Discover the vibrant flowers of May and get expert tips on what to plant now for a garden that thrives all season long.

Spring is in full swing, and May boasts some of the most stunning floral displays of the year. But May isn’t just a time to admire these beautiful blooms – it’s also a prime time for planting your own!

With vibrant summer colors and the potential to attract joyful pollinators, May-planted flowers are an investment that keeps on giving.

Here are some May planting ideas!

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close up of farmhouse with beautiful front porch buckeye tree, baptisia, hosta and container gardens filled with flowers

Must-Plant Flowers that Bloom in May: Ideal Picks for Gardeners

May’s landscape comes alive with a dazzling array of flowers. There are lots of gorgeous blooms to plant that will bring you color, flowers, and fragrance in May. Here are some of my favorites!

Lilacs

Lilacs are beloved for their fragrant clusters of flowers, which bloom primarily in spring. Suited to hardiness zones 3 through 7, these deciduous shrubs thrive in full sun and well-drained, fertile soil with a neutral to slightly alkaline pH.

Lilacs can range in height from 5 to 15 feet, depending on the variety. The flowers appear in hues of purple, blue, white, and pink, and are often used in perfumes and bouquets due to their strong, sweet scent.

Regular pruning after flowering helps maintain their shape and promotes vigorous growth for the following season.

close up of Reblooming lilac in full bloom
Bloomerang Lilac by Proven Winners

Rhododendrons and Azaleas

May is also a prime time for enjoying the vibrant blooms of azaleas and rhododendrons. These shade-tolerant flowering shrubs flourish in hardiness zones 4 through 8. They prefer partial shade and well-drained, acidic soil rich in organic matter.

They typically flower from early spring to early summer, depending on the species and location. Rhododendrons can grow anywhere from 2 to 20 feet tall, while azaleas are generally smaller.

The flowers range in color from white and pink to purple and red, often attracting pollinators with their nectar-rich blossoms. Adequate mulching and proper watering are crucial for their health, especially in dryer conditions.

bright pink azalea in flower by the staddle stone and stone wall in the zen garden
Bright pink azaleas in the zen garden
rhododendron and mountain laurel in full bloom in zen garden with staddle stone and stepping stones
Rhodendron and Mountain Laurel in full bloom with pink flowers

Roses

Roses, the quintessential symbol of love, begin their prolific blooming season in May. From classic red to soft pastels and vibrant yellows, roses add a touch of timeless charm to any garden.

Roses are classic and versatile garden plants that thrive in hardiness zones 3 through 11, making them suitable for a variety of climates. They prefer full sun and well-drained, loamy soil that is rich in organic matter.

Depending on the variety, roses bloom from late spring to fall, offering a long season of color with their recurrent flowering. These plants range in size from compact varieties under 1 foot tall to climbing types that can reach over 20 feet.

The flowers come in a dazzling array of colors, including red, pink, yellow, white, and even bi-colored varieties. Regular pruning and proper care are essential to maintain their health and vigor, as roses are susceptible to pests and diseases.

Roses are not deer resistant and will need protection if they are a problem in your locality.

rose garden roses
Pink roses in the flower garden

Peonies

Peonies take center stage with their massive, romantic blossoms. Available in shades of white, pink, and red, these luxurious flowers embody elegance and make a grand statement in any garden.

Peonies are a popular choice for gardeners due to their lush, full blooms and easy care. They thrive in hardiness zones 3 through 8 and prefer well-drained, fertile soil with full sun to light shade.

Peonies typically flower in late spring to early summer, providing a spectacular display of color with blooms that can be white, pink, red, or even yellow. These perennials range in height from 2 to 4 feet and are known for their large, fragrant flowers that make excellent cut flowers.

To ensure robust growth and flowering, peonies should be planted in a location where they are not disturbed and with adequate space to grow, as they can live for decades when well-situated.

light pink peonies in the flower patch
Peonies

Bleeding Hearts

For a touch of whimsy, bleeding hearts steal the show with their unique heart-shaped, pendant flowers in shades of pink and white.

Bleeding hearts are cherished for their unique, heart-shaped flowers that dangle gracefully from arching stems. They thrive in hardiness zones 3 through 9, preferring shady spots and moist, well-drained soil rich in organic matter.

Bleeding hearts bloom in late spring to early summer, showcasing flowers that are usually pink or white. These perennials typically grow to about 2 to 3 feet in height and spread, forming clumps that are ideal for shady borders or woodland gardens.

The plant goes dormant in late summer, so it’s beneficial to pair it with other shade-loving perennials that can fill in the gap. Bleeding hearts are relatively low-maintenance, requiring little care once established in the right conditions.

dicentra bleeding heart blooms
Bleeding hearts flowers

Bearded Iris

Bearded irises stand tall, showcasing their vibrant petals in a rainbow of colors, from classic purple and yellow to striking bi-colored combinations.

They are known for their striking flowers and distinctive fuzzy “beards” on each petal that are hardy in zones 3 through 10. These perennials prefer full sun and well-drained soil, thriving particularly well in slightly alkaline conditions.

They typically bloom in late spring to early summer, with some varieties offering a secondary bloom in late summer or fall. Bearded irises range in height from 8 inches to 4 feet, depending on the variety.

The flowers come in a wide array of colors, including blues, purples, yellows, oranges, pinks, whites, and multicolor blends. Regular division every few years is essential to prevent overcrowding and to maintain vigorous flowering.

You can’t beat the gorgeous frilly petals with an ombre appearance. Over the last year, I’ve planted about 15 different bearded iris varieties here, and cannot wait to see them all bloom this spring!

close up of bearded irises in the garden
Bearded Irises

False Indigo

If you’re looking for something a little different, false indigo adds a touch of drama to the late spring garden with its tall spikes of purple flowers.

Baptisia is a hardy perennial that flourishes in hardiness zones 3 through 9. It prefers full sun to partial shade and thrives in well-drained soil, tolerating poor soil conditions once established.

False indigo typically blooms in late spring to early summer, producing upright spikes of pea-like flowers that can be blue, white, yellow, or purple. These plants can grow to be 3 to 4 feet tall and wide, forming bushy clumps that are ideal for adding structure to garden beds.

The attractive, gray-green foliage remains appealing throughout the growing season, and the seed pods that follow the flowers add interest in the fall and winter. False indigo is low-maintenance, drought-tolerant, and resistant to pests and diseases, making it an excellent choice for sustainable landscapes.

baptisia and alliums with a view of my new jersey gardens
Baptisia (false Indigo) and alliums

Alliums

Rounding out our selection of May’s blooming beauties are alliums, like the striking Globemaster. These ornamental onions offer unique spherical flower heads in shades of purple and white, adding a touch of sculptural interest to the border.

Alliums thrive in hardiness zones 4 through 9. They prefer full sun and well-drained soil, flourishing particularly well in sandy soils.

Alliums typically bloom from late spring to early summer, depending on the species. Their flower heads can be quite large and are available in shades of purple, blue, pink, yellow, and white. These plants vary in height from 6 inches to over 4 feet, allowing them to make a dramatic statement in borders, beds, and containers.

Alliums are loved for their ability to deter pests, including deer and rabbits, and their dried flower heads can provide architectural interest in the garden long after the initial bloom. Maintenance is minimal, making them an excellent choice for both novice and experienced gardeners.

close up of alliums globemaster
Globemaster Alliums

Tulips

Tulips, with their cup-shaped blooms in a kaleidoscope of colors, are a quintessential symbol of spring. Though some varieties may have finished blooming by May, late-blooming tulips add a burst of color to the garden throughout the month.

Tulips are vibrant and popular spring-blooming bulbs that adapt well to a wide range of climates, suitable for hardiness zones 3 through 8. They require full sun to light shade and flourish in well-drained, fertile soil.

Tulips bloom in early to late spring, depending on the variety. They come in an impressive array of colors including red, yellow, pink, purple, orange, white, and even multicolored patterns. The size and shape of the flowers can vary significantly, with some tulips displaying a classic cup-shaped bloom, while others feature fringed, ruffled, or parrot-like petals.

Planting tulip bulbs in the fall allows them to establish roots and ensures a vibrant display come spring. After blooming, allowing the foliage to die back naturally helps the bulbs gather energy for the next year’s flowers.

close up of tulip pink perennial in the garden at sunset by stone wall
Pink Tulips

Create a Showstopping Summer Garden: What to Plant This Season

While May bursts with floral beauty, it’s also the perfect time to plant summer flowering annuals, bulbs, tubers, and directly sow the seeds for your cut flower garden or vibrant summer display.

Secrets to Non-Stop Colorful Blooms: Planting Flowering Annuals

Planting flowering annuals in May such as petunias, calibrachoa, bacopa, fan flower, impatiens, begonias, and lantana can transform your garden into a vibrant tapestry of non-stop blooms and color throughout the summer. These annuals thrive in warm soil and benefit from the stabilizing spring temperatures.

Petunias and calibrachoa are perfect for sunny spots where they can bask in the light and produce a profusion of colorful blooms.

Bacopa and fan flowers, with their cascading growth, are excellent for hanging baskets and containers.

Impatiens and begonias flourish in shaded areas, brightening these spaces with their wide range of colors and forms.

Lantana is a sun-lover that not only adds color but also attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. Regular feeding and deadheading will encourage these annuals to keep blooming vigorously, providing a delightful floral display right through to the first frosts of fall.

gomphrena truffala pink proven winners with angelonia cascade blue, prism pink superbells and supertunia mini vista violet in planters by front porch of 1850 farmhouse with white rockers

Best Seeds to Sow in May for a Thriving Cut Flower Garden

Planting seeds in May is ideal for kickstarting your cut flower garden, setting the stage for a season full of vibrant blooms. This month is perfect for sowing a variety of seeds directly into the ground, as the risk of frost diminishes and the soil warms up.

Flowers like cosmos, sunflowers, zinnias, celosia, and strawflowers are excellent choices for a beginner’s cut flower garden due to their easy care and prolific blooming. Sowing these seeds in May ensures they have enough time to establish themselves and bloom throughout the summer and into the fall.

Not only will this provide your garden with continuous color, but it will also supply a bountiful array of flowers for cutting and arranging, enhancing both your home and garden with natural beauty.

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

Maximize Your Garden’s Potential: Planting Dahlias and Other Tender Perennials in May

May is an ideal time to plant tender perennials such as dahlias, gladiolas, caladiums, elephant ears, and canna lilies, setting the stage for a spectacular summer display. These plants thrive in warm soil and are sensitive to frost; therefore, planting after the last frost date is crucial for their survival and growth.

Dahlias and gladiolas need sunny spots and well-drained soil, where they will reward you with vibrant, striking blooms.

Caladiums and elephant ears, on the other hand, prefer shaded areas and moist, rich soil, offering lush foliage that adds a tropical flair to any garden setting.

Canna lilies, with their bold leaves and colorful flowers, are versatile enough to thrive in both sun and partial shade.

Regular watering and mulching will help maintain soil moisture and temperature, ensuring these tender perennials grow robustly and bloom profusely throughout the summer.

dahlia kogane fubuki in a vibrant cut flower garden
Dahlia Kogane Fubuki

Tips for Choosing the Perfect Summer Blooms for Your Garden

When selecting flowers to plant in May, consider your garden’s unique characteristics. Sun-drenched areas are ideal for celosia and zinnias, while begonias can tolerate partial shade. If you’re a busy gardener, low-maintenance blooms like marigolds, impatiens, or petunias might be your best bet.

The table below offers a small selection of my favorite May plantings with summer flowering annuals categorized by sun exposure.

Sun Loving Low-MaintenancePart-Shade to Shade Low Maintenance
SunflowersImpatiens
ZinniasBegonias
StrawflowersColeus
CelosiaLobelia
MarigoldTorenia
PetuniaCaladium (foliage plant)
BacopaSweet Potato Vine (foliage plant)
TithoniaFuschia
CalendulaBrowalia

Guide to Successful Planting in May: Tips and Techniques

May’s warm soil and consistent moisture create ideal conditions for seed germination and plant growth. However, a few key tips can ensure your May plantings thrive:

  • Watering: Water newly planted flowers regularly, especially during dry spells. Aim for deep watering that soaks the root zone in the earlier part of the day. Avoid watering from above where possible and aim for the base of plants.
  • Soil Preparation: Amend your soil with compost, leaf mold, or other organic matter to improve drainage and provide nutrients.
  • Spacing: Pay attention to recommended plant spacing on seed packets or plant labels to avoid overcrowding. This will improve air circulation, while cutting down on pests and diseases.

As an aside, avoid overwatering your plants, as this can lead to pest and disease problems. If the soil is saturated, it’s not necessary to water.

Additionally, resist the urge to plant frost-sensitive flowers too early in the month unless you are prepared to protect tender perennials and annuals with a covering on the fly.

cut flower patch: strawflowers in the potager garden
Strawflowers

Top Picks for Cut Flowers: What to Pick in May for Stunning Bouquets

May boasts a selection of flowers that are perfect for bringing a touch of springtime indoors. Fragrant peonies, tulips, and lilacs add a touch of elegance to any cut flower arrangement.

But don’t stop there! Fill bouquets with cuts from flowering perennials too like salvia, brunnera, lungwort, and more. So, plant a few extra and enjoy the beauty of May flowers not just in your garden, but throughout your home!

May is the Month to Plant for a Vibrant Summer

May offers a wealth of opportunities for flower lovers. Witness the beauty of May’s blooms and plant your own summer spectacular. With a little planning, you can choose the right flowers for your garden and transform it into a landscape filled with color, fragrance, and curb appeal throughout the warmer months.

close up of tulip creme upstar by front porch at sunset

More About May Flowers

Do you have any favorite flowers that you love to plant or see bloom in May? I would love to know more in the comments below.

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

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear! And feel free to share this post with anyone you think would find it helpful too.

Happy Gardening!

Stacy Ling
Pink and purple bearded irises: Angel's Rest with mother earth
Angel’s Rest and Mother Earth Bearded Irises

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