Often overflowing with colours, textures, and sweet scents, cottage gardens will delight your senses. Traditionally, cottage garden plants were more practical, providing food and medicinal herbs for the tenants. Today, however, cottage gardens have evolved into something more personal, including wild, whimsical mixes of ornamental flowers as well as medicinal and edible plants.
This informal planting scheme lends itself to unstructured flower beds with soft, curving borders; or, if your space is limited, clusters of potted plants bursting with flowers can create a cottage garden feel. Add extra charm by including attractive bird baths, garden benches, and meandering garden pathways.
Here are 20 of some of the most easy-going cottage garden plants that will help you create your very own serene space.
1. African Daisy | Osteospermum
African daisies, or the blue-eyed daisies, are drought-tolerant and cope with heat exceptionally well. They can survive in poor soil, and withstand a bit of neglect. This easy-going cottage garden plant will add vibrant colour to your landscape throughout the summer blooming period. They grow quickly, producing blooms within 60 days. This delightful, compact flower has over 50 varieties. All varieties of Osteospermum have blue centres, but their petals come in an array of colours ranging from white to purple, red, pink, orange, and yellow.
African daisies have attractive blue centres, characteristic of the Osteospermum species.
2. English Daisy | Bellis perennis
Likely to be the most recognisable daisy, the English daisy has simple, round flowers that are a delight for bees! English daisies are available in a variety of colours including white, pink, and blue. Due to their highly adaptable nature, daisies grow almost everywhere in the world. They’re tolerant of wet or dry conditions, sunny or shady locations, and different altitudes and temperatures. Needless to say, they are a top contender for the most easy-going cottage garden plant.
English daisies are neat and compact in shape and will happily grow just about anywhere.
3. Bellflower | Campanula
Among the most attractive and easy-going cottage garden plants, bellflowers survive in some of the most extreme weather conditions. Their height varies depending on the type of bellflower, but their green foliage makes a great ground cover. Their beautiful bell-shaped flowers are shades of purple, blue, violet, pink, or white, blooming from late spring to early fall. There are over 300 species of campanula. Some popular varieties include Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), Serbian Bellflower (Campanula poscharskyana), and Canterbury Bells (Campanula medium).
Bellflowers have characteristically bell-shaped flowers with upturned petals.
Clematis is a versatile climbing vine, adding height and interest to your cottage garden. Once established, these perennial vines are very low-maintenance. There are over 300 species, many of which flower at different times of the year. Their large, colourful flowers are spectacular, blooming in shades of blue, purple, pink, red, and white. If you’re looking for fragrant varieties, try “Clematis virginiana”, “Apple Blossom”, or “Sweet Summer Love”.
Clematis are among the most decorative climbing vines.
5. Columbine | Aquilegia
Columbine is a popular and adaptable wildflower that is a popular choice for cottage-style gardens. Their brightly coloured, bonnet-shaped flowers nod above attractive clover-like foliage throughout spring. You can find varieties in just about any colour. They survive harsh conditions but will do their best in a partially shaded spot. This easy-going perennial self-seeds, creating long-lived colonies for years.
Columbine has drooping bell-shaped, spurred flowers.
6. Coneflower | Echinacea
Coneflowers were named for their protruding cone-like centres that contain many seeds. These seeds attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and songbirds such as goldfinches. Echinacea is a relatively trouble-free plant once established. They do well in the heat, are deer-resistant, and tolerant of poor soil conditions. There are lots of coneflower varieties to choose from, and when planted in multitudes, they create an eye-catching display from mid-summer to early autumn.
Echinacea can be made into a herbal tea, medicinally used to treat the symptoms of the common cold and flu.
Cosmos are quick-growing, easy-going cottage garden plants. They don’t require any soil preparation, are tolerant of dry or sandy soils, and are not fussy about pH levels, but will grow best in neutral to alkaline soils. Their large saucer-like flowers bloom freely for months. There are many types of cosmos flowers, most commonly found in shades of pink and white, but varieties are available in stunning shades of yellow, orange, red, and maroon. They have masses of delicate, feathery foliage that repels mosquitoes. They look great planted in a mix with bee balms and butterfly bushes.
Cosmos is derived from the Greek word “kosmos,” which means “beautiful” or “harmony.”
8. Dahlia | Dahlia hortensis
Dahlias are easy-going cottage garden plants that require little to no attention when planted in the right location. Although they are not well suited to very hot climates, they enjoy direct sun, especially morning sunlight. Dahlias come in an enormously wide variety of vibrant colours, with most varieties reaching between 4 and 5 feet tall. Their breath-taking, intricate flowers bloom through midsummer well into autumn.
Dahlia petals showcase beautiful, intricate patterns and textures.
9. Heather | Calluna vulgaris
Summer Heather, or common Heath, is well known as one of the most easy-going cottage garden plants. This small, attractive, low-maintenance shrub profusely blooms panicles of flowers with little to no care. Summer Heather grows slowly; plant en masse or in pots for the greatest impact. Plant Calluna vulgaris (blooms summer to autumn) with Erica heather (blooms autumn to winter) to enjoy their beauty throughout the seasons.
The flowers of Calluna vulgaris were often used as a flavouring for beverages including tea and ale.
One of the more robust flowering shrubs, Hydrangeas are showy, filling garden spaces with vibrant pops of colour in spring and summer. Their large globes of flowers sport a range of colours that can change depending on the soil’s acidity. Hydrangeas grown in acidic soil will be shades of blue and purple, while those grown in soil with a higher lime content will turn pink. They are quite adaptable but prefer to be planted in a spot that is sheltered from harsh, hot sunlight. They appreciate being watered as they are known to wilt in very hot climates.
Hydrangeas are well-loved as cut flowers and garden plants for their big, beautiful blooms.
11. Lavender | Lavandula
There are many varieties of Lavender that come in many forms, colours, and sizes. These robust aromatic herbs are an easy-going garden staple requiring very little effort to flourish. They are drought-tolerant and not too particular about their soil as long as it’s well draining. English Lavender tends to be more cold-hardy than other varieties. Their fragrant flowers are found in shades of purple, pink, and white. Lavender oil can be extracted from the flowers and leaves for aromatherapy or culinary use. Lavender’s scent also repels mosquitoes while attracting beneficial pollinators to your garden.
Other beautiful herbs to include are Angelica, Fennel, Sage, Chives and, Rosemary.
French lavender, or fringed lavender, has very aromatic, finely-toothed leaves.
12. Love-in-a-mist | Nigella damascena
Characteristically romantic, Love-in-a-mist’s unusual flowers are surrounded by a ruff of delicate thread-like foliage, giving them an airy feel. This charming, easy-going cottage garden plant adds interesting texture and colours to your mixed flower beds. They need little attention once established. Varieties are available in blue, pink, purple, and white. Love-in-a-mist is easily grown from seed and will reseed year after year. When the flowers come to an end, attractive seed pods remain. These are often used decoratively in arrangements.
Love-in-a-mist blooms all summer into autumn and makes a great filler plant.
13. Marigold | Tagetes
Marigolds are fantastic companion plants for many vegetables, including cucumbers, kale, potatoes, and tomatoes. They are highly attractive to beneficial insects, which prey on harmful pests. They also repel mosquitoes. They come in beautiful shades of red, yellow, and gold and look just as stunning in pots as they do in beds. They tolerate sandy or dry garden conditions and enjoy full sun.
A cluster of French Marigold flowers (Tagetes patula), contrasting with the green leaves.
14. Nasturtium | Tropaeolum majus
Nasturtium is a popular easy-going cottage garden plant that has big, bold green leaves and stunning flowers. Your nasturtiums should thrive in a wide variety of conditions as long as the soil is well drained. Poor soil actually encourages blooms. Grow them as free-flowing, trailing bushes or train them to climb a support structure. Nasturtium flowers come in stunning shades of cream, yellow, red, or orange. Plant them as companion plants to vegetables such as beans, pumpkins, broccoli, and cabbage.
Nasturtiums have edible flowers and leaves making them a cheerful child friendly addition.
A cottage garden favourite, the Peony is a hardy low-maintenance perennial shrub that requires very little care once established. In fact, Peonies prefer to remain undisturbed. They boast big, beautiful flowers that have an irresistible charm. There are plenty of Peony varieties to choose from; single, semi-double, full double or, bomb, most of them fragrant.
Peonies are long-lived, producing blooms for up to 100 years.
Phlox is the perfect easy-going cottage garden plant for your borders. Old-fashioned, tried and tested, phlox blooms in clusters of dainty, brightly coloured fragrant flowers that will attract masses of butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden. Creeping varieties will spill out of your beds over borders while garden phlox grows in upright clumps.
Phlox are highly attractive to butterflies.
Scabiosa is another old-fashioned, easy-going cottage garden plant. Sometimes called the pincushion flower, their free-flowering nature is well suited to this informal garden style. Scabiosa africana is the easiest variety to grow, while Scabiosa incisa will reward you with more flowers. Their soft, delicate blooms attract butterflies.
Scabiosa’s roots and leaves are used in traditional medicine.
18. Snapdragon | Antirrhinum
Well-known as a colourful, easy-going cottage garden plant, snapdragons add a bit of mid-height vertical interest to your landscape. They are sun-loving, early-bloomers, easy to grow and available in a wide spectrum of bright colours. Their interesting flowers are a good source of nectar and pollen for bees and butterflies.
Snapdragons a popular as cut flowers and ornamental plants.
19. Sweet Pea | Lathyrus odoratus
Sweet peas are one of the most popular easy-going cottage garden plants. Adored for their beautiful, fragrant flowers, they will grace your garden throughout spring, summer, and autumn. They grow easily. You can either allow them to grow freely into a bushy mound or train their twining tendrils to climb a support structure such as a trellis or fence. Colours are available in soft shades of red, pink, purple, blue, or white.
Although sweet pea seeds look like edible peas, they are toxic if ingested.
Zinnia’s are one of the easiest annuals to grow. They grow quickly, are long-lasting and low-maintenance. They’re adaptable to most soil conditions, and mature plants are drought-tolerant. Zinnia elegans is the most popular, but there are a seemingly infinite number of varieties in different shapes, colours, and sizes to give your garden a burst of colour.
Star Orange Zinnia has a single or double layer of beautifully coloured, overlapping petals.
Cottage gardening is a wonderful way to learn about various plants. Find more inspiration in this Ultimate Guide to Cottage Garden Plants.
You’ll figure out what works for you and what survives best in your space. There is so much freedom to mix and match that you can create a space that is uniquely you!