Sunflowers, zinnias, and more! Discover the best flowers to direct sow in May for a garden bursting with color. Learn how to directly sow seeds with this beginner-friendly guide.

If you’re looking for a low-maintenance way to add color and life to your garden, consider direct sowing flower seeds! It’s much less expensive than purchasing mature plants and a great way to get your flower garden game going.

This simple technique offers a wide variety of gorgeous blooms, and May is the perfect time to start.

Today, I’m sharing how to directly sow flowers in your garden plus 10 of my easy-to-grow favorite blooms to direct sow from seed.

You ready? Let’s grow!

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Vibrant cut flower garden in full bloom, showcasing an assortment of zinnias and dahlias in various shades of pink, red, and yellow, surrounded by lush green foliage. The garden, set against a backdrop of mature trees and a residential setting, exemplifies the beauty and diversity of cut flowers ideal for beginner gardeners interested in growing zinnias and dahlias.
Zinnias and dahlia flowers

How to Direct Sow Flowers Outdoors

Direct sowing is surprisingly simple! If you are just direct sowing flowers for the first time, follow these basic steps for success.

  1. Timing: When directly sowing flowers, wait until all danger of frost has passed, typically 2-3 weeks after the last frost date to be safe. Aim for a soil temperature of above 60 degrees for optimal germination. If you aren’t sure how warm your soil is, you can use a soil thermometer.
  2. Gather supplies: All you need are some seeds! I recommend purchasing seeds from a high-quality grower like Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Renee’s Garden, or Floret Flower Farm. But your local nursery will have them too.
  3. Preparing the Soil: Start with a weed-free area with loose soil that drains well. Remove any weeds or debris, and loosen the top few inches of soil with a garden rake or garden fork.
  4. Depth and Spacing: Check your seed packets for instructions about how deep to sow the seeds and how much space to leave between them. Larger seeds usually need to be covered with soil or vermiculite, while very fine seeds can often be lightly sprinkled on the surface.
  5. Watering: Keep the soil evenly moist (but not soggy) while the seeds germinate and seedlings get established. A gentle watering can or misting nozzle is best at first to avoid dislodging delicate seeds.
  6. Thinning: Once seedlings sprout, you may need to thin them out to the spacing recommended on the seed packet to give them room to grow. This can feel counterintuitive, but it makes for healthier plants!

Direct Sowing Flowers for Full Sun

If you are directly sowing flowers for the first time, I strongly recommend choosing blooms that will germinate with ease.

Embrace the sunshine with these easy, vibrant and cheerful blooms! Perfect for borders, cutting gardens, and attracting pollinators, these flowers thrive in areas with plenty of direct sunlight.

Sunflowers: The Iconic Direct Sow Flower

Sunflowers are cheerful giants that symbolize summer! Easy to grow from seed, they come in a fantastic range of sizes and colors, brightening up any sunny space. Some varieties can tower over 10 feet, while others are perfect for containers.

close up of sunflowers
Sunflowers

Zinnias: Bold Blooms for Pollinators and Bouquets

With their bold, jewel-toned blooms (think pinks, oranges, purples, and reds) zinnias are a must-have for any May-planted garden. They’re a favorite among pollinators like butterflies and bees, and their strong stems make them excellent cut flowers for summer bouquets.

Zinnia seeds germinate pretty quickly and with ease. I usually start mine indoors to get a jump on the growing season, but direct sowing is a great option if you don’t want to invest in seed starting supplies.

A hand holding a vibrant bouquet of fresh-cut zinnia flowers in pinks and yellows, with a lush garden landscape in the background.

Tithonia (Mexican Sunflower): Tropical Heat Lovers

If you love sunflowers but want something a bit more exotic, try tithonia! These heat-loving beauties boast dramatic orange blooms with a reddish-brown center, adding a touch of the tropics to your garden. They’re known for attracting butterflies and are quite drought-tolerant.

Much like sunflowers, tithonia is SOOOOO easy to grow from seed. I love their fuzzy stems and vibrant colors. They start blooming in August and carry through the first frost.

Three vibrant red-orange flowers on a tithonia plant with prominent yellow centers and lush green leaves in a garden.
Tithonia

Cosmos: Delicate and Self-Seeding Beauties

Delicate and airy, cosmos are self-seeding annuals that fill your garden with soft color throughout the summer. Choose from a variety of pinks, whites, and yellows to create a whimsical and romantic atmosphere. They’re low-maintenance and germinate quickly from seed.

Cosmo flowers have beautiful, airy foliage that looks pretty in a cottage garden. I’m not the biggest fan of cutting the flowers for bouquets, but deadhead them frequently to keep the blooms coming all season long.

Close-up of a white cosmos flower with delicate pink hues on its petals, surrounded by green foliage in a natural setting. (Double Click Snow Puff cosmos)
Double Click Cosmos with light pink flowers

Partial Shade-Loving Flowers You Can Direct Sow

Not every corner of your garden is drenched in the sun! There are a few easy flowers that can tolerate partial-shade and still bloom. These shade-tolerant flowers bring color and charm to those partially shaded spots.

Calendula: Edible Flowers with Healing Properties

Calendula boasts sunny yellow and orange blooms that brighten up even partly shaded areas. Plus, calendula petals are edible and have a long history of medicinal uses. They add a pop of color to summer salads and can be used in teas.

My experience growing calendula is it makes a great companion plant in both your vegetable and flower garden. Last year, it attracted all kinds of aphids and not one of them harmed any other plants in my garden!

Vivid calendula with layers of white-tipped, yellow petals and a fiery red center, standing out among green leaves and buds in a garden
Calendula flowers

Nasturtiums: Peppery Blooms for Color and Flavor

A favorite for their unique peppery flavor, nasturtiums come in vibrant blooms of orange, yellow, and red. Both the flowers and leaves are edible, adding a peppery kick to salads and sandwiches. Their trailing varieties are perfect for hanging baskets or cascading over container edges. Nasturtiums bloom better in full sun but can handle a little shade.

I’ve started nasturtiums both indoors under grow lights and direct sowed them in the garden. To me, it’s much easier to grow them directly sowing the flowers so you don’t have to go through the hardening off process with them.

close up of nasturtium flower
Red nasturtium flower

Unique and Fun Flowers to Direct Sow in May

Add whimsy and texture to your garden with these eye-catching choices. They’re great conversation starters and offer diverse forms and uses.

Strawflowers: Perfect for Everlasting Bouquets

If you love dried flowers, strawflowers are a direct-sow dream! Their papery petals come in a rainbow of shades, from pinks and purples to blues and yellows, and last for ages in bouquets. Simply hang them upside down in a cool, dry place to preserve their color and texture.

Strawflowers are another one of those blooms that are crazy easy to grow. I prefer to sow mine indoors under grow lights to get a jump on the season, but they can easily be directly sowed outdoors after all danger of frost passes.

A vibrant flowerbed showcasing an array of spherical strawflowers with petals in deep maroon and soft peach, set against a backdrop of lush greenery and a green fence.
Strawflowers

Celosia: Flame-Like Blooms for Textural Interest

Known for their funky, flame-like blooms, celosia adds both texture and vibrant color to your garden beds. These heat-tolerant flowers come in a range of colors (reds, oranges, yellows, and pinks) and are a showstopper in any garden.

Celosia is one of my favorite flowers to grow because it adds tons of color and texture to both bouquets and your garden. I’ve found it to reseed itself yearly so I don’t sow seeds often; moreso when I want to grow different varieties.

close up of vibrant pink celosia flowers at sunset
Celosia

Borage: Edible Flowers and Pollinator Magnet

Borage is a beautiful and beneficial addition to your garden. It draws in essential pollinators like bees and hummingbirds with its edible, star-shaped blue flowers. The fuzzy leaves have a cucumber-like flavor, perfect for adding to summer drinks or salads.

I direct sowed borage seeds for the first time last year and really enjoyed this plant! It’s another great companion plant for the garden and has the prettiest blue flowers!

borage flowers in the potager garden as a companion plant idea for the vegetable garden
Borage flowers in potager garden

Pumpkins: A Fall Favorite Started in Spring

Yes, pumpkins are flowers too! Your kids will love planting pumpkin seeds directly in the garden and watching these sprawling vines grow for a fantastic fall harvest. Choose from classic jack-o’-lantern varieties or unique decorative types.

They are super easy to start from seed and totally worth having in your garden for fall decor. Just give them lots of room to grow! If you lack space, you can easily grow pumpkins vertically. Be sure to give them a strong structure that can handle the vine and weight of the pumpkins.

More About Direct Sowing Seeds

With a little sunshine, soil, and seeds, you’ll soon enjoy a stunning display of colorful blooms. Direct sowing is the perfect way for both seasoned gardeners and beginners to create a beautiful and vibrant garden this May. So why wait? Get those seeds out there and prepare to be amazed!

What are you planning to grow? I would love to know more in the comments below. And if you have any comments, suggestions, or additional questions, please add them in the comments below. Feel free to share this post with anyone who may find it helpful. Thank you!

For more information about directly sowing seeds, please read this article from the University of Cornell Cooperative Extension.

To drill down on more beginner gardening techniques and tips, please read these posts:

Happy Gardening!

Stacy Ling

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