Yellow bearded iris grows in a raised flower bed with sedum plants and hosta.

May Flowers In The Bloomin’ Garden

May flowers are the result of those April showers, right?

We get plenty of spring rain here in Northeast Ohio. Both flowers and weeds thrive. In my garden, that  means everything is growing full speed ahead whether I’m ready or not.

Are you wondering which plants bloom here in mid-May? Check out the photos and descriptions of some of my favorite perennials below.

Dictamnus  (“Gas Plant”)Dictamnus blooms as flowers on a spike.

After forty years of gardening, I have to say that Dictamnus is one of my all-time favorite perennials.

It grows and spreads slowly, doesn’t need staking, has long-lasting flowers, and resists disease.

It also doesn’t get eaten by the deer and that is a huge plus around here. I’ve written before about our problems with foraging deer.

Why don’t deer like this plant? The clue comes from its common name, “gas plant.”

Dictamnus produces an oil that smells a bit like gas. Legend says that on a warm and still day if you light a match near the flowers you will get a puff of blue flame. I’ve never tried this but it might be fun.

The oil is what keeps the deer away from this beautiful plant.

Its easy habit and longevity definitely puts Dictamnus in the category of top performers in the May garden.

Iris Germanica (Bearded Iris)

The bearded iris have unfurled their pastel petals.

I planted these inside the garden fence because a hungry deer will sometimes snack on the blooms.

Blue and yellow flowers on the bearded iris plants show up well against the dark green foliage.
Close-up of a blue bearded iris flower shows the yellow and red markings on the flower petals near the center.

Unlike Dictamnus, bearded iris blooms don’t last long.

But they certainly are spectacular.

I’ve read that bearded iris are susceptible to borers but I haven’t had much trouble with pests on these plants.

Bearded iris need regular digging up and dividing to keep producing attractive flowers and foliage. Luckily, this isn’t difficult. These perennials grow from rhizomes that are planted close to the surface of the soil.

Once you’ve divided those rhizomes, you can plant more iris in various garden beds or give some to a friend. In fact, that’s how I got started growing these show-stopping May flowers.

Liriodendron Tulipifera (Tulip Poplar)

The tulip poplar flower is pale yellow with orange anthers and a prominent stamen.

Tulip poplars can grow to 160 feet tall, and their growth is rapid.

This poplar variety’s height and the fact that the branches often don’t grow until its trunk is 20-30 feet from the ground might create the impression that its beautiful flowers are irrelevant to our enjoyment of the May garden.

That’s not the case.

Our tulip poplar always drops a few flowers onto the ground below so that we mere mortals can enjoy their beauty.

Like the basswood tree’s flowers, the tulip poplar’s blooms are rich in nectar and attract pollinators. Unlike the basswood, this tree doesn’t shed a lot of brittle branches onto the ground below it.

That’s a plus in my book.

Veronica Teucrium ‘Royal Blue’ (Speedwell)

Veronica (Speedwell) brings a beautiful true blue to our garden in May.

Veronica 'Royal Blue' brings true blue color to the late spring garden.

There are lots of varieties of veronica, including common lawn weeds. But ‘Royal Blue’ is one of my favorite May flowers. The color is just so vibrant.

The flowers grow in spikes like the Dictamnus plants’, but veronica’s spikes aren’t as tall or rigid.

And the tiny white “eye” in the flower’s center seems to make the blue even brighter, reminiscent of lobelias.

These are definitely front-of-the-border plants.

Cerastium Tomentosum (Snow-in-Summer)Snow-in-summer gets its common name from the mounds of small, white flowers it produces in mid-May.

Snow-in-summer is another perennial with a long bloom period.  Its multitude of white flowers and mounding habit are how it earned its common name.

The only problem I’ve encountered with this pretty plant is that it doesn’t seem dense enough (at least where I have it planted) to suppress weeds and grass.

Snow-in-summer’s downy, gray foliage is delicate but keeps deer and rabbits away. The gray foliage and white flowers break up the medium and dark greens that march along the typical flower border.

Dictamnus, iris, veronica, tulip poplar, and snow-in-summer are some of the best blooms May has to offer – even in deer country.

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