When to Plant Flowering Plants

The gardener planning to expand or renew a collection of flowering plants should know the preferred times to buy and install.

For perennials, a good time to plant is during the early part of the rainy season. This schedule relies on the rain to water the plants while they establish roots before flowering in the spring. In the Monterey Bay area, the rainy season begins typically in mid-October or early November and continues through March, with the greatest rainfall in January.

For some popular flowering plants, the ideal planting times relate to dormancy periods. A rule of thumb is to buy and install such plants when they are on sale by gardening groups.

The Monterey Bay Iris Society holds an early sale of tall bearded iris rhizomes at The Garden Faire, on the first Saturday of the summer season. This year, the Faire will be on June 22nd. The Society has two larger sales in the first half of August. The Society has its show early in May, when gardeners can see tall bearded irises in bloom.

Other kinds of irises have annual cycles that differ from the tall bearded irises. The rhizomes of beardless irises, e.g., Japanese, Louisiana, Siberian and Spuria irises, are planted in early October. Divisions of California native irises are planted around the end of August.

The Monterey Bay Iris Society does not offer beardless iris rhizomes or California native iris divisions at its sales, but some garden centers offer these plants. Also, the Society for Pacific Coast Native Irises sells seeds during the fall of each year; in 2012, the last day to order seeds was December 31st. Seeds can be planted during the winter months, with blooms expected early in April.

Another local example is the Monterey Bay Dahlia Society, which has its primary sale in early April. The society’s annual show is held typically at the end of August.

Roses are most often sold during their dormancy as bare root plants from late fall through the winter months. Garden centers and mail order nurseries are the principal sources. The Monterey Bay Rose Society does not sell rose plants, but it has an annual show in May, where gardeners can see roses that grow well in the Monterey Bay area.

Gardeners often buy annuals in the spring when they are in bloom. While it’s helpful to see the bloom before buying, the plant might be peaking in the garden center and ready to decline in the garden. A better plan is to buy six-packs of annuals earlier in the spring, and let them bloom in the garden.

Visit ongardening.com for more ideas about planting times. Be a smart plant buyer, and enjoy your garden!


For planning a vegetable garden, a helpful resource is the Spring Garden Planting Guide, published by Mother Earth magazine. It’s available online. Click here for the Guide and a Spring Garden Worksheet.

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