21 Best Flowers for Gardeners with a Short Growing Season

If you live in a climate with a short growing season, it can be hard to find plants that grow fast enough to enjoy. The first frost comes all too soon. In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss discusses 21 flowers that work perfectly in short growing season climates.

Vibrant marigolds bloom with a stunning display of red and gold petals, creating a vivid and cheerful contrast. Lush green leaves gracefully frame the blossoms, enhancing the overall beauty of this radiant floral arrangement.


We define the growing season according to frost dates. We measure from the last frost of spring to the first frost in fall. You can consider any span of fewer than 120 days to be a short growing season. If you live in a region where this is the case, growing a garden has a different challenge than elsewhere. 

To grow flowers successfully with a short season, we need to identify plants that mature quickly. Frost-tolerant plants are good options, as they can be planted earlier.

To have a successful flower garden in a short season, the seed-to-bloom time is important. We want to find flowering plants that grow and flower within our time frame. This is not as difficult as it may seem, as many plants grow and flower quickly. Let’s look at 21 of these fast-blooming plants for a short growing season


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Zinnia flowers and lush green leaves flourish in rich brown soil, showcasing a colorful spectacle. The blossoms paint the landscape with shades of pink, orange, yellow, and white, adding a lively burst of beauty to the garden.
Colorful zinnias bloom 60-70 days after planting when sown after the last frost.
botanical-name botanical name Zinnia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height up to 4’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

Zinnias are a favorite of mine, in part because of how rapidly they produce flowers. They are bright and cheerful flowers that bloom a mere 60-70 days after planting. Zinnias also bloom more when you cut them regularly. This makes them great for a cutting garden. 

With so many colors and petal forms, there are a ton of options to choose from. Plant these flowers in full sun and well-draining soil for best results. They are drought-tolerant and require little to no maintenance after you plant them. Sow these seeds one to two weeks after your last expected frost date. 

Sweet Pea

A close up captures the delicate beauty of sweet pea flowers, each petal gently unfurling in purple hues. In the backdrop, a blur of rich greenery sets the scene.
These can be planted up to six weeks before the last frost date.
botanical-name botanical name Lathyrus odoratus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height up to 10’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

Sweet peas are another type of flowering plant that grows and blooms in a short time. Long sweeping vines will grow beautifully on a trellis or arbor. These flowers are charming and colorful additions to the garden. They are also easy to grow and make great cut flowers. 

Another perk of sweet peas for the short growing season is their frost tolerance. You can plant them up to six weeks before your last frost date. Plant your sweet peas in rich, moist, but well-drained soil. You may see flowers in as little as 50 days from the time they sprout.


A rectangular brown pot sits, cradling petunias in shades of pink and purple. Their delicate blooms peek out among green leaves, creating a charming display of nature's beauty in the brown planter.
The fast-growing petunias can act as perennials if brought indoors for winter.
botanical-name botanical name Petunia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 8”-12”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

Petunias are great short-season flowers with a long blooming period. They are not, however, cold-tolerant. When growing these from seeds, it is best to start them indoors at least ten weeks before your last frost date. You can plant nursery starts once the threat of frost has passed to expedite the blooming time. 

Once they begin blooming, petunias will continue until the first frost of the fall. Their trumpet-shaped flowers come in a wide array of colors and have a pleasant, spicy fragrance. Pollinators love these flowers, and they work great in containers. If you bring your potted petunias indoors for the winter, they will act as perennials.

California Poppy

Vibrant orange California poppies basking in the warm sunlight, their delicate petals unfurling gracefully. Soft, feathery green leaves nestle close to the blossoming California poppies, embracing their radiant beauty.
Plant California poppies in full sun for continuous blooming.
botanical-name botanical name Eschscholzia californica
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 1’-2’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

We typically consider California poppies to be warm-weather plants. While it is true that they are native to warm climates, you can grow them as short-season annual flowers in most climates. These colorful flowering plants prefer to be directly sown. You can sow the seeds as soon as the soil temperature reaches 50°F (10°C). 

California poppies need well-drained soil, as their roots are sensitive to fungus. Plant them in full sun, and avoid transplanting them. The flowers should begin to bloom in about two months and will continue until the first frost. 


Sun-kissed blue cornflowers sway gently in the light, a testament to nature's elegance. Behind them, a soft blur of lush stems creates a serene backdrop, inviting the viewer into the peaceful embrace of the garden.
These produce attractive edible petals in shades like blue and white.
botanical-name botanical name Centaurea cyanus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 1’-3’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

Cornflowers are also known as Bachelor’s Button. These pretty short season flowers have a color named for their attractive hue, cornflower blue. The flowers come in other shades as well, including white and pink. The petals are edible and make a lovely garnish for cold dishes

Because their roots don’t like to be disturbed, you should directly sow these seeds. They can go into the ground a week or two before that last expected frost date. Plant them in full sun; you should see flowers in just over two months. Cut them while they are in bud for the longest cut flower vase life. 

French Marigold

Bright orange French marigold flowers and green leaves stand out in the foreground, vivid against the sunlight. The blurred background offers a delightful glimpse of more marigolds and rich foliage.
The edible petals of French marigolds can be pressed into baked goods as decoration.
botanical-name botanical name Tagetes patula
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height up to 3’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

French marigolds fit in anywhere you plant them. These plants are great for adding color and interest to the garden. They also do a good job of warding off some pests with their pungent scent. I find their fragrance to be appealing, but many insects do not agree. 

These are edible flowers, and the petals press well if you want to apply them to cookies or other baked goods. Planted from seed, French marigolds take right around two months to flower. Start your seeds indoors about four to six weeks before your last frost date. Plants will continue to flower until the first frost. 

Sweet Alyssum

Clustered white sweet alyssum flowers bloom delicately, offering a sense of serenity. Their petite petals create a gentle contrast against the verdant foliage below, crafting a serene landscape reminiscent of a tranquil haven.
The sweet alyssum blooms abundantly from late spring to fall.
botanical-name botanical name Lobularia maritima
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 3”-10”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

Sweet alyssum is a fast and low-growing plant that produces tons of flowers in late spring. You can start these seeds indoors about four to six weeks before your last frost date. If you want to directly sow your seeds, do so one to two weeks before that date. This plant takes only two months to mature and flower. It will continue to bloom until the first frost in fall. 

Alyssum is native to the Mediterranean region. It needs well-drained soil and can grow in full sun or partial shade. In cooler climates, full sun is best. This plant makes a beautiful ground cover or border flower. The flowers are also edible and have a mild clove-like flavor. 


Vibrant yellow and orange nasturtium flowers with crinkled petals catch the sunlight. Nestled among them are round leaves, providing a verdant backdrop to the colorful blooms in the garden.
This plant boasts rapid and continuous blooming for about 45 days.
botanical-name botanical name Tropaeolum majus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1′-10′
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

If you like to grow edible flowers, nasturtiums are an excellent short-season options. Not only are the flowers edible, the foliage is, as well. Wait until the threat of frost has passed before direct sowing these seeds outdoors. They also make nice container plants but don’t take well to transplanting

Nasturtiums have beautiful bright flowers that should begin to bloom about 45 days after germination. They are one of the fastest blooming flowers, and they will continue until the first frost. Plant these in rich soil, in full to part sun. They are salt tolerant and great for pollinators. 


Two clusters of pink phlox flowers, bathed in sunlight, blooms amid green foliage. In the background, blurred leaves create a serene backdrop, enhancing the beauty of the pink blooms under the sun's gentle rays.
Start phlox seeds indoors or sow them directly outdoors.
botanical-name botanical name Phlox
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height up to 3’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

The sweet smell of phlox, paired with the beauty of their flowers, is enchanting. There are many types with varied growth habits, from ground cover short to very tall and perfect for cutting. They are quick to bloom, and pollinators love them. Phlox are great for cooler climates, as they typically pause their blooming in hot weather. 

You can start these seeds indoors or directly sow them. If starting indoors, you can plant these up to two months before the last expected freeze. Direct sow them into the garden up to four weeks before that freeze date. They will bloom from mid-spring through the fall. 


 Brightening the landscape, soft pink, red, and yellow snapdragons bloom gracefully, their hues enhanced by the sun's gentle touch. Amidst them, green leaves embrace the warmth, creating a harmonious symphony of colors and textures in the garden's embrace.
Directly sow snapdragons up to six weeks before planting.
botanical-name botanical name Antirrhinum majus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height Up to 3′
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-10

I adore snapdragons for their nostalgic feel. No other flower takes me back to my childhood faster. Because they like cool weather, these flowers are great for cooler climates. You can start your seeds indoors two months before that last frost date. Snapdragons are frost tolerant, so you can directly sow the seeds as much as six weeks before that date. 

Your snapdragons should begin blooming by mid-spring. They will continue to bloom through the summer in cooler climates. My snapdragons are still looking happy in February after surviving the winter. Temperatures dipped into the mid-20s, so they will continue to bloom even after a fall freeze. 


Purple pansies with delicate petals and green leaves, basking in sunlight. Diverse array of plants in the backdrop, creating a lush and colorful botanical scene, offering a harmonious blend of textures and hues.
Certain pansy varieties require 90 days to reach full bloom.
botanical-name botanical name Viola wittrockiana
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 4”-9”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6-10

Pansies are another cool weather favorite. Their cheery, colorful blooms are surprisingly cold hardy. Pansies are related to violets, which are some of the earliest spring bloomers. You can directly sow these seeds up to six weeks before you expect that final freeze. 

Pansies are edible and have a sweet fragrance and flavor. Some varieties take up to 90 days to bloom, but others grow much faster. Pansies like full sun in cold weather and a bit of shade on hot afternoons. They bloom best when the temperature is cooler and may pause during the heat of summer.  


Pink cosmos blooms with bright yellow centers, gracefully poised atop delicate, slender green stems. Alongside, their foliage unfurls like airy feathers, complementing the flowers' elegant display with verdant beauty.
These fast-growing flowers prefer mild weather and poor soil with good drainage.
botanical-name botanical name Cosmos bipinnatus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2’-4’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

Cosmos prefer mild weather, so it’s best to wait until there is no chance of frost before planting them. Once they get started, they are fast growers. These flowers will begin to bloom in under two months! Sow your seeds in average to poor soil with good drainage. Cosmos are drought tolerant

Cosmos makes a great addition to the cutting garden. You can cut them while they are in bud, and the flowers will continue to bloom for quite a while. These flowers enjoy warm, dry weather, so the summer is not an issue for them. They will continue to bloom until a frost.

Queen Anne’s Lace

A cluster of delicate white Queen Anne’s Lace flowers, their intricate petals unfurling gracefully. In the background, green leaves create a subtle blur, enhancing the focus on the intricate floral details.
The Queen Anne’s Lace is a biennial wildflower that blooms prolifically after a year.
botanical-name botanical name Daucus carota
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2’-4’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-11

Although most folks think of it as a wildflower, Queen Anne’s Lace is an easy garden beauty. The large, lacy flower heads are attractive to pollinators and look beautiful in a floral arrangement. You can start these seeds indoors six weeks ahead of the last frost. They also grow well if you directly sow them. 

When it is grown from seeds, Queen Anne’s Lace is biennial, so it won’t bloom in its first year. Rather, the following spring, it will return and bloom in about two months. You can plant your seeds in fall to mimic the plant’s natural self-seeding habit. Give these plants plenty of sunlight. They don’t mind poor soil.

Black-Eyed Susan

A close-up of black-eyed susan flowers, their yellow petals elegantly framing the dark prominent centers. In the background, a soft blur reveals more of these charming flowers and rich greenery, creating a picturesque scene of nature's beauty.
These can be started indoors or outdoors for earlier spring blooms.
botanical-name botanical name Rudbeckia hirta
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2′-4′
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Black-eyed Susans are a versatile plant. You can start these seeds indoors or out and in the spring or fall. Seeds sown in fall will mean that you get these sunny yellow flowers earlier in spring. Spring planting may delay flowering. If you intend to plant in spring, start your seeds early, eight to ten weeks before the last frost. 

My favorite thing about these flowers is that they are highly attractive to native bees. They are a fabulous addition to the cutting garden and the pollinator garden. Black-eyed Susans are not picky about soil and prefer as much sun as you can give them.


Celosia flowers bloom gracefully above lush green leaves, their petals boasting a rich palette of red, yellow, and pink tones. The contrast between the vivid blossoms and the foliage creates a captivating display of natural beauty and harmonious colors.
Begin celosia seeds indoors 6-8 weeks prior to soil temperatures hitting 60°F (16°C).
botanical-name botanical name Celosia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 8″-24″
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 10-11

We recommend starting your celosia seeds indoors. The ideal time is six to eight weeks before you anticipate the soil temperature making it to 60°F (16°C). Celosia makes great cut flowers, and they have an interesting texture. They add a lot of interest to the flower garden with their fuzzy flower heads.

Celosia are related to amaranth, and they are heavy feeders. Fertilize them regularly, and plant them away from weaker plants. These fun flowers begin blooming within three months of planting. They like rich soil and full sun. 


Clusters of verbascum flowers with yellow petals and striking red centers stand tall on slender stems. Each delicate petal of the verbascum flower showcases a pale yellow hue, accentuated by its fiery red center.
These tall flowering plants bloom within two months of germination.
botanical-name botanical name Verbascum phoeniceum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 2’-4’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

Verbascums are beautiful flowering plants. They produce tall spikes of flowers in shades of yellow, pink, white, and purple. The planting time for these varies, as you can plant them in fall or spring. If you plant them two months before the first fall frost, they will bloom in spring. 

Your verbascums should bloom within two months of germinating. They are somewhat drought-tolerant and prefer full sun. In Zones 4-8, these are perennials and will return every year. They make nice cut flowers, and the dried seed pods are attractive.


several brightly colored strawflowers are clustered together.
Start strawflowers indoors before the last spring freeze to optimize growth.
botanical-name botanical name Xerochrysum bracteatum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1′-5′
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-10

Strawflowers are not especially fond of cold weather, so you should start these seeds indoors. Get them started up to two months before the last freeze of the spring. Transplant them after all chance of frost has passed. Freezing temperatures will kill these off before they get going. 

The flowers bloom in about two and a half months and will continue until the first fall frost kills them. Strawflowers are drought-tolerant and bloom best in summer when temperatures are high. 


Tall white, blue, and purple larkspurs gracefully reaching towards the sky in a harmonious display of natural beauty. Amidst the larkspurs, clusters of pristine white buds prepare to unfurl into full bloom.
Plant larkspur seeds in sunny, sheltered areas for optimal growth.
botanical-name botanical name Consolida regalis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 2’-4’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-10

Larkspurs make a beautiful, tall backdrop for shorter plants. Plant these seeds as soon as the ground is workable in spring for mid-spring flowers. They will bloom into the summer as well. Their height makes larkspurs a great addition to the cutting garden. 

Plant your larkspur seeds in full sun, with some shelter from the wind. Because of their height, these plants are vulnerable to strong winds. Keep the soil evenly moist and never soggy. These flowers will bloom best in mild to cool weather.


 A lush carpet of purple lobelia flowers covers the ground, creating a vivid tapestry of color. Nestled beneath the blooms, their deep green foliage provides a striking contrast, enhancing the allure of the floral arrangement.
This blooms for an extended period in full sun or partial shade.
botanical-name botanical name Lobelia erinus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 4”-18”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 10-11

Lobelia isn’t the fastest flower on our list, but it is a lovely one. This plant takes a little less than three months to flower and will continue until a frost. Lobelias make nice container plants, especially hanging baskets. They are low-growing and have a bit of a trailing habit.

Plant lobelia seeds as soon as the threat of frost passes. They will flower for a significant period of the growing season. They are happy to grow in full sun or partial shade. The small blue flowers draw pollinators to the garden.

Morning Glory

A close-up of blue morning glory flowers, unfurling their delicate petals. A cluster of leaves gracefully intertwines with the blooming morning glory flowers, providing a verdant contrast to the azure blooms.
The Morning Glory vine blooms quickly in full sun and self-seed annually.
botanical-name botanical name Ipomoea purpurea
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 10′ or more
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

It can be difficult to find a vining plant that matures and blooms quickly. Morning Glory is just such a vine. It has beautiful, heart-shaped foliage and trumpet-shaped flowers. These flowers attract pollinators, but they are toxic to animals. Keep your furry friends clear of this plant. 

These quick-growing, short-season flowers look beautiful on arches and trellises. Plant your morning glory seeds as soon as the threat of freezing weather passes. They prefer fertile soil that is well-draining and will bloom best in full sun. Morning glories self-seed so they can return in subsequent years.


In full bloom, the geranium's white and pale pink flowers create a captivating sight in the garden. Surrounding them, the green leaves with white edges provide a striking contrast.
Plant geranium seeds after the last frost to ensure early spring blooms.
botanical-name botanical name Geranium
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 6”-24”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

Geraniums prefer cool weather, but they are not frost-proof. This makes them a good candidate for climates with cooler summers. When you grow them from seeds, they take about three months to bloom. Once they begin, though, they will bloom through the summer and fall

Plant your geranium seeds after your last frost date passes. They like full sun and well-drained soil. Geraniums do appreciate consistently moist but not soggy soil. In fall, take cuttings and start them indoors. This will make your plants bloom sooner in spring. 

Final Thoughts

A short growing season doesn’t have to mean limiting yourself to nursery starts. There are plenty of beautiful, fast-growing flowers that you can grow from seed. Choosing these types of plants will keep your garden in bloom as long as possible. Frost-tolerant flowers are great for short-season climates. 

A close-up reveals a cluster of vibrant yellow Celandine poppies, their delicate petals unfurling in the spring sunshine. The background softens into a dreamy blur, hinting at lush green foliage and other blossoms.


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