This month is a generally a quite time in the flower beds and borders, where most of the herbaceous plants remain dormant at this time of year. Task are limited to sowing seed indoors and tidying up herbaceous borders.
If you want to grow flowers from seed this year, you should plan the flower garden without delay so that seeds can be purchased early. The benefits of buying early are that you can see the full range available before you make your choice and you can choose exactly what you want before stocks run low.
The whole range of flowering plant types can be considered, from half-hardy annuals (HHA), hardy annuals (HA), hardy biennials (HB) and hardy perennials (HP); as each type follows a different life cycle and has different growing requirements. For example, half-hardy annuals with a long growing season should be sown early under cover to flower this year, whereas hardy perennials can be sown in spring/summer for flowering next year, and hardy biennials can be sown in late summer for flowering next spring.
Growing your own plants direct from seed is not only cheaper than buying plants, it can be very satisfying and often the only way to grow some of the lesser known varieties. Most varieties won't germinate until the soil temperatures rises high enough (min 7°C), so you will need to starting off seeds indoors or in a heated greenhouse during this period. Once germinated the young plants will be well away by the time they are transplanted outdoors into beds, baskets, or containers in the spring.
The only disadvantage is that you need to have enough space to keep the growing plants inside until the danger of frost is past (around May time), so don't be tempted to sow more than you can accommodate. If space is limited, just sow half-hardy annuals that need a long development period, such as antirrhinums, fibrous-rooted begonias, carnations, gloxinias, lobelias and sweet peas. Don't be tempted to sow faster-growing half-hardy annuals in January, as they will grow too big and straggly before the weather is warm enough to plant them out. Always check the seed packet labels for indoor sowing times.
An average temperature of around 15°C (59°F) is necessary for good germination for most varieties. If it is not possible to maintain this temperature, sowing should be delayed until next month when warmer days will supplement the artificial heat source.
Instructions on how to successfully grow plants from seed can be found in our Propagating From Seed page.
Remove the dead foliage of dormant perennials and cut away any decayed vegetation, as this can provide a hiding place for slugs and pests. Lilies can be planted this month - if the bulbs have become shrivelled in storage, pack them in trays filled with damp compost, leaving them to swell before planting.
Plant lily bulbs in pots and in borders in mild weather in January. You can also start sowing lily seeds under glass.
Now is also the time to bring in pots of lilies for forcing ready for Easter. If you have lilies in the borders, surplus bulbs of a good size can also be lifted for forcing.
Inspect bulbs, dahlia tubers and gladiolus corms that have been stored away for the winter. Remove any bulbs and corms that are going rotten or show signs of mould and cut off any damaged tubers from dahlias. Ensure they have enough protection by recovering them with dry compost or straw.
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Few flowers bloom in January but those that do are worth growing:
Hellebores (Helleborus foetidus, H. lividus corsicus, H. niger).
The common primrose and its hybrids and winter blooming garden pansies(violas) may flower in mild areas.
Bergenias and winter heliotrope may also flower.