What to Plant in July (Because It’s Not too Late to Start Gardening)

updated Jul 1, 2022
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black eyed susans in garden
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As the steamy month of July begins, a lot of gardeners concentrate their efforts on caring for and maintaining their existing gardens — not adding more plants. But there’s value in continuing your planting into July, and nurturing new, fledgling plants alongside your mature gardens. There’s even value in starting some planting if you haven’t gotten around to adding new finds to your garden beds or containers.

Planting now will of course reward you with growth through the season, in foliage or blooms. And adding pollinator-friendly picks to your garden can do a lot to support your local bees, butterflies, and other insects that search out flowers to feed on.

If you’ve been to the plant section at your local nursery, hardware store, or even grocery store lately, it may seem like the selection is dwindling. While there might not be as much to rifle through as there was earlier in the season, now is actually the best time to score a bargain. You’ll find many plants at a discount this time of summer, not to mention seeds and other gardening gear. Don’t fool yourself into thinking the planting season is over after May, or that you’re stuck doing only maintenance rather than planting. There are still options you can get in the ground this month!

Of course, the offerings will vary from agricultural zone to zone, but the plants on this list will thrive in most. Just remember that when you’re planting in the heat of summer, you should try to do your work in the cooler mornings and evenings. That’s both for your comfort and the plants’: Like people, plants aren’t wild about the heat, and they tend to stress if planted or transplanted in the full sun of a hot day. (If you’re looking to experiment with planting something delicate in July, be sure to do your research first.)

But for hardier varieties, you should find success by doing your work in the cooler times of day. Here, five great picks worth adding to your garden this July.

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Pricey Perennials for a Bargain

One of my favorite things to do in July is to go perennial hunting at my local garden center. This is the time that those high-dollar, must-have plants are marked down. At this point in the season most of those plants have been sitting out, day after day, exposed to the elements. They probably don’t look so great because they’re still in their plastic planter’s pots, which makes them even more difficult for the nurseries to move. The general buyer doesn’t want to buy a crispy looking plant. But here’s the secret: Their loss is your gain.

You’ll be able to find all kinds of perennials marked down, sometimes more than half-price, that are totally plantable. For instance, last year my mom and I found “Vanilla Strawberry” hydrangeas, which are typically priced around $40, for $10 apiece at a big box store garden center. This is also a great time to get deals on other perennials such as:

These plants might look a little worse for wear right now, but don’t be discouraged. When you clean them up and plant them you will be rewarded next year, as perennials have a remarkable ability to bounce back the following year after being exposed to stress.

Later this month you can also start thinking about picking up spring-blooming perennials, which in some zones can be planted in the late summer or early fall.

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Basil and Kale

While you’ve missed your window for cold-season crops like radishes, turnips, and broccoli, that doesn’t mean you’re out of options if you’re hoping to plant edibles this year. Basil and kale are both hardy enough to be planted during July, as plants or even as seeds. While plants are more likely to thrive than seeds, I know gardeners who have had success both ways — so if you score seeds at a steep discount, it’s definitely worth a try. Garden centers are likely to have seeds for both of these picks still in stock. If you’re looking to buy mature plants, you might have to hunt a bit, but they’re likely still out there; basil is generally more accessible than kale.

Some great news for those with limited outdoor space: Both basil and kale thrive when planted in the ground as well as in container gardens. They’re wonderful companion plants, no matter when or where you choose to grow them. Each plant is relatively compact, so they might be a great option to replace any annuals that didn’t make it through the start of summer. 

Of course, both of these plants are edibles, but they’re also beautiful enough to grow just for show (just in case cooking isn’t your forte).

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Succulents

During my gardening career I have found that succulents tend to be the easiest replacement for annuals that didn’t make it in the heat, or for failed seeds that didn’t germinate.

As long as they have part-sun exposure, succulents will be fine outdoors for the summer. They’re also drought-tolerant, so you don’t have to worry about watering them as much as other outdoor plants. That means they’re a great option if you’re looking to save time, money, or resources by cutting back on water usage in the garden.

You will undoubtedly find that succulents will grow very quickly — quite the surprise for folks who have succulents indoors! But outside, where these plants get plenty of sun and aren’t restricted in their growth, you’ll see them take off. Here are some great options for outdoor succulent planting:

One of the best parts about using succulents in your garden is that when it starts to get chilly outside, you can transplant them into a planter and take them inside. Keep them as houseplants, or move them back outside once weather warms up next spring. Really, it’s like a two-for-one!

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Quick-Growing Annuals

Get quick-germinating annual seeds in the ground this month and you’ll see blooms by August. A favorite pick? Zinnias, which are the workhorses of the garden. These provide bright, substantial blooms all summer long no matter how hot it is.

The market is also saturated with all different kinds of varieties, from funky heirlooms to bold blooms with large heads. If you want big color and big blooms but are unsure of what to plant, zinnias will not disappoint. They’re also a wonderful cut flower, so once they’ve grown, snip a few stems and bring them inside for your favorite vase. And good news: Zinnias are nontoxic to dogs and cats. You’ll be able to pick up seed packets for a variety of zinnias at nurseries and garden centers.

Other quick-growing seeds to plant this month:

  • Cosmos
  • Alyssum
  • Calendula
  • Cornflower
  • Nasturtium
  • Borage
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Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia)

Rudbeckia are common perennial wildflowers native to North America. Rudbeckia — often colloquially called black-eyed Susans — are extremely hardy plants, which makes them a great option to plant in July. You’re also likely to find options in the plant center this month, waiting to be re-homed.

Black-eyed Susans are great for attracting pollinators like bees and butterflies, and will give you blooms all the way through October. Not only do these blooms provide pops of summery yellow and orange, but they’ll also blend beautifully with your fall mums and ornamental peppers. 

The only thing you’ll have to worry about with these plants is their ability to spread over time and take over your garden. You will have to separate them every few years or so —similarly to irises, dahlias, and daylilies — in order to keep them from choking out your other plants. Important to note: Rudbeckia is toxic to both dogs and cats.