As the first month of spring, March opens the door to a range of planting options unavailable during the colder winter months.
March is a good month to plant flowers like dahlias and cannas, vegetables such as peas and potatoes, fruits like strawberries and raspberries, and herbs such as oregano and cilantro. However, March is not a great time of year for planting trees and shrubs.
Let’s dive down into the subject of March planting in more detail, and discover in greater depth what can and can’t be planted in this beautiful month of spring promise…
Is March a Good Time For Planting?
With its promise of finer weather to come, March is the month when most of us get serious about gardening again. In many regions, the winter frosts have passed, and the soil is slowly beginning to warm up again. This gives us a lot more possibilities when it comes to planting.
Of course, the US is a big place, with a climate that varies from state to state, even from county to county. It could be that you rarely see frost, or that your yard still has a blanket of snow. This makes it a bit tricky to speak generally about gardening in March in the USA!
So, before you rush to fetch your rake, find out what the gardening climate is like where you live. To do this, simply enter your zip code into the US plant hardiness zones map. All regions are given a hardiness rating of 1-10 (cold to hot). This scale is used by seed manufacturers, garden centers, farmers, and gardeners across the US.
We’ll talk as generally as we can in this article; however, we do recommend checking up on your local growing conditions before you buy or plant any flowers and crops. As well as the hardiness zones map, it’s also a good plan to check the long-range forecast for your region, as March can throw up some surprising weather conditions…
What Flowers Can I Plant in March?
Hopefully, you planted your daffodil, crocus, and tulip bulbs in the fall or winter, ready for some early-season color. If not, don’t worry: you can still plant summer-flowering bulbs in March, so for a sudden extra burst of color later in the year.
Lovely summer-flowering bulbs include:
If you have been growing flowers from seed indoors, you can plant them outside once the last frost date has passed.
Flowers you can grow directly into the soil in March, in most hardiness zones, include:
- Pansies. These colorful flowers are known for being resilient and for having a long blooming season
- Lily of the valley. They need some sun, but are otherwise pretty hardy early in the year
- Coneflowers. These pretty perennials are easy to grow
- Hostas. Many varieties are happy to grow in the shade
- Lavender. If you live in zone 5 upwards, this is a lovely flower to plant early
You may also be able to start on your rose bed, if it’s warm and frost-free…
What Vegetables Can I Plant in March?
Even in the north, there are a few cool-season crops that you should be able to start outdoors in March. Try:
- Spinach. A cold-weather favorite that’s easy to grow and can be eaten cooked or raw
- Lettuce. It’s still worth looking out for cool-weather varieties
- Radishes. Add a bit of heat to your salads
- Peas. Plant them now for a real treat later in the year. Set up those pea sticks ready
- Potatoes. When the frosts have ended, you can finally plant some potatoes in your yard
Of course, if you live in a warmer zone, you can get started with all those lovely crops like tomatoes, eggplants, squash, and melons. Just be prepared with a fleece in case of freak weather conditions.
If you have a greenhouse or cold frame, this widens your choice of crops at this time of year, and northern gardeners can be a bit more daring with what they plant.
What Fruits Can You Plant in March?
Great news: provided they have at least 6-8 hours’ of sunshine a day, you can plant strawberries and raspberries in March. Make sure they have well-draining soil. If you live in a warm climate or have a greenhouse, you can think about planting slow-growing melons in March.
It’s not the best time to plant fruit trees, as they are about to leave their dormant season and start producing blossoms and buds. We don’t want to stress our fruit trees by literally uprooting them just as they’re about to get busy.
What Can You Plant in Pots in March?
Pots are a good option in March, as your acclimatizing young plants can spend the days in the sun, and be moved indoors during the cooler nights.
Here are a few suggestions for container gardening:
- Cold-season-friendly flowers such as pansies
- Summer-flowering bulbs for a beautiful patio display later in the year
- An indoor herb garden (more about this in a minute)
- Other useful ingredients like chillies and garlic
- Vegetables don’t have to go in the ground. Try spinach, radishes or even carrots in a deep planter filled with seed compost
Can I Plant Seeds & Bulbs in March?
Yes, you can, and in many regions, the soil is now warm and loose enough for direct planting. If you live in a cooler zone, start your seeds off indoors in seed trays or pots, and transplant them after the final frost has passed.
Generally, you can sow bulbs outdoors when your yard reaches nighttime temperatures of around 40 to 50 degrees fahrenheit. If this is the temperature where you live, you can plant your summer-flowering bulbs directly into the ground. If not, you can grow them indoors in planters, then move them outside later in the spring. Gladioli and dahlias are colorful choices for spring planting.
Can I Plant Trees & Shrubs in March?
Unless we’re talking evergreens, we’d suggest not planting trees at this time of year. Yes, the ground is warmer and the soil more pliable for their roots; however, as a tree leaves its dormant period, moving it can be stressful. Shrubs may be a bit more tolerant: check the individual species before planting.
What Herbs Can I Plant in March?
Most herbs can be grown at any time of year, as they grow really well indoors on a sunny windowsill. If you want to plant herbs directly outdoors, wait until the frosts have passed, then choose robust Mediterranean varieties such as rosemary and oregano. Basil is super-fussy about temperatures, so it’s still a bit too early to plant it outdoors in most US zones.
If you want an early spring herb garden in your kitchen, here’s a good selection to get you started:
- Parsley. A classic staple that’s used in many different cuisines
- Basil. Happy in a warm spot indoors, even in March. Perfect in pasta sauces
- Thyme. This sweet-smelling herb is great with chicken dishes
- Sage. A must for traditional dinners
- Cilantro. Essential for Asian cooking, and also lovely in salads
- Oregano. Imagine a pizza without this aromatic herb
Final Words: What Jobs Can I Do in The Garden in March?
Well, we’ve given you quite a few planting jobs to be getting on with, but what else can you do in your yard in March and early spring?
- This could be your last chance to prune fruit trees before they leave their dormant period
- Do any of your container plants need repotting? Time to think about this
- You can divide perennials in March if you want to split them up, using a sharp-ended spade. If you haven’t done this before, check out this helpful video about dividing perennials
- Look after the soil. Rake up any remaining fallen leaves, and generally give the beds a bit of TLC. If the soil is fairly warm and dry, you can even till it
- If you need to plant any grass seed, some varieties prefer to be sown in early spring
- As the gardening season is really getting started now, check your water sources. Have the outdoor faucets and pipes survived the winter? How’s the water butt? If you have an irrigation system, is it fully functioning?
- Carry out a gardening tools inventory. Is there anything that needs fixing or replacing?
- It’s not quite time to get mowing yet, but check your mower and strimmer are in good working order. Check them for rust, any broken cables, and give the moving parts a good oiling
- Clean out and tidy the shed, greenhouse and garage
- Now the weather’s more pleasant, are there any larger outdoor jobs that need doing? It’s still a bit early to risk large tasks like painting the house; however you could refelt the shed roof or install new guttering.
- Choose any new patio furniture! It can take a while to ship, so order it in plenty of time for the warmer weather
- Pop to your local garden center for inspiration!
Want to know what you can plant in April? Read the next article in our planting calendar…
Homeowner and property investor Larry James founded Take a Yard in 2020 to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >