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Moss' Top Ten Plants of January

Evergreen stalwarts, dormant potential, and first flowers.

Although we still have a couple more months of official winter, the return of the Sun with its brighter intensity and lengthening days is cause for encouragement. Admittedly, encouragement does not keep you warm, and as cold weather bears down on Chicago, few people here are thinking about plants and flowers. But in southern climates this is a month that many specimens seem to shine, especially evergreens that may be lost in the crowd during other seasons. And a few intrepid tropicals/houseplants will actually start the flowering season for us all.

This is list is heavily influenced by Upstate and Low Country South Carolina. What up, peoples!

As always, tropical, mild winter, and Chicago winter hardy plants comprise the list.  


Click on thumb and common name for more info.





old live oak

Live Oak
(Quercus virginiana)

Broadleaf evergreen up to 60' with an even greater spread. Attractive form and thick branch structure of many oaks. Waxy, evergreen leaves resemble some of the California oaks. Widely planted as a street tree in the South. In forests the open canopy allows for a developed understory.

Mild winters. Temperate to subtropical climates.

palmetto duo

Palmetto (Sabal palmetto)

Evergreen palm to 90'. Excels along warm coasts. Massive palmate leaves add tropical feel. Full sun to shady understories of live oak forests. We planted 20' specimens at Little River Park Amphitheater in Laurens. Palms have no heartwood, so perfect, ankle-breaking, circular holes are left when stumps rots.

Mild winters. Temperate to tropical climates.

ulmus parvifolia bark

Lacebark Elm (Ulmus parvifolia)

Deciduous or semi-evergreen tree to 60' with an equal spread. Richly patterned bark stands out in winter. Great tree for yards. Not as tall, vase-shaped, or hardy as American elm. But it's easy to grow and resistant to both Dutch Elm Disease and elm leaf beetles. Plant of the show for Rally episode #25 in Atlanta.

Mild winters. Temperate to subtropical climates.

pindo palm in parkway

Pindo Palm
(Butia capitata)

Evergreen feather palm to 20' in warm climates. Silvery green foliage. In warm climates mature pindo palms develop bright red and yellow fruits used to make jellies. It won't fruit in Spartanburg but my aunt's neighbor has grown a shrubby one since my childhood. Also planted at Little River Park in Laurens.

Mild winters. Temperate to tropical climates.

Burford holly

Burford Holly (Ilex cornuta 'Burfordii')

Broadleaf evergreen tree to 20'. Large size, round shape, dense foliage, and profusion of berries make this one of the best hollies for the home landscape. Plus Burford holly is drought resistant and self fertile. Natural cultivar found growing wild in an Atlanta cemetery around 1900.

Mild winters. Temperate to subtropical climates.

red camellia japonica bush

Camellia (Camellia japonica)

Evergreen shrub or small tree to 20'. Exquisite blooms throughout winter. Buds begin opening in January and can last til March. Flowers larger, later, but fewer than Camellia sasanqua. Grows tall and lanky in pine understory.

Mild winters. Temperate to subtropical climates.

saw tooth palmetto bush

Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens)

Evergreen spreading palm to 8'. Understory palm that spreads by rhizomes. Curved spines along petiole prompt the name "saw" palmetto and must have been hell on first explorers. Hardier than tree palms. Black fruits are used as a men's health supplement.

Mild winters. Temperate to subtropical climates.

honeybee on mahonia

Leatherleaf Mahonia (Berberis bealei)

Course evergreen shrub to 12', but often flops. Shade tolerant. Hard, spiny, pinnate leaves on vertical stems add structure and a prehistoric look. Ornamental buds. Attracts bees. Edible blue fruits used in jellies ripen in spring. WARNING!. This plant can spread by birds and become invasive. Remove spent flowers if you live near sensitive areas.

Mild winters. Temperate to subtropical climates.

narcissus Galilee

Galilee Paperwhites (Narcissus 'Galilee')

Bulbous perennial to 18" in full flower. Ivory-white flowers with a natural shimmer. Intoxicating (sometimes overwhelming) fragrance even outdoors. Best in the ground but easy to force. Almost any container will do. Order enough bulbs to plant a succession of blooms throughout winter.

Mild winters. Temperate to subtropical climates.

jewel orchid flowers
Jewel Orchid
(Ludisia discolor )
Creeping perennial to 6", inflorescence to 12". Groundcover orchid with velvety, maroon-colored leaves. Tiny twisted flowers bloom for a couple months. Easy to grow, but last year the thrips nearly killed mine. The tuberous roots sat dormant and dry for months. Now they are slowly recovering. Warm winters. Sub-tropical to tropical climates.


wemoss.org 2009, Last Updated January 19, 2009