Cottage garden plants – 12 floral must-haves in your cottage garden setting | Real Homes

Cottage garden plants – 12 floral must-haves for a cute cottage garden

These 12 cottage garden plants will help bring your outdoor space to life, whether you've gone for a period or modern cottage garden approach

Cottage garden plants
(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Cottage garden plants are bursting with colour and texture – they quite frankly are the epitome of idyllic garden life. 

And, while it may come as a surprise, there is far more to cottage flowers than scented roses and lavender (although we highly rate these), and our roundup of cottage garden flowers below, are well and truly wild. Find your favourites to inspire your own outdoor setting and in no time at all, you'll have your garden space that is singing with wildlife.

Whether you're a country or city dweller, with many charming varieties to choose from, how you plant your cottage flowers really will make a difference to help create a unique and inviting floral display too. From bright climbers to medicinal herbs and fragrant florals, keep scrolling and fill your borders to your heart's content. 

Find out more about cottage gardens and how to create them in our guide. Then when you're ready to be inspired by more garden ideas be sure to check out our dedicated feature.

Choosing cottage garden plants

single flowered climbing rose

Old-fashioned favourites, roses are stalwarts of a cottage garden style

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Cottage gardens are all about the flowers, so fill your beds and borders with our recommendations below. Note than many of the popular plants are easily propagated from seed, cuttings or division, so you can fill your garden cheaply and here are a few more essential cottage garden planting tips to make the most of your flowers: 

  • By using seed heads you will add aesthetic interest to your garden borders, with the added benefit that they will seed around.
  • Keep plants under control, so that stronger growers don’t swamp the smaller or slower-growing varieties. A discreetly placed piece of soft twine generally helps to keep the stronger ones under control.
  • As a feature in a small garden, a mirror can be very effective.
  • My favourite plants include: Astrantia major – grows anywhere, is good as a cut flower and is great in any border; Erigeron ‘Profusion’ – the name says it all, it provides a non-stop display of small daisy flowers; Anemone x hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’ – enjoy a late season burst of colour from the tall, white flowers.

Find out more about choosing plants for garden pots, borders and more. 

12 essential cottage garden plants

cottage garden essential plants

1. Roses

cottage garden roses around the door

Roses planted around a front door typify the romantic image of a cottage garden style

(Image credit: leigh Clapp)

Scented old-fashioned English shrub and climbing roses are a classic choice. Plant among perennials, draped over arches and arbours, or against fences and walls. Plant bare-root plants from autumn to spring. Add slow-release fertiliser and mulch well to conserve water.

Follow our guide to planting roses to get yours just right.

2. Lavender

flower lined path leading to cottage in a summer garden

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

A beautifully ornamental herb with fragrant summer blooms, plant lavender in full sun and well-drained soil in spring. Trim after flowering, and prune in early spring. The grey foliage works well with other plants and lavender is a great choice to plant along paths.

See our guide to growing lavender to make the most of this cottage garden plant.

3. Foxgloves

A quintessential cottage garden favourite that produces spires of bell-shaped flowers in early summer. All kinds of bees love these flowers, and they were commonly grown in medieval gardens, despite being poisonous. They need light shade and protection from wind, in moist, well-drained soil.

4. Aquilegia

Flowers in a cottage garden

(Image credit: Joe Wainwright)

This clump-forming herbaceous perennial is easy to grow, with clouds of dancing blooms in a wide range of colours in spring and early summer. Grow in part shade in well-drained soil. Aquilegias have an old-fashioned charm, combine beautifully with hardy geraniums and will freely self-seed.

5. Dianthus

Fill your cottage garden with these deliciously scented blooms in spring and summer by choosing different varieties of these easy-care perennials and biennials. Use as edging plants, mixed in the cottage beds or in containers. Also known as pinks, they are drought tolerant and will thrive in sun or part sun in well-drained soil.

6. Alchemilla mollis

An indispensable foliage ground cover for fringing paths, scrambling over slopes, underplanting roses or growing in gravel. The plants produce sprays of tiny flowers and have rounded, velvety soft olive-green leaves, which catch and hold water drops making them sparkle in the sun in early summer. Grows in any soil in sun or part shade. Trim back from late summer.

6. Hollyhocks

cottage garden with cottage garden flowers

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

A traditional choice with spires of open, saucer-shaped flowers in July, which are irresistible to bees and butterflies. Hollyhocks need well-drained reasonably fertile soil in full sun and can reach heights of 2m. Keeping up with the watering will help prevent their main problem – rust. Cut them back after flowering.

7. Delphinium

cottage garden flowers perennials

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

These tall beauties need good drainage, protection from wind, regular watering and prefer a sunny spot. Summer blooms appear in true blues, mauves, purple, pink and white. Deadheading the first blooms will give a second flush, and taller varieties may need staking.

8. Campanula

container garden

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp Photography)

You can select from a range of perennial varieties that flower from spring to autumn. Fill in among the other cottage plants and this is another favourite for bees and butterflies. Grow in sun to part shade. They are drought tolerant once established and self-seed readily.

9. Peony

Flowers with the railway bridge in background

Harmonious cottage style planting with swathes of flowers in a multitude of complementary colours

(Image credit: Joe Wainwright)

Sumptuous, romantic summer flowers in pink, red or white with a lovely fragrance. These herbaceous perennials are pest resistant and drought tolerant once established. Grow in a sunny spot in deep, rich, well-drained soil. If they are happy they can keep blooming for 100 years.

10. Geranium

Hardy geraniums are a brilliant filler plant or for fringing borders. Some varieties will keep flowering from June to October. They tolerate a wide range of soils, some prefer sun, others semi-shade, and are also drought tolerant. Combine with other herbaceous plants, roses and peonies.

11. Daisy

cottage garden plants

(Image credit: Joe Wainwright)

These cheerful, simple, unpretentious summer to autumn flowers work well in cottage gardens. Grow in full sun in moderately rich, well-drained soil. They are disease and problem free, but give them a boost by feeding them just before flowering and deadhead spent blooms to keep the show going.

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