Head gardener Benjamin Pope is here to make sure your garden looks great all year round. His practical gardening magazine column series continues, and his tips on what to plant in January are a taster of what you can expect. For the full column, subscribe to Gardens Illustrated magazine.

Don't miss our suggestions of the best winter-flowering plants and the gardening jobs for the month.

What to plant in January

Oinions, broad beans and sweet peas

In terms of seed sowing, January is still a dark month, and outside is often too cold and wet. However, by the end of the month I generally find that I can’t wait any longer and start off onions, broad beans and sweet peas in modules, first in the greenhouse but then quickly moving them somewhere cool (but frost free) to grow on.

Sweet peas

I find starting off sweet peas now easier than looking after them through all of winter, though these early module sowings usually require potting on and supporting with split canes or twigs, before planting out in spring.

Don't plant perennials, plant trees and shrubs

As January is usually one of the coldest months, I would avoid planting perennials (which I’ve found generally do better if they can get growing straight away). Instead, plant trees and shrubs. Bareroot season is in full swing and planting a hedge is a great way to add structure to the garden and provide habitat for wildlife.

This year I am going to plant the seldom-seen Sorbus torminalis (known commonly as both the checker tree and the wild service tree), where its flowers, leaves and fruit will provide a good source of food for a range of wildlife.


Head Gardener of a private garden in West Sussex, Benjamin lectures, writes and judges for the RHS plant trials, whilst creating a market garden in the South Downs.