Your Garden Calendar at a Glance: Here's When to Plant Everything, From Flowers and Shrubs to Vegetables

We're outlining the best times to get your trees, shrubs, and other flowering favorites in the ground.

Woman working in vegetable garden

Before picking up the gardening shovel, seeds, and fertilizer, it's important to determine whether the time is right to plant your flowers, shrubs, veggies, grass, and more. Doing so sets your garden and lawn up for success, which will save you time, frustration, water, and resources in the long run.

Ahead, we've created a straightforward guide on when to plant various items—so make sure to bookmark this one for future reference.

The Best Soil for Every Type of Garden

Planting Basics

Let's cover some general planting rules of (green) thumb.

Time of Year

Generally speaking, the ideal planting season falls between spring and autumn. In the spring, weather is usually mild, and there's plenty of clean-up work to be done; it's around this time when nurseries start filling up with color. You also have the whole summer ahead of you to create a thriving garden.

Fall is another popular planting period. Soil is typically still warm, which allows roots to grow until the ground potentially freezes. There's also less urgency to keep plants well watered; things don't grow as actively. In some climates—like in the desert—the summers may be too brutal for plants, so fall acts as a type of spring.

Pro Tip: The window for fall planting generally ends six weeks before your area gets a hard frost and the ground freezes.

Unseasonable Weather

Always take overall weather conditions into consideration when planting. If you're dealing with an unpredictably wet spring, then working the soil can be unfruitful. Or if summer has been particularly hot, it may be best to patiently wait until the fall to put your plants in the ground.

Type of Plants

Keep in mind that some plants are only available at certain times of the year, and that alone determines their planting season. For instance, certain roses and trees are sold as bare roots, which means they should only be planted in the dormant season of late autumn and winter. On the other hand, spring-blooming bulbs often require a cold dormancy period to bloom.

With all that said, here are some general guidelines for when to plant different plant types so that your garden flourishes year round.

woman's hands with secateurs cutting flowers of yellow narcissus in spring flower bed

When to Plant Bulbs

Bulbs often take one or two seasons before they make a robust flowering debut. Generally speaking, spring-flowering bulbs, like tulips and daffodils, should be planted in autumn and early winter—around September and October. "If you live in the South, plant later, once soil temperature is below 60 degrees," says Jen McDonald, a garden specialist and founder of The Garden Girls in Houston, Texas.

She adds that summer-flowering bulbs, like dahlias, lilies, and gladiolus, should be planted in early spring once the last frost has passed. Autumn-flowering crocus, on the other hand, should be planted in winter because they send up leaves in the spring and then flower in late summer.

When sourcing bulbs, comb through the options at your local garden nursery. "Look for firm, large bulbs with the husks intact, and avoid bulbs that feel mushy or have dark, moldy spots," says McDonald. "The bigger the bulb, the better the bloom."

  • Spring planting: dahlia, lily, and gladiolus bulbs
  • Fall planting: tulip and daffodil bulbs
  • Winter planting: crocus bulbs
White picket fence overgrown with pink rose blossoms
Catherine McQueen / GETTY IMAGES

When to Plant Bare-Root Plants and Perennials

These au natural plants offered with their roots exposed—usually fruit trees, roses, and perennials—should be planted right away so that their roots don't dry out; getting them into the ground quickly will also prevent them from breaking their dormancy. These plants are usually available from November to March. It's also important to note that bare-root plants are often more affordable than their potted counterparts.

Woman planting flower in a flower pot
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When to Plant Annual Flowers

While perennials are planted just once and pop up again when the time is right, annual flowers must be replanted each year. McDonald stresses that every type of flower has its own schedule, so it's best practice to research the type of flower (and its variety) before you start digging. Also keep your climate in mind.

  • Spring planting: pansy, snapdragon, marigold, zinnia, hydrangea, and petunia
  • Summer planting: vinca, rudbeckia, dianthus, lantana, zinnia, marigold, and sunflower
  • Fall planting: mums, petunia, coreopsis, and pansy
  • Winter planting: violas, delphinium, primrose, and bachelor's buttons
Fresh Cauliflower at Early Morning in Field.

When to Plant Vegetables and Edible Plants

Cool-season crops—such as spinach, broccoli, and potatoes—grow best when temperatures range between 40 and 75 degrees. In most zones, these cool-loving types can be planted two to four weeks before the last spring frost. Summer veggies, on the other hand, dislike frost, so plant them after your last frost date when nighttime temps remain above 50 degrees.

"We recommend checking with a local nursery, which is familiar with your microclimate, to determine your annual schedule for planting vegetables and herbs," says Dan Allen, a master gardener and the co-founder of Farmscape Gardens. "As you're building your planting schedule, key considerations include what vegetables and herbs you'd like to grow, how frost-sensitive those crops are, and whether you plan to grow them from seed or purchase seedlings."

  • Spring planting: cucumber, tomatoes, peppers, bush and long beans, zucchini, and arugula
  • Summer planting: squash, French beans, cucumber, tomatoes, peppers, bush and long beans, and zucchini
  • Fall planting: winter squash, beets, carrots, Brussels sprout, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuces, spinach, and Swiss chard
  • Winter planting: kale, spinach, collards, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, English peas, beets, carrots, and Swiss chard
row of blooming crepe mrytle trees
Joe_Potato / Getty Images

When to Plant Trees and Shrubs

Spring and fall are ideal for planting trees and shrubs. McDonald says that deciduous trees, including dogwood, magnolia and oak, do well when planted in spring, as they need longer days to adjust to transplant and concentrate on root growth.

She adds that evergreen shrubs—such as boxwood and rhododendron—are susceptible to winter damage and will benefit from spring planting, as well. Conifer trees (like pine, fir, and juniper), which have needle or scale-like leaves present throughout winter months, prefer warmer soil for transplant and should be planted in late summer to early fall.

  • Spring planting: dogwood, magnolia, oak, boxwood, and rhododendron
  • Fall planting: pine, fir, and juniper trees

Pro Tip: Nurseries typically have the best selection during spring, so that may affect your planting schedule. Regardless of the timing, "once you select trees and shrubs for planting, you'll need to provide regular water during the first few months," says McDonald. "While this is a time commitment, it's very important to water deeply as opposed to a daily sprinkle from the hose."

Small trees likely need 2 to 3 gallons of water each time you irrigate, while larger varieties may need closer to 6 gallons. Apply water directly to the root zone—not the leaves or branches, McDonald says.

Fresh grass roll out in the garden to make new lawn

When to Lay Down Sod

You can lay sod and lawn directly over soil as long as the ground isn't frozen and the temperature isn't likely to go below freezing. "If soil is frozen beneath newly laid sod, the roots will not develop—so spring and fall are best, when temperatures are moderate," says McDonald. "Ideally, you'll want to choose a time to lay sod when the forecast calls for mixed rain and sunshine, so that the newly planted lawn will receive the best nutrients from Mother Nature."

Turf can be laid anytime during the year, but it is recommended for spring and fall installation since frozen ground will prevent root development.

Pro Tip: Artificial turf can technically be laid anytime during the year, but it is recommended for fall and winter installation depending on your location. The most important factor, says McDonald, is to avoid installing artificial turf during a period with heavy rain.

Woman Gardening fern At Home

Container-Grown Perennials, Bamboo, Ferns, and Grasses

The optimal time to grow container plants is in the fall; they will have some time to settle in and become established before the spring comes and their roots start to grow. However, if the plants you want are only available in the spring, plant at that time—and be sure to water and mulch well. "Consider what you're planting in the pot and how much root space it will need at maturity," advises Allen. "Fruit trees, for example, will benefit from a much larger pot than you'd need for kitchen herbs. When in doubt, opt for a larger pot or container space."

Smaller pots tend to dry out more quickly compared to larger pots, and water-absorbing materials, like terra-cotta, will soak up water, too. That's a positive for succulents and cacti, which tend to get over-watered, but not so ideal for plants that really need the moisture.

Another factor to keep in mind is whether the plant is well-suited for containers. For instance, trees prefer to go right in the ground so their roots can sprawl below, but invasive, fast-growing plants like mint or rosemary are better controlled in a pot.

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