The common saying, “April showers bring May flowers” makes the process of starting a flower garden sound so simple. This adage from the United Kingdom refers to how rainy British Aprils cause Spring flowers to crop up in May. The United States, however, is home to several different climates, so there can be more variation with what will work well for you when starting (or restarting) your garden.
To help you avoid the frustration of plants blooming at the wrong time or for not much time at all, we’ve put together this guide to help give you a summer full of the best flowers—by planting your garden in May.
The best soil for flower beds
Before you get planting, it’s important to decide which kind of soil you’ll want to use. There are three popular options for where your flowers will grow.
Potting soil can be an ideal choice for those looking to see their flowers bloom sooner than later. It can be a few weeks to a couple of months faster, depending on plant type, climate, and other factors. You cannot choose what goes into the store-bought mixes, but many hardware and grocery stores offer several varieties to meet your gardening needs.
Pro Tip: Try to find out where the soil you’re purchasing comes from. Some sources of soil do not come from nutrient-rich environments, which defeats the purpose of the purchase.
If you want to be involved with every aspect of cultivating your flowers, filling your flower beds with compost may be right for you. Whether you purchase it in stores or develop it yourself, using compost gives you far more control of the process—just make sure you have the patience to wait the extra few weeks flowers planted in compost can take to bloom.
Potting soil and compost mix
Who doesn’t want the best of both worlds? To reap double the benefits and grow robust plants on a shorter timeline, you can do any of the following:
- Purchase a mix of potting soil and compost
- Start with potting soil and add a top layer of compost, or
- Get your compost and soil separately and mix them at home
Tips for planting flower seeds outdoors
There are a few things you can do to gain the best chance of growing healthy flowers from seeds. Follow these steps to help your garden achieve full bloom.
- Keep your seeds in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to plant
- Plant on a day between 65 and 75 degrees F to avoid the seed dying from too much heat or cold
- Choose a day at least a week before the next storm or shower, so the seedlings can take root
- Use a hand rake and turn over the top 7 inches of soil
- Make sure your soil is wet, but not flooded (after a light rain or a fresh watering)
- Plant your seeds at least three times as deep as the seed is wide
What are the best flowers to plant in May?
Now that you’ve got the right soil and methods for planting, it’s time to dig into the best spring flowers for your garden. The plants below offer a range of ideas for the look and blooming period you want in your yard.
Choose colorful plants that bloom all summer long
Color is often the most appealing part of a garden. With these bright plants that bloom all summer long, you can pick complementary colors, go for a monochromatic look, or mix and match to your heart’s content.
Zinnias have big flower heads with brilliant blooms in an array of warm tones. This member of the daisy family is known for extraordinary vibrant hues.
Contrary to popular belief, lavender plants come in shades of yellow, white, and even hot pink! Though purple lavender is the most frequently used for its fragrant properties, other varieties of this plant are also beautifully scented.
Dahlias come in the color categories mentioned above and four more color families (including bi-color varieties)! The dahlia’s geometric design adds nicely to its magnificent tones.
If you’re looking for a colorful shrub, potentilla may be your answer, especially if you prefer a front row seat to pollinators. Not only do they offer a pleasant yellow, white, or orange color, but this plant is also able to grow in some rockier soils and drier climates. As a bonus, the blooms often remain open into early fall.
Easily diversify your garden with the full ranges of common garden plants
If one type of plant works well in your garden, you can explore different varieties and take some of the guesswork out of finding new ones. Some common garden plants come in array of colors, shapes, and leaf patterns, especially when grown in the sun, compared to the shade.
By planting them in May, you’ll have time to see each of the following plant types take shape and bloom in beautiful contrast by early summer.
- Cosmo cultivars (Over 30 species, low-maintenance, reseed each year)
- Hosta plant varieties (Over 70 kinds, also known as plantain lilies)
- Marigolds (Over 50 types, great for sun gardens)
Use small ornamental grasses to add fullness to your garden
Ornamental grasses are a great way to add ground cover to any gaps in your garden’s design. Small ornamental grasses are as low-maintenance as their bigger counterparts, but with a range from only 5 inches to three feet high when fully grown, they can fill a space without overpowering it.
Many grow 3-10 inches annually and bloom between July and September, meaning that in the dog days of summer, your garden will be in its fullest form. By planting them in May, they can grow deep roots ahead of winter—especially in areas where the cold weather months are more extreme. Some common types include:
- Small fountain grass (great in the sun)
- Sedge grasses (great for shade)
- Japanese forest grass (more striking color contrast in the shade; more fully golden in the sun)
- Liriope (sun and shade)
With this different set of gardening tools, you’ve got a great springboard for creating your ideal flower bed. There are so many ways to customize your green space—we hope you dig yours this season!