Two words: plant ahead.

Pink Zinnias
Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Probably the greatest advantage Southern gardeners enjoy is the potential to have something blooming outdoors nearly every month of the year. However, realizing this potential means planting ahead.

Depending on where you live, spring is either in high gear in March or nearly upon you. So there's not much you can do to embellish this particular spring, beyond sticking in some potted pansies and snapdragons at the last minute. But you can start planning for future seasons. This timetable will help.


  • Set out annual transplants for summer color before the weather gets hot. They'll become established quicker and give you a better, long-lasting show. This means replacing cool-weather annuals while they're still blooming, but the results are worth it.
  • For an informal, cottage-style garden, sow seeds of quick-germinating annuals such as cosmos, zinnias, spider flower (Clemoe hasslerana), marigolds, common sunflower, and Mexican sunflower (Tithonia sp.), directly into the garden. Barely cover with soil. They'll bloom throughout summer and into fall.
  • Plant summer- and fall-blooming bulbs, such as glads, cannas, callas, dahlias, spider lilies (Lycoris sp.), and ginger lilies. And don't forget caladiums for spectacular summer foliage.
  • Set out shrubs and perennials that add blooms to wither the fall (roses, sasanqua camellias, Mexican bush sage, ornamental grasses, asters, mums) or winter (winter honeysuckle, winter daphne, common camellia, Lenten rose).


  • Midsummer isn't too late to add fall blooming plants to your perennial border. Good choices include asters, joe-pye weed, Mexican bush sage, pineapple sage, ironweed, mums, and goldenrod. Look for plants with healthy roots growing in 1-gallon pots. After planting, be sure to water daily for two to three weeks until the plants are established.
  • In late summer, sow seeds of cosmos and large-flowered zinnias directly into the garden for an easy color display throughout the fall.


  • Get out to your garden center early for the best selection of winter- or spring-flowering bulbs, such as daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, snowdrops, and crocus. Plant by early December. If you live in an area with short, mild winters, chill bulbs in the refrigerator for 8 to 10 weeks before planting.
  • Set out transplants of cool-weather flowers that will bloom next spring. Good choices include foxgloves, pansies, violas, snapdragons, stock, and sweet William.
  • Sow seeds of spring-blooming annuals, such as poppies and larkspur, directly onto bare soil, and barely cover.
  • For winter flowers in Florida and the Tropical South, plant petunias, pot marigold (Calendula officinalis), pansies, Drummond phlox (phlox drummondii), snapdragons, nasturtiums, and violas.
  • Fall is a great time for planting hardy trees, shrubs, vines, and perennials to supply colorful flowers and foliage next year.