To choose cottage garden plants, think of tall flowering perennials, self seeding annuals and hardy biennials to give your garden just the right look.
English cottage gardens have a very romantic feel to them. The look may seem haphazard but is actually planned.
A cottage garden has a very distinct style that throws formality out the window. A couple of aspects of this style of gardening are lots of flowers and dense planting.
The beauty of the English cottage garden comes from charm and grace rather than ornate and grand structures and design.
Many cottage gardens also incorporate edible plants along with flowers as part of the overall design.
My husband is English and my mother had an Irish background, so I’ve had plenty of exposure to the beauty of the cottage style of gardening and and have planted most of my gardens with this in mind.
Pink flowers are often chosen for cottage gardens, since they have a romantic look to them. See my list of 15 Pink Flowering plants here.
If you enjoy motivational sayings on photos of pretty flowers, be sure to have a look at my inspirational flower quotes page.
Choosing English Cottage Garden Plants
While a cottage garden may LOOK somewhat unplanned, it does take some forward thinking about choosing the right plants to get the desired informal look.
All types of plants, from annuals to perennials, (and everything in between!) can be candidates for a cottage garden.
Arbors, benches, walls and fences are all part of the look of a cottage garden. Flowers are meant to interact with the structures.
Most cottage gardens have an overall floral look to them, even though edible landscaping is increasing in popularity as more and more people are concerned about the quality of fruits and vegetables in stores.
Seating areas are something that I use often in my garden beds and they are a common item in any cottage garden.
If your style of gardening is informal, a cottage garden may be just the right look for you.
It has less rules to follow since a haphazard look is one of the key elements, so you don’t need to worry about graduations in height, conscious design and spacing concerns.
Advantages of Cottage Gardens
Other than the romantic look of a cottage garden, there are several other benefits as well:
- You can accomplish a nice look on a small budget.
- Cottage Gardens can be grown in small yards.
- Changes are easy to make if you change your mind, and can be done quickly.
- You don’t have to spend your weekends pulling weeds since the dense planting style seems to keep weeds at bay.
Shopping List of Cottage Garden Plants
I’ve divided my list of cottage garden flowers into four categories: perennials, biennials, annuals and bulbs. Try to choose a few of each category to get long lasting color and easy care all season long.
I also like to choose shrubby plants, climbing plants (for arbors and mailboxes and to hide chain link fences) and border plants.
If you like this style of garden, then this cottage garden plant list will be helpful to you. You can print out the shopping list of cottage garden plants here or click on the image below.
Spread the word about English cottage garden on Twitter with this tweet.Get your shopping list of cottage garden plants and transform your yard into an English Garden. 🌸🌻🌼💐🌷 Click To Tweet
Planting English Cottage Garden Perennials
The beauty of perennials in a garden of cottage plants is that you plant them once and they continue to flower for years to come. Perennials also increase as they mature, so they will fill in spaces in your garden spot quickly.
The list of perennials seems endless and most will do well in an Cottage Garden. Some of my favorites are:
- Bee Balm
- Bleeding Heart
- Coral Bells
- Fan Flower (a tender perennial)
- Roses (both traditional and climbing roses)
- Shasta Daisy
- Columbine – also wild red columbine
- Balloon Flowers
- Baptisia Australis
Biennials to incorporate in a Cottage Gardens
Biennials normally grow for a couple of years and then die back. One advantage of growing them is that they are normally good self seeders, so once you have some of them, you are likely to have them in years to come. Some of my favorites are:
- Oriental Poppies
- Forget me not
List of English Style Garden Annuals
There is nothing quite like annuals for a show of color in an English style garden. They put all their energy into flowering for one season, so they give instant color and size in your garden quickly.
Annuals can easily be grown from seed, as well, so they are an inexpensive way to get a lot of plants. These are my favorite annuals for Cottage Gardens:
- Sweet Peas
- Sweet alyssum
- Dahlias (can be perennial depending on your zone.) I have to dig them up or replant each here here in zone 7b.
Cottage Garden Bulbs to Choose
Most bulbs that will grow in traditional gardens also do well in Cottage Gardens. Generally bulbs are perennials and will return each year.
Be sure to choose both tall and lower growing varieties to give your garden the haphazard look and choose early, middle and late blooming types to give a long season show of color.
Early Blooming Bulbs:
- Snow Drops
Late Spring and Summer bloomers:
- Canna lilies
- Oriental Lilies
- Red Hot Poker
If you plant a combination of perennials, biennials, bulbs and annuals in your cottage garden, you will have the best of all worlds and a succession of flowering plants from early spring until late into the fall.
The main problem with growing bulbs in a cottage garden is dealing with squirrels. See how to keep squirrels from digging up bulbs here.
Do you like cottage gardens as much as I do? What are your favorite English garden plants? Let us know in the comments below!
Pin this list of cottage garden plants for later
Would you like a reminder of this list of English garden plants? Be sure to pin the image below to one of your gardening boards as a reminder of this post so that you can easily find it later.
Admin note: This post about plants for a cottage garden first appeared on the blog in July of 2013. I have updated the post with new photos and more plants, a printable shopping list and a video for you to enjoy.
Friday 18th of September 2020
Just came across your site, its fabulous...
Friday 18th of September 2020
Thanks Ken. Glad you like it. It's a labor of love for me.
Tuesday 18th of February 2020
Totally enjoyed this post about flower gardens. Starting to plan a garden myself.
Friday 27th of April 2018
Wonderful reading and great ideas...thank you kindly for taking the time to share!
Saturday 28th of April 2018
My pleasure Sandra. Glad you enjoyed the post. Carol
Thursday 29th of March 2018
This was a great post! I learned about what will really work in my yard and I was able to map out a cottage garden that will provide blooms from spring through summer. Thank you, thank you!!
Sunday 11th of February 2018
Starting my first flower bed this year, and love the beauty and timeless look of a cottage garden! what an amazing resource to learn about new flowers and start my planning! I will most likely be back with questions ;)
Monday 12th of February 2018
Welcome to the gardening world Michelle. I started with one bed and now have 11! You'll be hooked for sure! Carol