Photo by: Jan Johnsen.

Cottage-style gardens conjure up romantic images of a storybook home in the British countryside surrounded by colorful flower borders. These gardens are characterized by loose, informal design and dense, exuberant plantings.

You can achieve the cottage garden style in your own yard by growing quintessential cottage garden plants. Include varieties that bloom at different times during the growing season and some with fragrance to capture the essence of a cottage garden. Create a layered look by choosing plants by size to grow in the front, middle, or back of a border. There are no hard-and-fast rules; select plants that most appeal to you.

On this page: Front of Border | Mid-Border | Back of Border | More Cottage Garden Plants

On this page:

FRONT OF BORDER PLANTS

These varieties can be used at the front of a border or as pathway edging.

'Millenium' allium. Photo by Proven Winners.

ALLIUM (Allium spp.)

Buy allium plants from Proven Winners.

Zones: 4-10
Habit: Upright habit
Height/Spread: 6 to 48 inches tall, 3 to 10 inches wide
Bloom time: Spring to summer
Exposure: Full sun

Related to edible onions, these ornamental perennials produce globe-shaped flower heads with tiny star-shaped florets in colors of purple, blue, pink, white, or yellow. Use at the front of a cottage-style border to create structure and offer contrast to other shaped flowers. Taller varieties (bulbs) can be used in the mid- or back border. Learn more about growing allium plants.

'Hello Yellow' butterfly weed. Photo by Proven Winners.

BUTTERFLY WEED (Asclepias tuberosa)

Buy butterfly weed plants from Proven Winners.

Zones: 3-9
Habit: Upright habit
Height/Spread: 12 to 30 inches tall, 12 to 24 inches wide
Bloom time: Summer
Exposure: Full sun

Support monarchs and other butterflies with this bushy herbaceous perennial that produces clusters of tubular star-shaped orange or yellow flowers. Combine in a cottage border alongside ornamental grasses or complementary-hued purple flowers of salvia, asters, and garden phlox. Learn more about growing butterfly weed.

'Cat's Pajamas' catmint. Photo by Proven Winners.

CATMINT (Nepeta spp.)

Buy catmint plants from Proven Winners.

Zones: 3-9
Habit: Mounding spreading habit
Height/Spread: 1 to 4 feet tall, 1 to 3 feet wide
Bloom time: Late spring to fall
Exposure: Full to partial sun

This mint relative has aromatic foliage and small purple, lavender, pink, yellow, white or blue flowers that grow up and down the stems. The mounding shrubby habit is useful for edging pathways or massed at the front of a cottage-style garden, and bees love it!. Learn more about growing catmint.

'Paint the Town Magenta' dianthus. Photo by Proven Winners.

DIANTHUS (Dianthus spp.)

Buy dianthus plants from Proven Winners.

Zones: 3-9, depending on the variety
Habit: Upright, mounding, or spreading habit
Height/Spread: 4 to 36 inches tall, 4 to 24 inches wide
Bloom time: Spring to early summer, with some varieties that bloom intermittently until fall
Exposure: Full to partial sun

Dianthus has long been a cottage garden favorite, with frilly clove-scented flowers mainly in tones of pink, red, and white. Grow this charming perennial, annual, or biennial as pathway or border edging, in a cutting garden or containers. Learn more about growing dianthus.

Sweet Romance® lavender. Photo by Proven Winners.

LAVENDER (Lavandula spp.)

Buy lavender plants from Proven Winners.

Zones: 5-9
Habit: Upright habit
Height/Spread: 1 to 4 feet tall, 1 to 5 feet wide
Bloom time: Late spring to fall
Exposure: Full sun

This popular herb is grown for its scented foliage and spiky flowers that have a wide range of ornamental, culinary, and medicinal uses. Plant this shrubby perennial along a pathway, use as hedging or at the front of a drought-tolerant cottage-style bed. Learn more about growing lavender.

'Firefly Sunshine' yarrow. Photo by Proven Winners.

YARROW (Achillea millefolium)

Buy yarrow plants from Proven Winners.

Zones: 3-9
Habit: Upright spreading habit
Height/Spread: 1 to 3 feet tall, 2 to 3 feet wide
Bloom time: Summer to early fall
Exposure: Full sun

Yarrow is a tough, virtually foolproof perennial that produces aromatic ferny foliage and flat-topped flower clusters in colors of yellow, red, orange, purple, coral, and white. This favorite pollinator plant forms a neat mat suitable for the front of a border alongside other late blooming plants such as asters, ornamental grasses and sedums. Learn more about growing yarrow plants.

MID-BORDER PLANTS

Plants at the center of a border are what anchors the rest of the landscape. Choose varieties that are medium sized that can create a smooth transition between plants in front and back.

'Pardon My Cerise' bee balm. Photo by Proven Winners.

BEE BALM (Monarda spp.)

Buy bee balm plants from Proven Winners.

Zones: 3-9
Habit: Upright spreading habit
Height/Spread: 10 inches to 4 feet tall, 8 inches to 3 feet wide
Bloom time: Late spring to early fall
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade; plants do best in full sun

This mint relative has pungent foliage and long-blooming flowers reminiscent of fireworks. Attractive to butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees, this old-fashioned favorite is a staple of cottage gardens. Use as filler towards the middle of a border. Learn more about growing bee balm plants.

Photo by darkmoon1968 / Pixabay

BLACK-EYED SUSAN (Rudbeckia spp.)

Zones: 3-9, depending on variety
Habit: Upright spreading habit
Height/Spread: 1 to 9 feet tall, 1 to 5 feet wide
Bloom time: Summer to fall
Exposure: Full to partial sun

Native to North American prairies and open fields, the daisy-like flowers of black-eyed Susan come in warm tones of gold, bronze, brown, red, or yellow. Naturalize this biennial or short-lived perennial in an informal border or native garden. Learn more about growing black-eyed Susan plants.

Summersong™ Firefinch™. Photo by Proven Winners.

CONEFLOWER (Echinacea spp.)

Buy coneflower plants from Proven Winners.

Zones: 3-9
Habit: Upright spreading habit
Height/Spread: 1 to 5 feet tall, 1 to 2 feet wide
Bloom time: Summer
Exposure: Full sun

An important food source for insect pollinators and songbirds, the cone-shaped flowers occur in colors of pink, white, orange, yellow, green, and sunset hues. Combine in a cottage-style border with other summer-blooming natives such as yarrow, bee balm, milkweed, and gayfeather (Liatris). Learn more about growing coneflower plants.

Photo by Janet Loughrey

COSMOS (Cosmos spp.)

Zones: Usually grown as an annual
Habit: Upright open habit
Height/Spread: 3 to 5 feet tall, 2 feet wide
Bloom time: Summer to fall
Exposure: Full sun

Cheerful daisy-like flowers of this quintessential cottage garden favorite occur in colors of pink, white, burgundy, apricot, orange, or yellow. Sow seeds of this quick-growing annual in a kitchen plot or cottage-style bed to fill in gaps and provide late-season color.

'Ginger Snap' dahlia. Photo by Andrea Jones.

DAHLIA (Dahlia spp.)

See more dahlias from Proven Winners.

Zones: 8-11
Habit: Upright bushy habit
Height/Spread: 1 to 5 feet tall, 1 to 2 feet wide
Bloom time: Summer to fall
Exposure: Full sun

With hundreds of varieties to choose from, dahlia flowers occur in a wide range of colors, shapes, and sizes. Use this long-blooming tuberous plant in the front, middle, or back of a cottage-style border for months of late-season color. Learn more about growing dahlias.

'Opening Act Ultrapink' phlox. Photo by Proven Winners.

GARDEN PHLOX (Phlox paniculata)

Buy phlox plants from Proven Winners.

Zones: 4-8
Habit: Upright spreading habit
Height/Spread: 2 to 4 feet tall, 2 to 3 feet wide
Bloom time: Mid-summer to early fall
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Cone-shaped clusters of scented starry flowers occur in single or two-toned shades of pink, purple, salmon, lavender, or white. Mass this reliable perennial at the middle of a cottage border alongside other late-season bloomers such as salvia, Russian sage, purple coneflower, and ornamental grasses. Learn more about growing phlox.

Amazing Daisies® Daisy May® Shasta daisy. Photo by Proven Winners.

SHASTA DAISY (Leucanthemum x superbum)

Buy Shasta daisies from Proven Winners.

Zones: 5-9
Habit: Upright spreading habit
Height/Spread: 6 to 48 inches tall, 12 to 36 inches wide
Bloom time: Early summer to fall
Exposure: Full to partial sun

A classic summertime perennial with cheerful white flowers with a yellow center, Shasta daisy deserves a spot in any cottage border. This easy-care perennial goes well with many other cottage garden plants, including salvia, bee balm, lavender, and coneflower. Mass towards the middle of a border or cutting garden. Learn more about growing Shasta daisies.

Photo by pjhpix / Shutterstock

SWEET PEA (Lathyrus odoratus)

Zones: Grown as an annual
Habit: Vining tendriled habit
Height/Spread: 4 to 8 feet tall, 2 to 3 feet wide
Bloom time: Late winter to fall, depending on the climate
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Scented blooms on this nostalgic favorite come in a wide array of single and bicolors. Allow the tendriled vines to clamor along a rustic picket fence or grow up a trellis near a pathway where the fragrant flowers can be enjoyed close up.

Photo by Janet Loughrey

ZINNIA (Zinnia elegans)

Zones: 10-12, grown as an annual in most zones
Habit: Upright branching habit
Height/Spread: 1 to 4 feet tall, 1 to 2 feet wide
Bloom time: Summer to fall
Exposure: Full sun

This cheerful summer annual comes in many different plant sizes and flowers in colorful shades of red, orange, yellow, pink, white, peach, green, and bicolors. Mass medium-sized varieties in the middle (or dwarf varieties in the front) of a cottage-style border or cutting garden for months of continuous color from mid-summer until frost. Learn more about growing zinnias.

BACK OF BORDER PLANTS

Tall plants placed at the back provide a backdrop to set off the rest of the plants in a cottage border.

Happy Jack® Purple clematis. Photo by Proven Winners.

CLEMATIS (Clematis spp.)

Buy clematis from Proven Winners.

Zones: 3-10
Habit: Vining or bushy habit
Height/Spread: 2 to 50 feet tall, 2 to 10 feet wide
Bloom time: Spring to fall, depending on the variety
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Blooms on this versatile flowering vine occur in a range of colors and shapes, with some varieties producing attractive seed heads that follow the flowers. Plant in a cottage border to clamor along a picket fence or climb vertically on an arbor or trellis. Learn more about growing clematis.

New Millenium™ ‘Pink Punch’ delphinium. Photo by Proven Winners.

DELPHINIUM (Delphinium elatum)

See more delphinium plants from Proven Winners.

Zones: 3-7
Habit: Upright spiky habit
Height/Spread: 3 to 6 feet tall, 1 to 3 feet wide
Bloom time: Early to mid-summer
Exposure: Full sun

Towering spikes produce showy multi-petaled flowers in cool hues of blue, pink, purple, and white. Grow this cool-season perennial at the back of a cottage border to add dramatic height and background interest. Learn more about growing delphinium.

'Candy Mountain' foxglove. Photo by Proven Winners.

FOXGLOVE (Digitalis spp.)

See more dahlias from Proven Winners.

Zones: 3-8
Habit: Upright spiky habit
Height/Spread: 3 to 8 feet tall, 1 to 3 feet wide
Bloom time: Spring to summer
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

This classic cottage garden staple is grown for the vertical spires of bell-shaped flowers in shades of pink, purple, white, apricot, and yellow. Allow self-sowing biennial types to fill in gaps, while perennial varieties can be reliably grown towards the back or middle of a border. Learn more about growing foxglove.

'Mars Magic' hollyhock. Photo by Proven Winners.

HOLLYHOCK (Alcea rosea)

Zones: 2-9
Habit: Upright spiky habit
Height/Spread: 5 to 8 feet tall, 1 to 2 feet wide
Bloom time: Summer
Exposure: Full sun

Hollyhock is a classic cottage garden plant, with tall stalks of large open-faced flowers in shades of purple, pink, red, white, peach, or lavender. Add this biennial or short-lived perennial to the back of a border or plant against a tall fence or wall. Learn more about growing hollyhock plants.

Oso Easy Double Red® rose. Photo by Proven Winners.

ROSE (Rosa spp.)

Buy roses from Proven Winners.

Zones: 2-11, depending on the variety
Habit: Upright, bushy, spreading, arching, or climbing habit
Height/Spread: 6 inches to 30 feet tall, 1 to 15 feet wide
Bloom time: May to frost
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

One of the most beloved and widely used garden plants, romantic roses are a staple of cottage borders and landscapes. Use a larger bush type as a background plant in a cottage border or a climbing type trained on a fence, trellis, or arbor. Roses combine well with clematis and many summer-blooming perennials. Learn more about growing roses.

MORE COTTAGE GARDEN PLANTS & IDEAS

Other cottage garden flowers include baptisia, bellflower, columbine, daffodil, daylily, honeysuckle, hydrangea, lilac, marigold, poppy, sunflower, tulip and wisteria.

Classic cottage garden herbs and edible flowers include anise hyssop, calendula, chives, feverfew, nasturtium, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, and violets.

Get more cottage garden ideas in this video from Jenny and Jerry at Creekside Nursery.

RELATED

JOIN 100,000 GARDEN LOVERSSign up for weekly gardening inspiration and design tips

Get plant information, gardening solutions, design inspiration and more in our weekly newsletter.

* Required Fields
We will never sell or distribute your email to any other parties or organizations.

More about the newsletter

Follow Us Garden Design Magazine Facebook Garden Design Magazine Twitter Garden Design Magazine Pinterest Garden Design Magazine Instagram Garden Design Magazine Youtube