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Mix & Match Guide to a Perfect Cottage Garden

By: Sherri RibbeySherri Ribbey
Is cottage garden your style? If you want a casual, whimsical garden packed full of flowers of every shape, we have what you need. Mix & match different cottage garden classics in our guide for the perfect look.

fp-d-cottage-garden-players-Lead--CopyrightSaxon-Holt PhotoBotanic: © Saxon Holt / PhotoBotanic

Cottage garden style

Cottage gardens are packed with life — overflowing with flowers, in many colors, shapes and textures that attract pollinators of all types. In the past, cottage gardens were practical solutions — they provided food, herbal remedies and a little beauty. Now, this relaxed garden style is primarily for enjoyment, with a focus on flowers, but often includes herbs and vegetables tucked in here and there. There aren’t any firm rules, just pack in as much color, fragrance and flavor into the yard as possible. Though it can be a fine line between controlled chaos and jumbled mess at times, you’ll find a lot of different types of plants in a cottage garden.

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6 Key elements to a cottage garden

Scroll down to learn about some key cottage garden elements, such as flower shape and fragrance, and check out some well-suited choices for each. Plant a handful of these eclectic flowers and you'll have that cottage charm.

fp-d-cottage-garden-players-delphinium: Tall delphinium spikes often need a stake to keep the flowers growing straight.

1. Spike plants

From tall to small, these spike flowers turn heads, add excitement and keep the cottage garden interesting.

  • Delphinium (Delphinium spp. and hybrids) (in photo)
    Perennial; blue, purple, white, cream or pink blooms in late spring to summer; 10 to 96 in. tall, 10 to 36 in. wide; cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9

  • Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
    Biennial; pink, lavender, yellow, peach or white blooms in late spring to summer, takes part shade; 3 to 6 ft. tall, 1 to 2 ft. wide; cold-hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8

  • Hollyhock (Alcea rosea)
    Biennial; blooms in all colors but blue in summer, biennial, easy to start from seed; 3 to 8 ft. tall, 1 to 3 ft. wide; cold-hardy in USDA zones 2 to 10

  • Mullein (Verbascum spp. and hybrids)
    Perennial; yellow, white, purple, orange or pink blooms in late spring, tolerates dry, rocky soil; 1 to 8 ft. tall, 1 to 4 ft. wide; cold-hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8


fp-d-cottage-garden-players-cosmo: Cosmos are easy to direct sow in spring after all danger of frost has passed.

2. Daisy-shaped flowers

Add a soothing feel and keep the garden from looking too frenzied with this simple shape.

  • Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) (in photo)
    Annual; pink, red or white blooms in summer to fall, drought tolerant; 12 to 48 in. tall, 9 to 24 in. wide

  • Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis)
    Annual; golden yellow, orange, pink or cream blooms in late spring to fall, edible flowers; 1 to 2 ft. tall and wide

  • Cape daisy (Osteospermum hybrids)
    Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual); white, orange, yellow, pink or purple blooms in spring or fall, best in cool weather; 8 to 20 in. tall, 10 to 20 in. wide; cold-hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11

  • Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida)
    Perennial; golden-yellow blooms with deep brown center in summer to fall, tolerates clay soil; 2 to 3 ft. tall, 1 to 2 ft. wide; cold-hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9


fp-d-cottage-garden-players-sage: Adding colorful foliage, such as this sage, provides all season interest.

3. Edible plants

Incorporating edible plants is part of what sets cottage gardens apart. Whether you want tasty fruits, nutritious veggies or fragrant herbs, edibles can look good, too!

  • Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
    Bulb; lavender or white blooms in late spring to early summer, grows in part shade; 12 to 18 in. tall, 12 to 15 in. wide; cold-hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8

  • Sage (Salvia officinalis) (in photo)
    Perennial; pebbly green or purple foliage, drought-tolerant; 24 to 30 in. tall and wide; cold-hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8

  • Scarlet runner bean (Phaseolus coccineus)
    Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual); red, white or pink blooms in mid- to late summer, fast-growing vine; 8 to 12 ft. tall, vining; cold-hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11

  • Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris)
    Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual); green leaves with colorful ribs, tolerates both cool and hot weather; 12 to 24 in. tall, 9 to 18 in. wide; cold-hardy in USDA zones 7 to 11


fp-d-cottage-garden-players-fragrance: Grow a fragrant rose near a path you often walk so you won't miss its enticing scent.

4. Fragrant plants

Fragrant Plants are a staple of cottage gardens. Don’t plant too many different types —  it might create an unpleasant mix.

  • Flowering tobacco (Nicotiana alata)
    Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual); white blooms in summer to fall, fragrant in the evening; 3 to 5 ft. tall, 1 to 2 ft. wide; cold-hardy in USDA zones 10 to 11

  • English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
    Perennial; lavender, white or pink blooms in early to late summer, heat-tolerant; 1 to 4 ft. tall, 1 to 5 ft. wide; cold-hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9

  • Rose (Rosa hybrid) (in photo)
    Shrub; blooms in all colors but blue in late spring to fall, not all cultivars are fragrant; 1 to 30 ft. tall, 2 to 15 ft. wide; cold-hardy in USDA zones 2 to 10

  • Stock (Matthiola incana)
    Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual); white, pink, red, purple or yellow blooms in spring, clovelike scent; 12 to 18 in. tall, 10 to 12 in. wide; cold-hardy in USDA zones 7 to 10

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fp-d-cottage-garden-players-verbena: Butterflies will be regular visitors when you're growing this verbena.

5. Reseeder

These plants make themselves at home almost anywhere, giving borders that overflowing look everyone loves about cottage gardens.  

  • Wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
    Perennial; red and yellow blooms in late spring to early summer, hummingbird favorite, shade-tolerant; 12 to 36 in. tall, 12 to 18 in. wide; cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8

  • Love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus)
    Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual); draping red, green or cream blooms in summer, seeds are edible; 24 to 48 in. tall, 18 to 24 in. wide; cold-hardy in USDA zones 10 to 11

  • Spider flower (Cleome hassleriana)
    Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual); pink, white, purple or bicolor blooms in summer, hummingbirds love it, deer don’t; 3 to 4 ft. tall, 1 to 3 ft. wide; cold-hardy in USDA zones 10 to 11

  • Verbena (Verbena bonariensis) (in photo)
    Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual); rose-violet blooms in late spring to frost, can be aggressive; 24 to 48 in. tall, 18 to 24 in. wide; cold-hardy in USDA zones 7 to 11


fp-d-cottage-garden-players-morningglory: Morning glory is a popular vine for a classic cottage garden.

6. Flowering vine

Vines add height, can cover an arbor or fence and make the most of small spaces.

  • Morning glory (Ipomoea purpurea) (in photo) br> Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual); blue, white, purple or bicolor blooms in midsummer to fall, reseeds; 6 to 15 ft. tall, spreading; cold-hardy in USDA zones 10 to 12

  • Canary creeper (Tropaeolum peregrinum)
    Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual); yellow blooms in summer to fall, fast growing; 4 to 10 ft. tall, 1 to 4 ft. wide; cold-hardy in USDA zones 9 to 10

  • Clematis (Clematis spp. and hybrids)
    Woody vine; white, yellow, pink, blue, purple or red blooms in spring, summer or early fall, some varieties rebloom; 1 to 30 ft. tall, 3 to 8 ft. wide; cold-hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9

  • Moonflower (Ipomoea alba)
    Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual); white blooms in midsummer, fragrant in the evening; 10 to 15 ft. tall, spreading; cold-hardy in USDA zones 10 to 12

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White picket fence with purple delphinium

Published: June 26, 2018
Updated: Jan. 24, 2022
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