What to plant in May — gardeners reveal the best flowers for this time of year

As you start digging, learn what to plant in May from our pros and why these selections work well in a variety of zones

Flowers to plant in May, including lavender, orange canna lilies, and pink petunias
(Image credit: Getty Images Caroline Gauvin + Raththaphon Wanjit + Tim Stocker Photography)

Grab the watering can, put on your gloves, and map out what to plant in May, according to recommendations from our expert gardeners. 

Planting season is in full swing, and there are plenty of opportunities to grow some beautiful blooms, but there are a few things to note as you get underway. 

Your small garden ideas are no longer restricted to your Pinterest board: now they're well on their way to reality. 

What to plant in May: try these 5 flowers

Asking "What to plant in May?" isn't so cut and dry. There are a lot of factors to consider, like what gardening zone you're in, what resources you have available to you, and what your environment is like. Some gardeners might still have to concern themselves with cold weather, as May can can trick us with inconsistent temperatures. 

"If you live in a more temperate climate that has a chance of experiencing frost in late spring, you should consider selecting plants that are cold hardy, or waiting until after the danger of frost to plant any cold-sensitive plants," says Sarah Menz, director of brand marketing at Rachio

And once you start planting in the ground and your raised garden beds, take extra precaution with the proper essentials. 

"Consider using mulch around your new plants to help retain soil moisture and regulate soil temperature during those unpredictable May days," says Bryan Clayton, CEO and co-founder of Green Pal

Now that you have some of the basics down pat for May planting, and you've gone over what to prune in spring, here are good starting points: 

1. Lavender

Field of lavender

(Image credit: Getty Images/Caroline Gauvin)

Who doesn't love growing lavender? Aromas and aesthetics make it a fan favorite amongst the Real Homes team.   

"Without fail in May, I plant out lavender for its scent and because it's wonderful for pollinators," says Real Homes content director, Lucy Searle. "It doesn't like boggy conditions, preferring well-drained soil, and if it's happy a single plant will produce dozens of scented heads, that you can pick and dry."

But should reside in one of those gardening zones that's prone to cold temperatures, you might want to have visit your local nursery for a chat with the workers to see if it's worth waiting a few weeks before planting. 

"Although a perennial, it can die if it is hit by a particularly hard frost, so ensure you are choosing a variety that can withstand the weather in your USDA zone," Lucy adds.

SHOP: Bonnie Plants' 2-Pack of 19 oz. Lavender from Home Depot

2. Canna lilies

Orange canna lilies in a field

(Image credit: Getty Images/Raththaphon Wanjit)

Sarah insists that canna lilies make great summer-flowering bulbs, but she believes you'll probably have better luck planting them later in the month, to be on the safe side.

"Plant the bulbs after the danger of frost has passed in your area," she recommends. "This is typically around the middle of May in temperate climates or areas that can receive frost in spring."

If you're gardening in an apartment, note that calla lilies are considered one of the best indoor flowering houseplants and sport a similar, elegant floral style to their lily counterpart.

SHOP: Willard & May's 3-Pack of Canna Lily Bulbs in red from Amazon

3. Pansies

Purple and white pansies

(Image credit: Getty Images/Sean Beers / 500px)

Pansies not only make adorable spring front door ideas and must-haves for small gardens, but they're tougher than they might seem.

"Pansies can handle a frost and come back to life like they've never been cold at all," says John Faerber, director of horticulture for The Lake House on Canandaigua. "They are great for planting in mass in a garden or in planters. Pansies come in a range of colors and sizes and are beautiful well into June."

SHOP: Expert Gardener 4-Pack Purple Pansies from Walmart

4. Petunias

Pink petunias closeup

(Image credit: Getty Images/Tim Stocker Photography)

In May, it's typically your last opportunity to plant heat-sensitive flowers like petunias and begonias," Bryan says. 

These annuals are not to be planted late in the month — get them in as soon as you can so they can "establish themselves" before the hot weather really kicks into high gear. 

"They provide vibrant colors throughout the summer if timed right," Bryan adds. 

SHOP: 4-Pack Altman Plants' Pink Petunias Garden Annuals in 4-Inch Pots from Home Depot.

5. Sunflowers

Sunflowers in a field with a sunset in the back

(Image credit: Getty Images/Carlos Sanchez Pereyra)

Similarly for what can be planted in April, May sunflowers are a vibrant addition to gardens. 

"They are fun and easy to grow because they’re particularly fast-growing and heat tolerant," Sarah says. "These are perfect to start outdoors from seed about one to two weeks after your last frost date. They also make great cut flowers and will attract plenty of birds to your yard."

SHOP: Burpee Annual Sunflower Mammoth Seeds at The Home Depot 

Meet our experts

Sarah Mentz
Sarah Menz

Sarah is the director of brand marketing at Rachio, the leading smart-yard tech company at the forefront of sustainable water use. She has over 13 years of experience leading creative content development and driving strategic communications around product launches, sustainability metrics, PR, and business development in small business, IoT, A/E/C, and non-profit settings.

John Faerber
John Faerber

John is the director of horticulture for The Lake House on Canandaigua, a lakefront luxury resort located in the heart of New York’s Finger Lakes region.

Lucy Searle
Lucy Searle

Lucy Searle has written about interiors, property, and gardens for over 30 years. Lucy is now Content Director across Homes & Gardens, Woman & Home, Real Homes, and Ideal Home. Lucy is a serial renovator and also owns rental properties in the UK and Europe, bringing first-hand knowledge to the subjects she oversees.

Bryan Clayton
Bryan Clayton

Bryan is the CEO and co-founder at Green Pal, a platform connecting customers to lawn care experts in their area throughout the United States. Given all types of environments he's worked with, he is very well-versed in all types of floral and plant-care needs. 

Not quite sure what to plant? That's the beauty of chaos gardening, the trend piquing everyone's interest right now. We'll walk you through the no-rules, go-with-the-flow, trust-your-intuition technique to help you build the garden you've been dreaming of.

Danielle Valente
Content Editor

Pleasure to meet you! I'm Danielle, a content editor at Real Homes who loves scoping out interior trends. I've specialized in lifestyle writing and editing for 10 years with a focus on events, food, and books, among other areas. When I'm not working, I'm usually cooking, reading, or searching for a new project for my apartment.