put all these to sleep for a bit longer, without damaging anything in the process.

  2. Eliza – Yikes. I didn’t think to check my hostas. For me the biggest concern is the bulbs. If they send up flower buds now, they will not bloom again when real spring arrives. Climate scientists say this weird weather is the new “normal.” Oh dear.

  3. Brenda Johnson says:

    I took advantage of the warm afternoon and took my dog for a New Years Day walk! We had a delightful brunch (an annual event!) with family and friends…and just couldn’t pass up the weather the afternoon presented me with!!! Happy New Year Kevin!!!!

  4. PlanoCelloMom says:

    Happy New Year to all. I’ve used the warm weather to remove my dead and very ugly canas and clean out the wild flower beds. I was very surprised to find under the old dead canas not only newly sprouting canas, but about 6 or 7 inches of daffodil leaves! Does this mean I won’t have and blossoms in the spring?

  5. Brenda – Happy 2012 to you, too.

    PianoCelloMom – Too-early bulb foliage does not pose a threat to the flowers. BUT if the bulb actually blooms now, it will not bloom again in spring.

  6. I’m in Reno, NV (northern part of Nevada) and we’ve had record dry weather for the month of December – 0.00″ of rain. It still gets to the mid-twenties at night but during the day it’s in the 50 to 60 degree range. I have a one acre lot and have been hauling hoses around to keep things alive. The lawn I will not worry about but I’ve planted some new flower beds and need to protect my investment in them. I’d use the sprinkler system but would have to drain it afterwards and it’s too much trouble. I’m so glad that the southwest has finally had some rain but I worry that the drought has moved elsewhere and I fear it might be here.
    Happy New Year to you all.

  7. Half the stuff on my NYC terrace is still green.

  8. badger gardener says:

    We finally got a light dusting of snow that stuck around as temps. dropped to daytime 20’s just today. It looks like confectioner’s sugar on a warm, homemade doughnut. Still wishing for something more significant to blanket my gardens.

    Did any flower-lovers out there watch the Tournament of Roses parade this morning? Some beautiful flowers and a bunch of Badger fans. On Wisconsin.

  9. I noticed several daffodil green sprouts a few days ago. I had planted a bunch of bulbs this past fall and thought perhaps they should have been planted deeper, but upon hearing others say the same thing, I think it really is this weird weather, and not my horticultural skills (or lack thereof). I hope they bloom in the spring as intended, it is one of the things I most look forward to, as is signals the beginning of warm weather here on Long Island. Now I must run out and check the hostas!

  10. Dan – Yes, NYC has been even warmer than my location 2 1/2 hours north.

    badger gardener – Well, I’ve been thinking of making donuts. The warm, homemade kind you just described. My waistline thanks you for sealing the deal. I think. Missed the T of R, but know how utterly gorgeous those rose-cloaked floats can be!

    Lana – If you have cold weather coming — and I hope you do — your daffodils will be fine. Dutch bulbs have high intelligence…they always send up foliage to scope things out before sending up their flowering stalks. Your hostas will be fine too. Even if the new growth gets hit with ice they will regrow more in spring. Good news all around, right?

  11. I live below Lake George in NYS. We should be blanketed in snow but the ground is bare. I was surprised to see a wild violet blooming. A pretty surprise but, I hope the cold without a protective blanket of snow doesn’t kill off our gardens up here.

  12. I potted up a huge rosemary plant since it’s supposed to hit the teens–hope it survives in my unheated greenhouse. I also heavily mulched my roses and built a little field stone border around the rose bed to keep the driveway gravel from wandering into the bed. Then I laid down some pavers on the edge of the grass, and I took some pictures of the brook the State cleared behind my house for mosquito control(yea!)

  13. April – So odd to have no snow so far north as you. The moment your ground freezes, mulch your perennials heavily with shredded leaves, straw, or shredded wood chips. This will keep plants unstimulated even without snow.

    Erica – If your greenhouse is humid, your rosemary should survive. Of course it will have to survive the shock of transplanting, too, especially if you had to sever roots in order to get the plant in a pot! You were very wise to mulch your roses. I did the same here, using the leaves I’d gathered and shredded back in autumn.

    Your field stone border and brook sound lovely.

  14. badger gardener says:

    As soon as the metaphor came to mind, I was craving them myself. Right now I’m enjoying another recipe, the state drink of WI, the brandy old-fashioned sweet. Made with cherry bounce (brandied cherries) made with Door County, WI cherries. When such a gift is given here it is usually late Summer as the Badgers kick off the season. So it often comes with the message “enjoy these watching the Rose Bowl”. Generally , just a wish for a Happy Winter, but some years you get to take it literally.

  15. I suspect I’d enjoy that state drink of Wisconsin! And, I kid you not, it sounds like it would go with those donuts.

  16. It is cold in Cleveland, OH so all my indoor plants have received a New Year’s delight of fresh soil, trimming and fussing. I have rosemary, lavender and parsley potted from this year’s herb garden soaking up the attention (and gracing pasta sauces) along with a myriad of houseplants recently given to me by an artist who found his studio was turning into a jungle. I don’t know the names of these plants, but we are learning about each other’s needs on a daily basis and hoping for the best! My potted rose tree came indoors about 6 weeks ago and gave me a beautiful fragrant pink rose on New Year’s morning. As soon as the other 8 roses bloom I will give it a hard prune and try to convince it to rest until the spring. Can I really set my spring 2012 seeds out through the winter in the milk containers when there is snow all around?

  17. Cathy – How beautiful your home must look just now with all the living decoration. And what a New Year’s gift your tree-rose delivered! I’ve had great winter-success re-blooming miniature roses. After they rest for 4-6 weeks I bring them back to the budding stage under fluorescents.

    Yes, you really can sow your summer garden by planting the seeds outdoors in recycled milk or water jugs, where they are exposed to rain, sleet and snow. Just follow the directions outlined in the many winter-sowing articles here, and I promise you’ll have terrific success!

  18. Yupyup, in northern NJ we’re experiencing the strange mild winter as well! I’m not complaining, although I just wish the sun’d stay out a bit longer… I am not fond of coming home to darkness…
    I have an odd Amaryllis question, and would be delighted in an answer. It is one I’m trying to get to re-bloom – last summer/fall let it get yellow, cut off the leaves, and set it in a cold dark place. Once Thanksgiving came around, I took it out, and watered it. Boom! Green growth! Alas… now it’s almost two months later… and it hasn’t progressed much farther than a little green tip of leaf from the bulb – barely an inch high. Am I doing something wrong? I’ve given it a very dilute fertilizer and kept it watered, it sits on a filtered east facing window in my kitchen. Any thoughts? [And thanks! +D]

  19. Donna – If you kept your amaryllis well-fed during the summer months (this is critical), it will most certainly bloom for you this year. Give it time. Usually growth doesn’t get going until January, and sometimes the plant will wait until February. Water sparingly — not more than once every ten days — until you notice real movement. And, if you have a moment, be sure to read my short but detailed amaryllis growing-guide.

    Oh – I’m with you on the short-day thing. Would much prefer to have more light in the early evening hours!

  20. Hehe, I’ve read your Amaryllis guide inside and out. Still couldn’t figure why it wasn’t re-growing… that’s why I wanted to ask. But that makes sense, I’ll keep coddling the poor thing… Prior to this one I had left one that I was babying outside after a frost – it died outright. I’ll never let that happen again! Hee hee.
    [Heck, I could care less if it decided to bloom in April! +D]

  21. Donna – Your posts made me remember… I have six amaryllis resting in my mudroom just now, and I need to move them before they perish of cold. It’s only ten degrees here this morning (what a difference from last week), and the mudroom has neither storm windows nor a source of heat!

  22. badger gardener says:


  23. It’s been in the 50’s and 60’s here in SW Missouri and some roses still have leaves and new growth. I have left the mulch on , covering the crowns (bud union) . Is that ok?
    Also, can I plant daylillies and iris still?

  24. Diane W. – Nice to meet you. I’d keep the roses mulched until it’s really spring where you are. You can plant daylillies and iris now, although you might not get blooms until next year. Did winter seem to miss SW Missouri?

Speak Your Mind