What to do in the garden in May? – Decoration Elle

Updated May 1, 2024 at 4:22 p.m.

What to do in the garden in May? – © KatarzynaBialasiewicz / iStock

Elegant leaves and flowers enchant spring! But the work of the gardener is not left out either. For a step-by-step guide to the tasks that need to be done in the garden, follow our advice with our gardening calendar for the month of May.

This is a crucial month for the gardener! Until the middle of May or even the end of May in the mountains and northern regions, ice saints can prevent plants from emerging properly. But the mild weather allows for all kinds of outdoor work, such as building a wall or a pond. In addition, it’s time to tame your garden as much as possible by reducing the growth of weeds, installing stakes, directing the garden hose into paths, removing faded flowers… There is no master of his garden who wants!



  • Plant peas bought in pots or from seedlings under cover.
  • From mid-May, it is possible to install “domestic” plants on the beds during the summer: browallia, kalanchoe, pentas, chlorophytum, misères, Madagascar periwinkle, caladium, etc.
  • Plant exotic plants: taro, papyrus, banana…
  • Transplant flowered primroses and small bulbs into semi-shade.
  • Install annuals, bulbous or semi-hardy plants: petunias, daisies, Indian roses, etc.
  • Sow ornamental cabbage.
  • After the lilacs have finished blooming, sow fast-growing semi-hardy annual flowers in the open ground: argemons, queen daisies, marigolds, zinnias, annual coreopsis, straws, kochia, Drummond’s phlox, blue nemophila, bluebells, night beauties…
  • Sow slow-growing biennials in partial shade, nursery or cold frame: primroses, papal coins, etc.
  • Transplant one-year-old flower seedlings from seedlings produced in the heat a month earlier.
  • Plant the lily of the valley plants in a pot in a partially shaded location.
  • Complete the planting of late summer or autumn flowering perennials: bog sage, autumn chrysanthemums, asters, rudbeckia, etc. It is also a good time for semi-hardy plants: fire satan, lily of the Nile, deciduous agapanthus, cape fuchsia, fishing rod angel.
  • Plant vegetable plants as ornamentals such as sea kale and artichokes.
  • After flowering, cut back a few centimeters of spring flowering rockeries: aubriètes, corbeilles-d’or or argent. Divide and rejuvenate old clumps. Take cuttings from their stems.
  • When the pears bloom, sow lupins in the ground. Sow oriental poppies, bluebells, columbines, avens, gaillardias, gaurs, coreopsis, poplars, statices, etc. under cover.
  • Divide clumps of early perennials: lungworts, garden primroses, epimedium, etc. Also divide clumps of colchicum, ornamental garlic, bellflower, and Peruvian sedum.
  • For experienced gardeners, take cuttings in the greenhouse or under the frame of stonewort, sagebrush, carnations, euphorbia, etc.
  • Treat poplars against rust.
  • After the last frosts, plant dahlias, tuberous begonias, ismens, Abyssinian gladiolus, pineapple flowers, ixies, Cape hyacinths, freesias, tuberoses… There is still time to plant lilies before the first roses.
  • Remove spent flowers from daffodils, tulips and hybrid hyacinths once they have finished blooming.
  • Plant purchased rose bushes in vegetation and grown in pots or containers. Reserve varieties with a simple root for autumn. Install cold-sensitive varieties: Banks rose bush, ‘Mermaid’ creeper rose bush, ‘Mutabilis’ or ‘Sanguinea’ Chinese roses, etc.

what to do in the garden in May - lily of the valley

© apugach / iStock

Trees and shrubs

  • Plant flowering shrubs purchased in containers.
  • When peonies are in bloom, install medlars, bibacerias, lavateras bushes, arbutas, magnolias, Mexican orange trees, feijoys, silk trees, etc. Install tree peonies and hydrangeas in bloom.
  • When the hawthorns flower, plant hardy fuchsias and climbing plants such as beans, ipomea, creeping nasturtiums etc.
  • After the oak leaves fall, plant or relocate hardy palms.
  • As the ash spreads, install climbing annuals and semi-hardy varieties in the ground.
  • Prune spring flowering shrubs: goldenrod, Japanese quince, flowering gooseberry, white spiral, etc. Lightly cut back dead rosemary, dogwood and evergreen ceanothus. Make a clean cut on semi-hardy shrubs: some sages, silver-leafed evergreens, sedges, etc. Prune flowering mahonias in the spring. Limit the spread of climbing plants.
  • After flowering, thin out bunches of cherry and ornamental apple trees, deutzia, tavola, weigelia, etc.
  • Continue to create bouquets of lilacs to encourage blooms the following year. Remove wilted mimosa flowers.
  • Cleanse the palms and cordylines.
  • Weed and mulch the base of hedges. Install an irrigation system to avoid drought. Trim conifer hedges.


  • Sow new grass or lay sod.
  • Advice taken from “Petit Larousse du jardin month by month” (ed. Larousse): it is better to water the lawn abundantly every four or five days, rather than often and little, to encourage the roots to seek water in depth, guaranteeing a better subsequent resistance to drought.
  • Fertilize treated lawns every two months with a special mineral or organic fertilizer.
  • Repair areas of the lawn damaged by trampling with seed.
  • Roll the grass once a month to wrap it up.
  • Mow the lawn once a week after checking the sharpness of the mower blades. If you don’t, mow in two stages: once at a high blade position and then two to three days later at normal height. In areas planted with naturalized bulbs, wait until they have set seed and their leaves are dry to avoid damaging them. Clean the frame of the mower after each mowing.
  • If you cannot use a chemical weed killer, remove the most visible weeds by hand.


  • Plant a water lily or sacred lotus purchased as a container plant in the bottom of the pan. At the edge of the pond, install robust potted plants such as variegated reeds and variegated cattails, also pots of arum and also exotic bulbous plants such as cannas. In the pool, install floating plants such as lettuce or water hyacinth, submerged and oxygenating plants such as water pea, water mille-feuilles and Canadian elodea, hardy aquatic plants such as Thalia dealbata and hardy semi-aquatic plants such as Pontederia and Butomus.
  • Feed aquatic plants.
  • Pool maintenance: Remove green algae and weeds, remove watercress, remove any leaks, clean strainers and pump filters.
  • Sweep the bottom of the creek or river bordering the property.
  • Divide old clumps of water lilies, semi-aquatic or riparian plants such as water marigolds.


  • Sow radishes, leeks, carrots, corn, Swiss chard, beetroot, parsley, basil, coriander.
  • Ten days before planting in the ground, gradually harden the plants under a frame or in a greenhouse by exposing them outside during the day.
  • In mid-May, plant tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, lettuce, cucumbers, melons. Cover yourself with a veil on cold nights.
  • Tip from the book “Permaculture month by month” by Catherine Delvaux (Ulmer edition): plant vegetables that appreciate partial shade (radishes, lettuces, Swiss chard, spinach) under the fruit trees. It is possible to install climbing beans supported on wires stretched between the branches and the ground or on stakes. Sow and plant vegetables in mounds of soil close to the trunk to avoid root competition.
  • Harvest radishes, carrots, turnips, peas, beans, new potatoes, spring onions, lettuce.
  • Butter the potatoes planted last month. Bring in soil, compost or grass to keep them in the dark.
  • The water then mulches around the vegetables and small fruit trees on site.

what to do in the garden in May-carrots

© Wildrose / iStock


  • Water young fruit trees planted in autumn.
  • Train raspberry bushes, vines, actinidia, fruit brambles, fig trees and all cordoned trees.
  • Thin out excess apples and pears.
  • Use a decoction of horsetail to treat downy mildew of grapevines, downy mildew of strawberries, curling of peach and apricot leaves, scab and moniliosis of apple and pear trees, rust of gooseberry and pear trees.
  • After mid-May, install moth traps in apple and pear trees.

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