Native Plant Growing Guide for May

May is the ultimate gardening month. The weather is finally warm enough to start planting. After nurturing the tiny plants for so long it’s time to get them in the ground! 

When planting non-native flowers and vegetables you usually have to wait until after the last frost. In southern Ontario that falls around the Victoria Day long weekend. However, many native plants are much hardier and will do just fine if there is a frost.  I like to take my cues from nature.  If a native plant species is growing out in the wild it is safe to plant out my seedlings.  It’s a great excuse to go for a walk and see what is growing at this time of year.  

At the beginning of May I can already see that Common Yarrow, Black-eyed Susan, Flat-topped White Aster, New England Aster, and Purple-stemmed Aster have started to grow.  I don’t need to wait to plant these species in my garden. On the other hand, Big bluestem and Blue vervain haven’t started growing yet. I’ll wait a few weeks before planting those seedlings. I really like this longer planting window.  You can take your time and spread out the planting over the entire month instead of trying to do it all in a weekend. 

Spring ephemerals

Make sure to spend some time in a woodland this month to see the spring ephemeral wildflowers. These species are some of our most beloved plants: the trilliums, bloodroot, and jack-in the-pulpit are just a few of these spring jewels. They are challenging to grow from seed and take a lot of patience. Most of them take several years before they will flower.  If you are buying plants always buy them from a reputable nursery and never dig them up from the wild.

Yellow trout lily flowering in spring, May native plant growing guide
Yellow trout lily, Erythronium americanum

Plant identification

A great resource for identifying and recording nature sightings is iNaturalist. If you come across a plant and you aren’t sure what it is, you can upload a photo and it will offer suggestions based on plants that are likely to be found in your area. There is also a community of experts that will confirm your sighting.