When Shakespeare coined the phrase ‘the darling buds of May’ he was referring to the beautiful flower buds that appear this month and possibly also to the hawthorn flowers or ‘may flowers’ as they were once called. May is the month when blossom appears in abundance from all different types of flowers and trees. So, here’s a selection of some of the best plants for May. 

1. Paeonia (peony) ‘First Arrival’

Peonies have been grown in gardens for centuries and their flowers are some of the most romantic appearing at this time of year. Once established, they are easy to grow, and this cultivar is one of the first peonies to flower. It produces semi-double, slightly glossy pink, lavender flowers that make great cut flowers.

  • Flowers in spring
  • Hardy
  • Grows to 70cm tall
  • Well-drained soil
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Sheltered

2. Geranium var. phaeum (geranium) ‘Samobor’

Geraniums are some of the most reliable and varied group of hardy perennials, with varieties for most types of situations in the garden. ‘Samobor’ is the perfect choice for shady areas, producing dark purple flowers held high above its leaves. The leaves are heavily marked with broad splashes of maroon.

  • Flowers in spring
  • Hardy
  • Grows to 90cm tall
  • Well-drained soil
  • Partial shade or full shade
  • Exposed
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3. Malus (purple flowering crab apple) ‘Royalty’

At this time of year crab apple cultivars are full of blossom, with colours ranging from white to all shades of pink. This cultivar has dramatic dark purple leaves smothered in extremely attractive deep pink/maroon flowers. It’s a small, rounded tree, perfect for the smaller garden. Also, there’s the added bonus of leaves which turn striking shades of vivid red in the autumn.

  • Flowers in spring
  • Hardy
  • Grows to 4m tall
  • Moist, but well-drained soil
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Exposed
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4. Cercis siliquastrum (Judas tree)

This is one of those trees whose flowers appear before the leaves. In this case, the flowers are a wonderful shade of bright magenta pink. The blooms are followed by pretty, heart-shaped leaves in early summer. Classified as a large shrub/small tree, it can easily be pruned to the preferred height and width. What’s more, it will grow in most types of soil.

  • Flowers in spring
  • Hardy
  • Grows to 7.5m tall
  • Well-drained soil
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Sheltered or exposed
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5. Chaenomeles superba (Japanese quince) ‘Pink Lady’

This is an easy to grow shrub with a spreading, airy habit, making it the perfect choice for an informal garden. Full of delightful pink blossom for weeks on end from early spring, it produces fruit in the autumn which can be made into a tasty jam. If space is limited, or a more formal look required, it’s easily trained against a wall or fence.

  • Flowers in spring
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows to 1.5m tall
  • Moist but well-drained or well-drained soil
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Exposed or sheltered
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6. Thymus (thyme) ‘Silver Posie’

Thyme is a well-known evergreen culinary herb which also looks good in the garden when grown alongside a path or in a rock garden and is a great choice as a ground cover plant. This cultivar has silver-coloured leaves and grows in a neat, rounded upright shape. It produces very pretty purple flowers during late spring early summer which are particularly attractive to bees and butterflies.

  • Flowers in spring
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows to 30cm tall
  • Well-drained soil
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Exposed
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7. Viburnum opulus (snowball tree) ‘Roseum’

This is the ideal ornamental shrub for a sunny, mixed border. It looks especially good at this time of the year when its branches are laden with snowball shape clusters of white flowers. The fresh green leaves turn purple in autumn. Prune after flowering by cutting out approximately one in five of the weakest, oldest branches, and mulch around the base of the plant using well-rotted compost.

  • Flowers in spring
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows to 5m tall
  • Moist but well-drained or well-drained soil
  • Full sun, partial shade or full shade
  • Exposed or sheltered
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8. Galium odoratum (sweet woodruff)

Next is another herb that is equally at home in an ornamental flower bed. It produces lots of tiny fresh-green leaves in early spring, followed soon after by many small clusters of scented, starry white flowers. It’s the perfect woodland ground cover plant.

  • Flowers in spring
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows to 50cm tall
  • Moist, but well-drained soil
  • Partial shade
  • Sheltered
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9. Exochorda x macrantha (pearl bush) ‘The Bride’

This is an easy to care for, deciduous shrub with gorgeous white flowers that completely cover the arching stems in early spring. An added bonus is that the leaves turn shades of orange and yellow during the autumn months.

  • Flowers in spring
  • Hardy
  • Grows to 3m tall
  • Moist, but well-drained soil
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Exposed
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10. Syringa vulgaris (lilac) ’Sensation’

Lilacs are known and loved for their highly scented flowers which appear in late spring. The single, rich purple-red flowers, edged white, create a gorgeous bi-colour effect. It’s ideal to apply a layer of well-rotted garden compost as a mulch around the base of this shrub in early spring.

  • Flowers in spring
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows to 4m tall
  • Moist but well-drained or well-drained soil
  • Full sun
  • Exposed or sheltered
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May is a fantastic time in the garden with bursts of blooms throughout the garden. Throughout this month, there are some glorious plants that not only look and smell great in our gardens, but work wonders for pollinators too. So, lend them a helping hand by planting up these top ten plants for May.

Find out more about adding texture to your garden:

Adding texture

Or check out my Pinterest board for more ideas: