January Lawn & Garden To-Do List

Most of us begin the New Year armed with plans, projects, and resolutions. The January garden provides a stark contrast as it hunkers down to wait out the winter, but there’s still plenty to do when the weather cooperates.

The month of January takes its name from Janus—the Roman god of Gateways and Journeys—who is often pictured looking both backward and forward at the same time. New Year’s resolutions spring from this tradition, and your January gardening can follow suit.

This is a great month for evaluating and planning, placing orders (January is National Mail-Order Gardening Month), preparing and getting organized. It’s also a good time to work on plants during dormancy, so they can begin their spring growing season with an advantage.

Here are some gardening chores to tackle during January.


Bare trees can reveal unexpected treasures, such as this hawk’s nest.

Trees and Shrubs

In January, you can continue these chores from December:

  • In warmer zones, protect tender trees and shrubs from surprise frosts by covering them with burlap draped over a simple wooden frame or plant stakes.
  • Inspect stakes and wires on newly planted trees, to make sure they are still straight and not damaging the bark.
  • Stake leggy plants to protect from wind or ice breakage.
  • Leave snow in place as an insulator – remove (gently!) only if the weight of the snow threatens to break the plant. Do not attempt to remove ice.

You can also:

  • Prune dormant trees and shrubs now, including fruit trees. In warmer zones with winter-flowering shrubs, wait until just after they bloom.
  • Hold off on pruning spring-flowering shrubs until after they bloom.
  • Inspect your winterized roses – make sure they are still firmly tied and/or covered.
  • Apply anti-desiccants to newly planted evergreens.
  • Bring spring-flowering branches indoors for forcing. Good choices are forsythia, pussy willow, jasmine, and flowering quince.

Zones 7 and warmer can:

  • Begin planting roses.
  • Plant bare-root, balled-and-burlapped, and container-grown trees and shrubs. It can be hard to identify plants when dormant, so hopefully you’ve made some notes during the growing season!


These forsythia branches are already gearing up for spring.

Perennials and Bulbs

Continue these tasks from previous months:

  • Protect evergreen perennials from freeze damage. Use boughs from your recycled Christmas greenery as an extra mulch layer.
  • Check your stored tender bulbs every couple of weeks. Discard any rotten ones. If they look withered or dried out, mist the packing medium very lightly with water.
  • Brighten up cold, gray days by bringing out your chilled bulbs for forcing indoors. Also plant bulbs that don’t require chilling, such as paperwhite narcissus.
  • Sow seeds in indoor flats for spring planting.

Also, you can:

  • Clip faded blossoms from gift amaryllis.
  • Take a tour of your garden to see if any of your plants have been uprooted by frost heaving. If so, add extra mulch.
  • Zones 7 and warmer can plant summer and fall flowering bulbs.
  • Frost-free zones (11 and warmer) can plant spring annuals outdoors.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I have planted fruit trees in my yard in the country. I found deer have eaten the first fruits. What is the best way to keep the deer away on fruit trees? I have 10 trees spaced about 20 feet apart.

  2. I have grape vines on my fence row. They haven’t been trimmed nack in years. I like the privacy that provide but they are getting out of hand. How can they be trimmed back so they look better and when should this be done?
    Thank you

  3. Should I still water plants outside esp. when its cold?

    When the elephant ears die down I usually cut them to ground level and they come back in the spring is that ok.

  4. A landscaper planted a crepe mytle about 2 years ago. It hasn’t grown at all and pretty much looks dead (leaves are brown). I live in So. California. Thx…

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