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Learn the Secrets to Combining Flower Shapes

By: Sherri Ribbey
Using a variety of flower shapes can take your garden's design from alright to amazing. Learn here how to choose and mix flower shapes to make your garden gorgeous.

Combine-flower-shapes-in-your-garden-Lead: Planting a lot of different shapes will keep your eye moving throughout the entire garden. This makes it more interesting to look at — your eye keeps seeking the next shape & pollinators will love it too.

Designing with flower shape in mind

There are so many things to think about when designing a garden that it can be overwhelming, sometimes even intimidating. So if you’re wondering how to begin choosing your plants, start with flower shape.

Flowers come in all kinds of shapes, from simple daisies to sophisticated lilies. And while color is often the first thing that comes to mind, flower shape also helps set a mood and is an important element in garden design. To get just the effect you want, you need to know the eight categories of shapes. Then we’ll discuss some more design tips and help you find the right flower for the shape you need with our chart below.

Flower-shapes-illustration-group Carlie-Hamilton-Garden-gate-magazine

A variety of flower shapes for your garden

  • Flathead flowers have a horizontal shape that gives the eye a place to rest and has a down-to-earth feel.

  • Daises are the flower shape to choose for a simple, natural look.

  • Trumpets are strong, attention getting flower shapes and can be used as a focal point in the garden.

  • Cup flowers are simpler than trumpet flowers and lend a more casual feel.

  • Plumes bring a playful mood with fuzzy flowers. Plumes make a good transition shape between spikes and flatheads.

  • Globes’ unusual shape stands out. Use them as accents or focal points.

  • Fillers provide a good-looking backdrop and fill in bare spots.

  • Clusters of flowers provide some weight to a design. Loose clusters make good transitions between different shapes because of their indistinct form.

  • Spike flowers are great attention getters that add height to your garden design.


Combine-flower-shapes-in-your-garden-pv: Combining two strong shapes that peak at different times like the lily & allium shown here is a good way to keep attention focused on a specific part of your garden.

Tips for combining flower shapes

1. Repeat shapes for unity

Planting a lot of different shapes will keep your eye moving throughout the entire garden. This makes it more interesting to look at — your eye keeps seeking the next shape. On the other hand, too much contrast can create a confusing jumble. Remedy the situation by repeating a shape to provide a sense of unity. Even a wild color combo like pink and orange, for example, can be unified if you keep your flower shapes simple. Pair hot-pink zinnias with flame-orange Mexican sunflowers and you have a combination that sizzles yet still looks tied together because they’re both daisy shaped.

2. Use a variety

To keep a monochromatic garden from becoming bland, use a variety of shapes. You could never call a garden of spider flower, Asiatic lilies and delphiniums boring — even if they were all white!

3. Show off a specimen plant

Choosing the right shape combination can really show off a speciman plant. For example, if you want to spotlight a favorite lily, plant it with a filler like baby’s breath, which isn’t such an eye-catching shape, to make the lily the star.

4. Think about the seedheads

Don’t forget — flowers change with the seasons. Take advantage of the shapes of seedheads and blooms, like coneflowers, that dry out on the stem to add year-round interest to your garden.

You Might Also Like:
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How to design a garden to attract more pollinators
Our mix & match guide to a perfect cottage garden
A no-fail formula for beautiful garden containers every time

Flowers of every shape

Here’s an alphabetical list of flowers and their shapes to help you mix and match and create your own combinations. Enjoy!

Flathead Daisy Trumpet Cup Plume
Angelica
Angelica gigas
Anemone
Anemone x hybrida
Amarylis
Hippeastrum hybrids
Balloon flower
Platycodon grandiflorus
Astilbe
Astilbe hybrids
Annual statice
Limonium sinuatum
New England aster
Aster novae-angliae
Asiatic lily
Lilium hybrids
Crocus
Crocus spp.
Canadian burnet
Sanguisorba canadensis
Butterfly weed
Asclepias tuberosa
Blanket flower
Gaillardia grandiflora
Beardtongue
Penstemon spp.
Five-spot
Nemophila maculata
Coral bells
Heuchera hybrids
Candytuft
Iberis spp.
Bloody cranesbill
Geranium sanguineum
Bellflower
Campanula punctata
Lavatera
Lavatera trimestris
Eulalia grass
Miscanthus sinensis
Dill
Anethum graveolens
Dianthus
Dianthus chinensis
Daylily
Hemerocallis spp.
Lenten rose
Helleborus orientalis
Foamflower
Tiarella hybrids
Joe pye weed
Eupatorium fistulosum
Purple coneflower
Echinacea purpurea
Flowering tobacco
Nicotiana alata
Musk mallow
Malva moschata
Goatsbeard
Aruncus dioicus
Lantana
Lantana hybrids
Sea holly
Eryngium giganteum
Gentian
Gentiana spp.
Oriental poppy
Papaver orientale
Goldenrod
Solidago spp.
Myrtle spurge
Euphorbia myrsinites
Shasta daisy
Leucanthemum superbum
Gladiola
Gladiolus hybrids
Pasque flower
Pulsatilla vulgaris
Meadow rue
Thalictrum delavayi
Showy stonecrop Sedum spectabile
Sneezeweed Helenium autumnale
Morning glory Ipomoea tricolor
Peony Paeonia hybrids
Meadowsweet Filipendula purpurea
Sweet cicely
Myrrhis odorata
Stoke’s aster
Stokesia laevis
Peruvian lily
Alstroemeria hybrids
Prairie gentian
Eustoma grandiflorum
Pampas grass
Cortaderia selloana
Verbena
Verbena bonariensis
Sunflower
Helianthus annuus
Petunia
Petunia hybrids
Sundrops
Oenothera fruticosa
Queen of the Prairie
Filipendula rubra
Yarrow
Achillea hybrids
Tickseed
Coreopsis lanceolata
Surprise lily
Lycoris squamigera
Tulip
Tulipa hybrids
Jupiter’s beard
Centranthus ruber
Globe Filler Cluster Spike
African lily
Agapanthus spp.
Baby’s breath
Gypsophila paniculata
Begonia
Begonia hybrids
Blazing star
Liatris spicata
Angelica
Angelica gigas
Columbine
Aquilegia spp.
Catchfly
Silene armeria
Bugbane
Actea spp.
Bachelor’s buttons
Centaurea cyanus
Crambe
Crambe cordifolia
Garden phlox
Phlox paniculata
Burnet
Sanguisorba tenuifolia
Beebalm
Monarda didyma
Flax
Linum perenne
Lady’s mantle
Alchemilla mollis
Cardinal flower
Lobelia cardinalis
Cardoon
Cynara cardunculus
Fountain grass
Pennisetum spp.
Maltese Cross
Lychnis chalcedonica
Hollyhock
Alcea hybrids
Carnation
Dianthus hybrids
Gaura
Gaura lindheimeri
Nodding onion
Allium cernuum
Ligularia
Ligularia dentata
Clustered bellflower
Campanula glomerata
Jewels of Opar
Talinum paniculatum
Pearly everlasting
Anaphalis margaritacea
Monkshood
Aconitum spp.
Geranium
Pelargonium hybrids
Meadow rue
Thalictrum delavayi
Persian candytuft
Aethionema grandiflorum
Mullein
Verbascum hybrids
Giant knapweed
Centaurea macrocephala
Mugwort
Artemisia lactiflora
Rodgersia
Rodgersia aesculifolia
Russian sage
Perovskia atriplicifolia
Globe thistle
Echinops spp.
Muhly grass
Muhlenbergia capillaris
Spiderwort
Tradescantia andersonia group
Salvia
Salvia spp.
Strawflower
Helichrysum bracteata
Sea lavender
Limonium latifolium
Sweet woodruff
Galium odoratum
Speedwell
Veronica spicata
Tall buttercup
Ranunculus acris
Wand flower
Dierama pulcherrimum
Willow blue-star
Amsonia tabernaemontana
Torch flower
Kniphofia hybrids
Published: May 1, 2012
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