Plant Now for Maximum Root Growth

Plant Now for Maximum Root Growth

Here in South Texas, January is the perfect time to plant because the ground never freezes. And the list of plant options is extensive, so don’t let these cold snaps keep you from your garden.

Don’t the cold, damp weather fool you — this is the perfect time to plant not only trees, but all sorts of plants and seeds. The list will astound and amaze you.

First, why can and should we plant in January? In the South, the ground never freezes and therefore plant roots have the opportunity to grow throughout the winter, maximizing their root growth before the advent of the nasty summer. The earlier they are planted, the faster they’ll become established and they’ll require little to no supplemental water.

Some plants are like Aesop’s hare and will grow fast, but soon fade in the April heat. Bulbs, winter annuals and some winter vegetables fall into this category, but other plants really enjoy the cool season and are ready for long, happy life in South Texas.

So what can we plant in January?

Bulbs

This group includes the bulbs of tulips and daffodils, corms of the gladiolus and rhizomes of the irises. Plant in January for their full effect before the heat. Canna lilies and elephant ears are planted much later. Keep the bed or area well drained. Research tubers that will thrive in our soil. There are plenty of sites, but I suggest noted authors’ Scott Ogden and Lauren Springer Ogden books on drought-tolerant tubers and other plants.

Vegetables

David Rodriguez, Bexar County horticulturist, suggests: transplants of garden spinach, broccoli ‘Green Magic’, head cabbage, Swiss chard and kale, as well as seeds of snow peas, English peas, spring carrots, beets, radishes, turnips and onion plantlets.

Bare root trees

ALL TREES can be planted in January, but fruit trees are traditionally planted in late January. Here’s a complete list of fruit trees that can be planted in Bexar County. My favorites include: apples (‘Gala’; ‘Anna’), peaches (‘June Gold’; ‘Tex-Royal’), plum (‘Methley’; ‘Santa Rosa’), pear (‘Fan-Stil’; ‘Warren’; ‘Kieffer’), persimmon (‘Fuyu”), fig (‘Alma’; ‘Brown Turkey’) and citrus (satsuma ‘Arctic Frost’; ‘Orange Frost’).

Annuals

Think “P” for pansies, pinks, petunias, phlox, primrose and Persian cyclamen. All of these flowers provide color and aroma to the winter Texas garden. A word on primrose: you will love them, but so do slugs and snails. Provide the appropriate protection such as a trap or repellant.

Don’t let the cold weather keep you from getting out in the garden. Now is the perfect time to plant. 

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Mark Peterson

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Mark Peterson

Mark A. Peterson is a conservation project coordinator for San Antonio Water System. With over 30 years of experience as an urban forester and arborist, Mark is probably the only person you know who actually prunes trees for fun. When not expounding on the benefits of trees and limited lawns, you’re likely to find him hiking San Antonio’s wilderness parks or expounding on the virtues of geography and history to his friends.