15 Beautiful Perennial Plants You Can Plant in May

Looking to plant some perennials this May, but aren't sure where to start? There are many different options you can go with, depending on your climate and geography. In this article, gardening expert Jill Drago walks through 15 of her favorite perennials to plant in the month of May!

may perennials

Spring has sprung! Your garden beds are cleaned out, your perennials are starting to pop up and show life. May is such a tricky time to plant. I am always itching to get my gardens going, but where I live it’s too cold to plant any annuals. So the best thing for me to do is to load up on perennials.

If you’ve decided to add some new perennials to your garden in the month of May, you aren’t alone! Many gardeners decide that they need some extra filler plants, or just want to add some different flowers that will come back every season.

So where do you start? Luckily, there are plenty of quick blooming perennials that can be excellent options to plant in the month of May. Let’s take a look at some of our favorite perennials you can plant in May, with names and pictures of each!

Black Eyed Susan

Black Eyed Susan
Rudbeckia hirta is native to North America, but due to its decorative beauty, and unpretentiousness in care, it is widespread in countries with a temperate climate.

Scientific Name: Rudbeckia Hirta

  • Plant Type: Herbaceous Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Eastern and Central North America
  • Plant Size: 20 – 23 in. tall
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
  • Plant Zone: 3 to 9

Black eyed susan is technically a wildflower with the behavior of a perennial. The happy yellow perennial flowers dance around in your garden all summer long attracting pollinators of every sort. The dark brown, nearly black center of the flowers gives the plant its name and also the appearance of a sunflower.

These flowers need very little maintenance. Deadhead the spent flowers to encourage more flower growth, and also to prevent the spreading of the seed. However, this plant is great in a naturalized garden. Leaving the seed heads on the stems will provide autumn and winter interest in your garden.

Great in a hot sunny location, black eyed susans require little watering and are very drought tolerant.

Deer and rabbits can be attracted to black eyed susans. Plant them near critter-resistant plants, such as coneflower or lavender,  to keep them from nibbling at your plants.

Bleeding Heart

Bleeding Heart
Bleeding Heart has flower petals when flowering form a heart shape of a purple hue.

Scientific Name: Lamprocapnos spectabilis

  • Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Asia
  • Height: 24-48″  Width: 24-36″
  • Sun Exposure: Partial to Full shade
  • Plant Zone: 3 to 9

This classic perennial bears some of the most interesting flowers you can find. The stems have an upright or an arched habit and are covered in little hearts in shades of white or pink. These flowers bloom in mid to late spring, lasting through the early summer months.

When the weather heats up they will die back, which can leave some holes and gaps in your gardens. Keep this in mind while you are adding bleeding heart to your flower beds. Hostas and astilbe would be great companion plants and would fill in the gaps nicely. Or you could plant summer annuals in the areas where your bleeding hearts once were.

Bleeding heart requires very little maintenance. Once the flowering period has ended, cut the plant back if you are looking to keep a neater garden. However, if you have planted bleeding heart in a woodland setting, or if you are just not bothered by some brown leaves in the summer you can leave the plant as is and enjoy it until it shrivels and disappears.

Bleeding heart loves well-draining soil that is full of organic matter such as compost. Keep your plant moist, but not too wet! For the most bountiful flowers, bleeding heart will be happiest in full to partial shade.

Aside from your typical garden pests, such as aphids, no one is really interested in eating your bleeding hearts.

Bloodroot

Bloodroot
Bloodroot is native to the eastern forests of North America.

Scientific Name: Sanguinaria canadensis

  • Plant Type: Perennial rhizome
  • Geographic Origin: North America
  • Plant size: 8-20 inches tall
  • Sun Exposure: Full to partial shade
  • Plant zone: 3-8

This is an excellent option if you have an area where you could do mass planting. Bloodroot loves the shade, and a mass planting would do really well in a woodland border. This plant is a perennial rhizome, which is similar to a bulb but has a more dependable return than some spring bulbs you may be accustomed to.

Each plant blooms in the early spring and has one pretty white perennial flower. The bloom time is short, which is why a mass planting would be so pretty. The good news here is that bloodroot has very attractive foliage that continues to grow as the summer months go on.

Because of the short bloom time, there isn’t a lot of flower maintenance to worry about. Bloodroot is relatively pest-free; slugs may be your only issue. Be cautious, this plant is highly toxic to humans as well as animals.

Candytuft

Candytuft
Candytuft is a flowering perennial or annual, herbaceous or semi-shrub plant from the Cruciferous family.

Scientific Name: Iberis

  • Plant Type: Herbaceous Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Mediterranean
  • Plant Size: 12-18 inches tall
  • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
  • Plant Zone: 7-11

Candytuft is such a pretty spring bloomer. The fern-like foliage grows in low habit and is covered in clusters of white flowers that look like cotton balls. There are varieties in shades of pink and purple as well! The flowers will last into the summer, and sometimes may even often rebloom in the fall!

Candytuft is a sun lover, and also is tolerant of rocky soils. Creeping phlox would make a great companion plant- imagine the two of them spilling over a rock wall together- that would be a stunning sight.

Once a year, when the blooms have passed, cut the plant down to prevent the stems from becoming woody. By nature, candytuft is a woody plant but looks its best when it is grown as a herbaceous perennial. Candytuft is relatively pest and disease-free, aside from the common garden pests.

Columbine

Columbine
Columbine is a herbaceous perennial plant, that has flowers of an unusual shape that open with a lush-colored hat above the bush.

Scientific Name: Aquilegia

  • Plant Type: Herbaceous Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: North America
  • Plant Size: 18 inches tall
  • Sun Exposure: partial shade to full sun
  • Plant Zone: 3 to 8

The unique flowers of the columbine plant come in just about every color of the rainbow. They will bloom throughout the spring, lasting into the summer attracting all sorts of pollinators but especially hummingbirds. The foliage is also very attractive, in a rich green that turns to a deep red in the fall.

Columbine does well in full sun until the heat of the summer kicks in. If you live in an area where you may experience hot stretches of weather, plant columbine in partial shade. 

Deadheading will keep columbine blooming longer. However, if you are interested in the benefit of their self-seeding, then leave the flowerheads on the stems.

For the most part, pests are minimal. However, aphids and leaf miners have been known to infest columbine. Using a horticultural oil, such as neem, will help to take care of this issue.

Creeping Phlox

Creeping Phlox
Creeping Phlox is a very unpretentious and adaptable plant, that can put up with the most unfavorable growing conditions.

Scientific Name: Phlox stolonifera

  • Plant Type: Herbaceous Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Eastern United States
  • Plant size: 3-8 inches tall, 2 feet wide
  • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
  • Plant zone: 3-9

Also known as moss phlox, this is one of my favorite springtime bloomers. The grass-like foliage is covered in star-shaped perennial flowers in pink, white, or lilac. I love to see this plant creeping down the border of a driveway, or over a stone wall. The flowers last a short time, but they leave behind such a nice mat of foliage.

After blooming is complete, you may opt to give the entire plant a good trim. This will encourage a second bloom, but it is not necessary. Cutting the plant back in early winter will strengthen the plant which in turn will help to produce more prolific blooms.

This is a very low-maintenance plant, just so long as you are okay with it spreading around a bit. Okay, more than a bit. This plant will go everywhere that you let it. Watering is best kept to a minimum except for during hot spells.

Similar to its cousin the taller garden phlox, creeping phlox can be subject to powdery mildew infections. This typically occurs if the phlox is planted in too deep of shade and is getting too much water! Another pest issue that may come up is the presence of mites.

Mites love a dry, hot plant. Do take care to water occasionally, just don’t soak the plant. This will help to keep the mites at bay and will reduce any plant stress caused by drought.

Cushion Spurge

Cushion Spurge
Cushion Spurge prefers loose, not overfertilized, not too wet and not calcified soil in the sun or in partial shade.

Scientific Name: Euphorbia epithymoides

  • Plant Type: Herbaceous Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Southeast Europe
  • Plant size: 1-2 feet tall
  • Sun Exposure: Sun to partial sun
  • Plant zone 4-8

This is just one of the coolest plants. Blooming twice in spring, once in yellow and again a bit later in a light green this plant has a glowing effect. Cushion spurge grows to about 18 inches in height, in a really nice mounded or “cushion” shape. The plant will maintain its shape all season long and will offer some showy orange, purple, or red foliage in the fall. If you glance quickly at cushion spurge in the fall you could almost mistake it for a fall chrysanthemum.

Cushion spurge does not require much maintenance at all. It loves full sun and can tolerate most soil types including rocky gardens. Cut the plant back by one third to keep the growth lush and to prevent woody stems. Cutting the plant back will also prevent self seeding, so don’t cut it back if you would like some spreading.

Cushion spurge is commonly ignored by most of your garden pests which are likely due to its toxicity. All parts of the plant are toxic if ingested. The milky sap inside the plant could irritate your skin, be sure to wear your garden gloves while you’re working with this plant.

Echinacea

Echinacea
The perennial flowering plant Echinacea is a member of the Asteraceae family.

Scientific Name: Echinacea

  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: North America
  • Plant Size: 2-3 feet tall
  • Sun Exposure: Part sun to full sun
  • Plant Zone: 3-9

Echinacea, or coneflower, is part of the daisy family. These colorful perennials are a great garden addition. There are so many new hybrids of coneflower, there is a color or flower type for everyone. Deadhead once the flowers have passed and cut to the nearest set of leaves.

I like to collect the seedheads of my coneflowers and let them dry out a bit and spread them where I have a more wild area of my yard.

Coneflowers only need minimal watering after they have taken hold and set up a good root system. Their leaves will droop when they are thirsty. I have seen coneflowers covered in the lacelike leaves left behind by Japanese beetles. Take care to spray them preventatively with an insecticidal soap.

Hellebore

Hellebore
Hellebore is a perennial garden plant, medicinal herb, and just a beautiful flower.

Scientific Name: Helleborus

  • Plant Type: Herbaceous Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Southern and Central Europe
  • Plant Size: 1-2 ft. tall
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun, Full Shade, Partial Shade
  • Plant Zone: 6 to 9

Hellebore is a great bloomer for late winter into spring. Planting in May will allow this plant to get itself established in your garden, and ready to produce bountiful flowers for you next spring. This also may be a great time to get these plants on sale at a garden center.

Hellebore flowers are made up of five sepals that resemble a rose blossom. They come in a variety of colors from white, pink, all the way to a deep purple which almost looks black. Their foliage is attractive and oftentimes has a silver tinge to it, giving it a nice soft appearance.

Relatively low maintenance, hellebores like a good amount of shade in the summer with sun in the wintertime. You do not need to cut back hellebore at the end of the season because it is an evergreen plant. However, if you experience harsh winters the leaves will flatten and turn brown, so you may want to cut the plant back to the ground.

Hellebore is targets for your typical garden pests such as aphids and slugs, keep your plant healthy by minimal watering. Hellebore likes its well-draining soil to be moist but not wet.

This is another toxic plant, so be careful where you plant it! Keep out of reach of pets and children, and this will make a really pretty addition to your spring garden.

Iris

Iris
is a warm and photophilous plant. It is especially important to water irises regularly and relatively abundantly during the formation of buds.

Scientific Name: Iris

  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Central and Southern Europe
  • Plant Size: 12 – 14 in. tall
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
  • Plant Zone: 3 to 10

There are many varieties of Iris to keep your garden blooming all summer long. Iris is one of those classic plants that everyone loves. It is easy to see why. The most popular type of Iris grown in gardens is the Bearded Iris.

Even within this group of Iris, there are many varieties for you. The flowers range from the well-known blueish purple, from white, to yellow. The foliage is grass-like and remains attractive throughout the season.

Iris plants are rhizomes. The rhizomes will spread and multiply as the plant ages. Be sure to keep an eye on the plants, if their blooming has slowed a bit you may need to divide the rhizomes.

Irises are drought-tolerant and low maintenance. Cut the foliage back after it has yellowed. It may be tempting to cut the foliage back before this but it is important to allow the leaves to yellow. During this time period the leaves are sending nutrients back into the rhizomes to help prepare the plant for the next season’s growth.

Deadheading the flowers after they have passed will help to revitalize the plant. While Irises are drought-tolerant, that is only true to an extent. Some watering will be needed during long dry spells.

Perennial Geranium

Perennial Geranium
Garden geraniums are almost undemanding to the soil. Their only condition is good water permeability and the absence of stagnant water.

Scientific Name: Geranium

  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: South Africa
  • Plant Size: 4-48 inches tall
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Plant Zone: 4-9

Perennial geraniums, also known as cranesbill or hardy geraniums, are really beautiful low-growing perennials. The sprawling foliage is a gorgeous true green with pretty cut leaves. The blooms come in purple, pink, or white and mimic the annual geranium we are all familiar with.

Geranium loves full to partial sun, making it very easy to use in your gardens. They are not too picky about the soil that you plant them in, so long as it is well-draining.

Geraniums are a tried and true garden plant that requires little maintenance and really are self sufficient once established. Because the foliage and flowers grow so close to the ground, keep an eye out for slugs that might show up due to excess moisture.

Poppy

Poppy
Poppies in natural conditions are found in regions with temperate, subtropical, and cold climates.

Scientific Name: Papaver

  • Plant type: Herbaceous Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Northeastern Turkey
  • Plant Size: 1 to 3 feet tall
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Plant Zone: 5 to 7

Poppies can be grown from seed, or purchased as a plant from your favorite garden center. Poppies are such pretty happy flowers. They come in shades of red, orange, pink, purple and more. Poppies will bloom in mid spring and last through the summer. The foliage of the plant is pretty and frilly. If you choose to grow from seed you can sew the seeds right into your garden where you desire the poppies to grow.

Poppies will grow well in poor to average soil and love the full and direct sun. Once established water minimally, too much water will cause your plants to become leggy.

Aside from deadheading, established poppies do not need too much care. Poppies can struggle with the typical garden pests, like aphids.

Rose Campion

Rose Campion
Rose campion is quite drought-resistant and can do without frequent watering.

Scientific Name: Silene

  • Plant type: Short Lived Perennial
  • Geographic Origin: Southeastern Europe
  • Plant size: 1-2 feet
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • Plant zone: 4-10

Rose campion always makes me think of summer. The flowers are either white or hot pink, and both are set on silver foliage. These flowers only last for a day or two, if you deadhead them quickly you will get more blossoms. If you don’t get to deadheading your plant will self-seed and you will end up with more rose campion plants, it’s a win-win! Either way, the foliage remains attractive and soft all summer long.

I love a plant that doesn’t require rich soil. It seems like everyone has a spot in their garden with old rocky soil that could use some love. This is a great plant for this type of space.

Be sure to cut the plant back about one-third before the winter to ensure lush growth for the next year.

Salvia

Salvia
Salvia is an unpretentious cold-resistant perennial plant but cultivated as an annual.

Scientific Name: Salvia

  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Geographical Origin: Asia, the Americas, Europe
  • Plant Size: 18 inches to 5 feet tall
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Plant Zone: 3-9

A favorite summer plant of mine! Bright beautiful spikes of purple perfection last for most of the summer. When the first round of flowers passes, give the whole plant a hair cut down to where the foliage looks lush and you will also get an early autumn bloom. There is also annual salvia, this is not the same thing, while annual salvia is amazing in summer flower beds.

Perennial salvia is resistant to most wildlife, pests, and diseases! It will grow to a height of about two feet and the same in the spread. Some varieties can get even larger. It can be a deciduous or evergreen flowering shrub, as well as a perennial or annual flowering plant.

These plants are great on their own or dappled throughout a sunny perennial garden. They require little water once they are established. However, if they go too long without watering the leaves may start to crisp up and turn brown on the edges.

Solomon’s Seal

Solomon’s Seal
Solomon’s Seal is an ornamental perennial plant that is distinguished by its unpretentiousness, and it also has healing properties.

Scientific Name: Polygonatum

  • Plant Type: Herbaceous Perennial
  • Geographical Origin: Asia
  • Plant size: 1-3 feet, larger with some varieties
  • Sun Exposure: Partial to Full shade
  • Plant zone: 3-9

My Mother is a Lily of the Valley lover, who isn’t though? She loved it so much she carried a fake lily of the valley in her wedding bouquet because they couldn’t find it fresh! Well- if you’ve seen Breaking Bad, or if you are privy to the plants toxicity you may understand why it isn’t a great choice for a garden if you have a family.

Enter Solomon’s Seal! Now, no, it’s not exactly the same. But it is just about as close as you can get! I think that people have started to steer away from Solomon’s seal because it spreads rather aggressively. So here is my argument as to why you should plant it; It spreads so amazingly!!

These plants grow to about two feet in height and love the shade. You do not need to deadhead the pretty bell-shaped droplet flowers. Because the moist soil prefers mixed with the shade, slugs can become a problem.

Final Thoughts

Don’t wait until after Memorial Day to start adding new annual plants to your garden. Instead, start as soon as you can by adding any of the above perennials that will give you plenty of joy with little effort for years to come!

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