3 Misconceptions About When to Buy and Plant Flowers That Can Lead to Dead Plants (Ack!)

by | Updated: Dec 9, 2021

3 common misconceptions about when to buy and plant summer flowers, like annuals, in western gardens

So, you’re dashing into Costco, and what grabs your eye?

Colorful, happy flowers just waiting for you to give them a new home, like a litter of fluffy puppies. Eeek! You can’t help but walk over and take a closer look. After a long, drab winter, the flowers look so colorful and ALIVE.

But …

Is now even a good time to buy and plant flowers for your summer garden??

When IS a good time?

Those cute, lil’ flowers continue to stare up at you with their puppy dog eyes, and your doubts melt away.

You think, “Screw it, I’m buying them. Who cares about timing anyway?”

Should you plant flowers like geraniums when you see them at the store? It depends.

So, about that… 🙂

If you buy your summer flowers too early, you’ll have to protect your plant babies. Many of them don’t like frosts, snow or chilly temps.

If you don’t protect them, they can struggle and may even die.

(Not exactly the summer vibe you’re going for, right?)

In this tip, you’ll get the scoop on 3 misconceptions about when to buy and plant summer flowers.

You’ll discover how to:

  • Be a smarter shopper
  • Create less work for yourself
  • Get your flower season off to an awesome start (yesss!)

To keep things simple, I’m going to focus on “annuals.”

Annuals are the extroverts at the party.

They’re the showy flowers you often see for sale as you dash into the grocery store. Annuals give you pretty color for one growing season, but then they’re done.

They’re popular flowers for flowerpots. You can plant them in the ground too.

Okay, let’s dig in.

Misconception 1:

As soon as you start seeing colorful flowers at the store, you’re in the clear to plant them.

If you buy flowers like petunias too early, you may need to protect them from frosts.

Imagine, for a moment, that you have friends visiting from San Diego.

It’s 50 degrees outside. You’re debating whether to wear shorts… and your friends want to put on parkas.

Many of your summer flowers are like your warm-blooded friends.

These flowers don’t like frosts AT ALL.

And many struggle in chilly temps. They want it to be at least 50 degrees outside — including temperatures at night. There’s a saying that these flowers like to have “warm feet.” They need warm soil to grow.

Yep, these tender flowers like sandals weather.

Frosts, chilly temps and cold soils can stunt your flowers, so your flowers don’t grow. (It’s like the poor lil’ dudes are in shock!) Or worse, your new flowers may die.

Instead of using when you see flowers at the store as your signal to start planting, it’s more helpful to consider:

  • When are your chances for frost really low?
  • When are your temperatures consistently above 50 degrees?

If you buy your summer flowers early, it’s okay! You’ll just need to protect them for a while. (Translation: You’ll have a bit more work.)

Misconception 2:

The flowers in your summer pots can grow as long as temperatures are 32 degrees or warmer.

50 degrees can be a better planting guideline than 32 degrees.

Let me start out by saying, there are some flowers that don’t mind cooler temperatures. Pansies are an awesome example.

These cold-hardy flowers are like your relatives from Minnesota.

A lil’ cold doesn’t phase them!

If you live someplace with hot summers, these flowers can be awesome for your spring and fall flowerpots because they can handle chilly temps and light frosts — and they don’t like heat. These flowers also can be a great choice for western gardens with cooler summers and a chance for frosts (like up in the mountains).

But I mentioned in Misconception #1, your summer flowers are usually happier with warm air and warm soil.

If you aren’t sure whether a flower prefers warm or cool temperatures, I would err on the side of caution.

For your summer flowers, 50 degrees can be a more helpful guideline than 32 degrees.

Are you working on your garden lingo? “Tender annuals” are your flowers that prefer warm air and warm soil to grow. “Half-hardy annuals” are usually okay in cooler temps, but not frost. “Hardy annuals” are very resistant to chilly temps and can usually tolerate a little frost. They don’t like hot weather.

Misconception 3:

Mother’s Day is the perfect day to buy and plant flowers.

Many people think Mother's Day is a good day to plant, but it depends on where you live and the weather.

You’ll hear this one A LOT.

I heard it where I grew up in the Midwest, and I hear it where I live in Colorado.

Mother’s Day is the day the squirrels come dancing out of trees, and a chorus of robins starts singing, and gardeners emerge from hibernation like hungry bears. 🙂 I get it. It’s hard to resist planting when we’ve all been cooped up for so long!!

I’m sure there are some places where Mother’s Day works as a reliable planting date.

And there may be years when Mother’s Day works where you live too.

But there are a few tricky things about using Mother’s Day as a gardening guideline:

  • One, the date for Mother’s Day changes every year, from early-May to mid-May.
  • Two, it really depends on your weather, which can be unpredictable in the inter-mountain West. In recent years in Colorado, for example, we’ve been getting chilly blasts later and later in the spring. Denver has gotten snow AFTER Mother’s Day in 6 of the last 12 years!!

You may be thinking, “But, Ann, I heard Mother’s Day at the store.”

Yep, that happens.

I believe that most stores want you to be a successful gardener, but remember, they have a pony in the race. If you get flowers on Mother’s Day, those flowers happen to die and you have to buy new flowers, they come out ahead.

The bottom line?

While it depends on where you live, Mother’s Day is usually a touch early for planting summer flowers in many parts of the inter-mountain west — including much of the Front Range of Colorado.

Rather than using Mother’s Day as your planting guide, it’s more helpful to plant your summer flowers when:

  • Your chances for frost are really low
  • Your temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees

For example, in the Front Range of Colorado, this is often late May.

Is Mother's Day a good planting day? Many places in Colorado and similar states can still get frosts, so it may be a little early to plant annuals.

Can you buy your summer flowers on or before Mother’s Day?


Just keep in mind you’ll need to protect your plant babies if we get chilly temps, frosts, freezes and even snow.

It’s going to take a little more effort.

Hey, do you know your flowerpot personality?

Take this fun, 2-minute quiz to find out! You’ll also get personalized ideas for flowers, so growing flowers is relaxing — not taxing.

Take this fun quiz >>

© 2020-2021, Go West Gardener
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Ann from Go West Gardener with her flowerpots and garden

Hey there, I'm Ann

I’m a Certified Colorado Gardener, dog mama and Midwesterner-turned-Colorado girl. I help budding gardeners in the intermountain west skip the “Why didn’t anyone tell me that phase?”, so they can get pretty results faster. More about Ann >>

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