34 Plants For Your Cottage Garden

Are you hunting for the perfect plants to use in your cottage garden? Here are 34 plants that will work beautifully with this charming gardening style.

cottage garden plants


A thoughtfully curated cottage garden makes my maximalist heart swoon. A cottage garden should look like a carefully planned garden that has been allowed to grow a bit wild. Achieving this look takes a bit of preparation, but the result is a stunning, whimsical, and vibrant garden that will last a lifetime. 

Cottage gardens are not built in a day. Building this type of garden takes time, as it has many layers. It will be an ever-evolving space that follows the ebbs and flows of plant lifecycles. Creating these layers is integral to the overall feel and manageability of the garden.

If you place smaller plants behind larger ones, they won’t make much of an impact and might not get enough sun. It is a great idea to create the foundation of your garden using trees and shrubs. From there, work down to large perennials placed behind smaller perennials. Finally, add colorful annuals, herbs, and vegetables. 

All these elements mingle together to create the cottage garden vibe and aesthetic. Let’s walk through the garden and look at some of my favorite plants that will bring your cottage garden to life.


Trees are the foundation for any garden landscape. They determine where we will have sun and shade, setting boundaries and creating height in your garden. It can be easy to focus on plants near the ground and overlook those vertical accents, but trees help create movement and boundaries in a cottage garden. 

Flowers and fruits are great things to look for when selecting trees for the cottage garden. Fruit trees look so charming in a cottage garden. Another factor to consider is fall foliage. Trees that light up the garden in fall are my absolute favorites. 

Amur Maple

Close-up of Acer ginnala branches in a garden. Acer ginnala, commonly known as Amur maple or Siberian maple, is a small tree with stunning fall foliage. Amur maple displays distinctive, three-lobed leaves that are bright green. The leaves are medium-sized, opposite in arrangement, and have serrated edges.
Amur maple trees add vibrant fall colors to your garden, showcasing fiery red and orange hues.
botanical-name botanical name Acer ginnala
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 20’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Maple trees are just wonderful in the landscape. So many of them turn to the most gorgeous colors in fall, just when most flowers begin to fade. Adding trees that provide fall color will liven up your cottage garden and bring warmth and fire to the cooler months. 

The Amur maple is a great little tree. It is on the small side, reaching about 20’ at maturity. It flowers in spring and produces pretty red fruit in summer. Fall is when this tree shines, though. Amur maple turns shades of fiery red and orange, lighting up the garden.

Crape Myrtle

Close-up of a flowering Lagerstroemia tree in the garden. Lagerstroemia, commonly known as crepe myrtle, is a small stunning tree that boasts a profusion of vibrant and crinkled blossoms. The flowers are purple, are densely packed into clusters at the tips of the branches. The leaves are large, dark green, lanceolate.
Crape myrtle trees offer colorful summer flowers, vibrant fall foliage, and attractive peeling bark in winter.
botanical-name botanical name Lagerstroemia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height up to 25’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-10

Another small to medium-sized tree that makes an impact is the crape myrtle. These trees produce huge panicles of flowers throughout most of the summer months, adding plenty of color to the garden. Dwarf varieties can top out around 10’-15’ if you need a smaller tree that makes a statement. 

There are so many good things to say about crape myrtle trees. They produce fabulous flowers, and their long, arching stems make this tree look so graceful. These trees have great fall color, and in winter, crape myrtle showcases its lovely peeling bark.

Ambrosia Apple

Close-up of ripe apples on a tree in the garden. Malus domestica 'Ambrosia' is a cultivar of apple tree known for its delightful appearance and sweet-tasting fruit. The leaves are dark green and have a serrated edge. The fruit develops and ripens into medium-sized apples with a distinctive reddish-pink blush over a yellowish-green background.
Fruit trees in cottage gardens, like the ‘Ambrosia’ apple tree, offer sweet and crisp apples suitable for smaller gardens.
botanical-name botanical name Malus domestica ‘Ambrosia’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 12’-15’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

Fruit trees are a classic addition to the cottage garden. Originally, cottage gardens were created by those living on small plots of land to provide fresh produce for the inhabitants of the cottage. An ‘Ambrosia’ apple tree resembles a ‘Golden Delicious.’ In fact, this is thought to be one of the parent trees for this variety.

‘Ambrosia’ apples are sweet and crisp, perfect for plucking right from the tree and taking a bite. The small size of this tree makes it great for smaller gardens. They need moderate chill hours (700), so this is not a tree for hot climates with minimal winter chill hours. In warmer climates, try the ‘Anna’ apple or the ‘Dorsett Golden.’

Avalon Pride Peach

Close-up of ripe peaches on a tree. Prunus persica 'Avalon Pride' features lush and green foliage, with leaves that are elliptical and serrated. This tree produces medium-sized, delicious peaches. The fruit has a distinctive red blush over a yellow background.
This peach tree yields large, sweet, and juicy peaches.
botanical-name botanical name Prunus persica ‘Avalon Pride’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 14’-20’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

‘Avalon Pride’ is a great, self-fertile peach tree for a cottage garden. Because it is self-fertile, you can plant just one tree and still have a bushel of peaches at the end of summer. This variety produces large, semi-freestone, very sweet, and juicy peaches.

This variety was discovered in Washington state, and the fruit ripens quickly. Pink flowers adorn the tree in spring; by the end of August, you will have plump and juicy peaches at your fingertips. At only 14’-20’ tall, it is easy to pick the fruit from the tree as well. 

Flowering Dogwood

Close-up of a flowering Cornus Florida tree in the garden. Cornus florida, commonly known as the flowering dogwood, is a small deciduous tree. The tree produces a showy, four-petaled bract that is a soft pink color. The foliage of the dogwood consists of simple, opposite leaves with an oval to elliptical shape.
Flowering dogwood is a must for the cottage garden, with early pink or white blooms and stunning scarlet fall foliage.
botanical-name botanical name Cornus florida
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height up to 40’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

Flowering dogwood is always a good idea. Native to North America, this wonderful tree has much to offer to the cottage garden. Dogwood trees are early and profuse bloomers. Masses of pink or white flowers burst on the scene in early spring, and red fruit follows during summer. In autumn, dogwood trees wow us again with scarlet fall foliage. 

Dogwood trees can be kept to a manageable size and rarely grow taller than 40’. They have aromatic bark and branches that form a wide crown, showcasing a mass of flowers in spring. You can’t go wrong with one of these trees.


The second layer of a cottage garden is typically made up of shrubby plants. I lean toward evergreen shrubs to keep the garden from looking completely bare during winter.

Fruit-bearing shrubs are great as well. Add some shrubs to areas that need a more defined boundary and as a backdrop for smaller, showier plants.


Close-up of a Buxus bush in the garden. The bush is small, round in shape, consists of many small lanceolate leaves of a dark green color. The leaves are glossy and smooth.
Boxwood shrubs offer structure to a cottage garden and are useful for creating garden divisions and whimsical topiaries.
botanical-name botanical name Buxus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1’-20’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

Boxwood shrubs are great low-maintenance shrubs. They’re ideal when you want structure, and while a cottage garden is not a structured garden, boxwoods have their uses here. A boxwood hedge makes a wonderful separation between areas of the garden that need something to define the space. For example, they are great for delineating a kitchen garden from a cut flower garden. 

Boxwoods make stunning topiaries, which, while it is quite a manicured look, can also be whimsical and artistic. Those are definitely things that belong in a cottage garden. Larger varieties can form entire walls in the garden to give your cottage garden a more closed-in, secret garden vibe.


Close-up of a blooming Camellia in the garden. It is a small shrub with dark green, elliptical, leathery, glossy leaves and charming rose-like flowers. The flowers are cup-shaped and consist of several layers of well-organized bright red petals.
Camellias serve as a lovely backdrop in a cottage garden.
botanical-name botanical name Camellia
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial sun
height height up to 20’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

One of my all-time favorite shrubs is camellias. Their winter blooming habit makes them a great choice for your cottage garden. For most of the year, camellias make a great background for other flowering plants. Their deep green, glossy foliage is subtle but stunning. 

In late fall, C. sasanqua varieties start to bloom, while C. japonica varieties tend to wait until winter. I am a big fan of the C. japonica species. These stunning shrubs produce large, intricate flowers in shades of pink, red, white, and rarely, pale yellow. A bowl of these blooms in water makes an excellent centerpiece for the holiday table. 


Close-up of a blooming Gardenia in a garden, against a blurred background of green foliage. It is an evergreen shrub with glossy green leaves with distinct veining. They are lanceolate in shape. The plant produces large double flowers that are bright white and shaped like roses.
In warm climates, gardenia shrubs are cold-tolerant and offer a range of foliage types, thriving in full sun or partial shade.
botanical-name botanical name Gardenia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 3’-8’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-11

If you live in a warmer climate, gardenia shrubs are breathtaking and quite cold-tolerant. Some varieties, like ‘Frost Proof,’ can handle a hard freeze without dropping a single leaf. Gardenia foliage varies from soft green and lanceolate to deep, glossy green and ovate. They flower best in full sun but still perform well in partial shade. 

Gardenias are most famous for the fragrance of their flowers. Plant this one close to a living space or near the entrance to greet guests with the sweet smell in early summer. A well-cared-for gardenia will likely bloom a second time at the end of summer, but much more sparingly. 


Close-up of a flowering Forsythia shrub in a garden. The shrub has bare thin branches densely covered with small bright yellow star-shaped flowers.
The deciduous forsythia shrub shines in spring with brilliant yellow flowers.
botanical-name botanical name Forsythia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2’-10’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-8

Forsythia is a deciduous shrub and will have bare branches in winter. They change color in fall, which isn’t especially noteworthy compared with other fall color-changing plants. What it lacks in fall and winter fanfare, it makes up for in spades when spring comes around.

Long, straight branches have attractive, shiny brown bark. Forsythia flowers before leafing out, so the flowers are alone on the stems and spectacular. These bright yellow flowers bloom up and down every branch on the shrub, creating what looks like a golden firework in the spring garden. Pro-tip: The bright forsythia blooms tell you it’s time to prune your roses!


Close-up of a flowering shrub Rosa rubiginosa in a garden against a blurred green background. The plant produces complex pinnate leaves consisting of oval leaflets with serrated edges. The flowers are small, solitary, cup-shaped, open, with bright pink petals at the edges and white towards the center.
In a cottage garden, rose bushes with beautiful flowers are an absolute must.
botanical-name botanical name Rosa rubiginosa
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height up to 7’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-8

A rose bush is practically a requirement for cottage gardens. If you live in a zone where roses can grow, the cottage garden is the perfect setting for one of these plants with gorgeous flowers. Rose bushes are smaller than most shrubs, so place them in spaces that will best showcase their blooms.

Rose bushes are not especially noteworthy when they are not in bloom. They are thorny with sparser leaves, but the flowers are some of the most coveted among gardeners. Choose a wild rose for denser foliage and a sweet woodland appearance. 


Close-up of a flowering Hydrangea shrub in a garden. The shrub has vertical stems covered with large oval leaves of a dark green color with finely serrated edges. The flowers are large spherical inflorescences, which consist of many small four-petaled flowers of soft purple shades.
Hydrangea shrubs are popular for their hardiness, large floral displays, and lush green foliage.
botanical-name botanical name Hydrangea macrophylla
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial Shade
height height 4’-12’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Hydrangeas are very popular for their hardiness and large floral displays. Hydrangeas have large, attractive leaves that provide a dense, green backdrop for flowering summer plants. They shine in spring and fall, though, when they produce their own spectacular blooms.

Hydrangeas produce large, softly textural panicles of flowers. Typically, they bloom in spring and then stop blooming during the hottest summer months. As long as they get enough water through the hot season, they should begin to bloom again when the weather cools off in the fall. Depending on the variety, these can be low-maintenance additions to the garden.


Flowering, herbaceous perennials are the accessories of your cottage garden. These plants will create that slightly wild, meadowlike effect in your cottage garden and reliably return yearly. 

Select plants with long flowering periods that will fill in and around one another well. Play with texture when it comes to these plants, and vary plants of different leaf and flower formations. 


Close-up of Columbine flowers blooming in a garden. The plant has small, lobed, medium green foliage and thin, upright stems. Large bell-shaped flowers are formed at the tops of the stems. These flowers have a unique shape and consist of white petals surrounded by large burgundy-purple bracts.
With its whimsical, delicate appearance and various colors, columbine is an ideal choice for a cottage garden.
botanical-name botanical name Aquilegia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height up to 3’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Columbine has a whimsical, delicate feel. The flowers might just open their eyes and sing a little tune à la Alice in Wonderland! This is precisely what makes them perfect for a cottage garden. Also known as Granny’s Bonnet, columbine flowers come in many colors and may even be bicolored. 

The flowers and leaves are both delicate in appearance, but the plants are anything but. These reliable little plants with bouncy leaves and brightly-hued blooms are quite sturdy. They are deer-resistant, but pollinators enjoy them very much.

English Daisy

Close-up of blooming English Daisy in the garden. The plant produces classic daisy-like flowers with bright yellow discs surrounded by many thin white ray-shaped petals. The leaves are oval-shaped, glossy, dark green in color, reminiscent of succulent leaves.
English daisies thrive in cool weather with morning sun and afternoon shade, blooming with bright yellow centers and white petals.
botanical-name botanical name Bellis perennis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 6”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

The English daisy is a cool weather lover. It will grow in full sun, but too much sun during the hotter summer months will cause them to wilt, often to the point that you will want to pull them out. Plant these little flowers in a spot with morning sun and afternoon shade, though, and they will be a long-blooming, lower-level plant, very nearly a groundcover. 

The flowers are exactly what you would envision upon hearing the name. A single row of pure white, ray-type petals surrounds bright yellow centers. In cooler climates, keep an eye on how this plant spreads. You should control the spread as it reseeds well in cooler temperatures.


Close-up of a blooming Delphinium plant in a sunny garden. This perennial plant produces tall spikes of bright blue flowers. The flowers have a distinct shape, with a spur on the lower petal and a bunch of petals at the top.
Versatile in the cottage garden, these long-lasting summer bloomers come in various heights.
botanical-name botanical name Delphinium
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 4’-6’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-7

Delphiniums can fill so many purposes for the cottage garden. From small dwarf varieties to six-foot giants, these long-lasting summer bloomers are certain to delight. Make sure you know how tall your delphinium varieties will get so that you can place them in the right part of the garden. 

Delphiniums prefer climates with cooler summers, and they won’t do well planted south of zone 7. ‘Pacific Giant’ delphiniums are a larger variety in shades of blue, white, pink, and purple. These make a great taller-level plant. Delphiniums are very poisonous, so avoid planting them in gardens where pets or children will want to explore them.


Close-up of a flowering Foxglove plant in a sunny garden. This plant produces tall spike inflorescences consisting of many bell-shaped flowers of bright pink color.
Foxgloves are toxic but stunning cottage garden plants with tall, colorful spikes that attract pollinators.
botanical-name botanical name Digitalis spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2’-5’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

Also poisonous but beautiful are foxglove plants. Foxgloves are a staple in cottage gardens. Their tall, colorful flower spikes adorn the garden in spring, blooming successively from bottom to top. The flowers are trumpet-shaped and draw plenty of bumblebees and hummingbirds.

These pretty plants are short-lived perennials, but they self-seed and naturalize easily. Give them a space where their towering beauty can be seen, but keep them out of reach of curious hands and paws. ‘Gloxinniiflora’ is a tall variety with surprisingly large flowers. 


Close-up of a flowering Hollyhocks plant in a sunny garden. This perennial plant produces tall, strong upright stems with large lobed leaves that are rough. The flowers are large, delicate pink, tubular in shape.
Hollyhocks are biennial, offering a major blooming season the second year.
botanical-name botanical name Alcea rosea
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 3’-8’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-10

Tall, charming hollyhocks are related to hibiscuses; you can see a strong resemblance in the flowers when they bloom. They are biennial, so don’t expect to see flowers in the first year, but when they pop back up in the spring, get ready for a major blooming season ahead. Flowers bloom from July through September as long as the plants get enough water and some protection from wind. 

Different varieties vary widely in height, with some dwarf varieties reaching around three feet tall and larger ones towering overhead at eight feet. The flowers can be single or double, like ‘Chater’s Double,’ which is a large variety with stunning, fully double blooms. This is a safe plant for consumption. In fact, the flowers are considered edible.


Close-up of a flowering lavender plant in the garden. Lavender has upright thin stems with small tubular purple flowers clustered at the tops into oval whorls.
A must-have in a cottage garden, lavender is loved for its ornamental beauty and low maintenance.
botanical-name botanical name Lavandula angustifolia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 1’-2’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-8

Lavender belongs in a cottage garden every bit as much as roses do. It was difficult to decide whether to add this plant to the herb section or perennials, but I love it for its ornamental value and low-maintenance nature. Lavender likes well-draining soil, lots of sunshine, and no fertilizer. 

English tall lavender is wonderful for the cottage garden’s wild meadow feeling. Lavender is delicious in baked goods, repels bad insects, and attracts many pollinators, especially bees. 

Sweet William

Close-up of blooming Dianthus barbatus in a sunny garden. The plant forms compact thickets with thin stems. The leaves are narrow, lanceolate, growing in pairs along the stems. Flowers grow in dense inflorescences on stems. The flowers have five petals with jagged edges. The flowers are bright pink.
Sweet William is a versatile and fragrant mid-sized plant that is perfect for low-maintenance gardening.
botanical-name botanical name Dianthus barbatus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height up to 2’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Sweet William is a great midground plant, reaching up to 2’ tall and producing bunches of flowers in spring and summer. The flowers are small and have a uniquely spicy scent paired with brilliant red, pink, and white shades. Give your sweet Williams partial shade for the best results.

As long as they are planted in the right spot, these will be an easy addition to the garden that doesn’t require much from the gardener. The flowers are edible and brightly colored. They have a slight clove flavor and can be used for decorating cakes and other sweets.

Bearded Iris

Close-up of blooming Bearded irises in the garden. The plant has upright, tall stems and sword-shaped leaves that emerge from the base and form a clump of foliage. The flowers are large, consist of three upright bright yellow petals called standards and three purple drooping petals called falls.
Bearded iris has distinctive spring flowers and is available in various colors.
botanical-name botanical name Iris x germanica
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height up to 30”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-10

Bearded irises are a fun and distinctive plant that produces large, showy flowers in spring. They look like a plant that would enjoy the shade, but they flower best in full sun. They will tolerate partial shade, though. The color combinations of bearded irises are quite far-reaching, with some in solid shades and others in bicolor. 

These plants can be planted from bulbs in the fall, for early spring blooming, or from nursery starts. Planted from seed, bearded irises typically won’t bloom until their second year. These plants naturalize well and are not invasive but will produce more bulbs yearly. 

Spanish Bluebell

Close-ups of flowering Hyacinthoides hispanica plants in a sunny garden. Hyacinthoides hispanica, commonly known as Spanish bluebells, are striking spring-blooming bulbs. They feature slender, arching stems adorned with drooping, bell-shaped flowers of a delicate purple-blue color. The flowers are borne in dense racemes and have six petal-like tepals. The foliage consists of narrow, strap-like leaves.
Plant these bulbous perennials in the fall for early spring flowering.
botanical-name botanical name Hyacinthoides hispanica
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to full shade
height height 18”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Spanish bluebells are another bulbous perennial that can be planted in the fall for early spring blooms. Lovely tall stems showcase a spire of tubular, downward-facing blooms in shades of purple, blue, pink, and white. 

Plant Spanish bluebells in partial shade or dappled sunlight for best performance. These will also naturalize well and fill in spaces left available to them. The flowers can be cut and have a good vase life. Divide your bulbs in early fall to keep them from getting overcrowded. 


Herbs can be mixed with your other perennials for added texture and fragrance. The aromatic leaves and flowers of herb plants tend to have unique characteristics, and personally, I love to add fragrant herbs to floral arrangements, so they work well in a cut flower garden as well. 

If you plan a kitchen garden in your cottage garden, go heavy on the herbs in this area. Flowering herbs are a great draw for pollinators who love them for their nectar. They also have medicinal properties. 


Close-up of a flowering Salvia rosmarinus plant in a sunny garden. Salvia rosmarinus, commonly known as rosemary, is a fragrant and evergreen herb with a distinctive appearance. It features aromatic, needle-like leaves that are dark green on top and silver-gray underneath. The leaves are arranged densely along woody stems. Rosemary produces small, two-lipped, tubular flowers in color from pale blue to lavender.
A versatile herb that thrives in the garden or a container, rosemary is evergreen, easy to care for, and incredibly flavorful.
botanical-name botanical name Salvia rosmarinus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height up to 6’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6-10

This versatile and savory herb is wonderful in the kitchen and the garden. Rosemary will grow into a lovely, aromatic shrub if given the space to do so. It can also be kept in a container to keep it smaller and slow the bolting process for the best flavor. 

Rosemary is evergreen and highly drought tolerant. I find it to be one of the easier herbs to take care of, and it is wonderful baked into a loaf of sourdough bread. It’s also great for seasoning meat or in a potato dish. It has plenty of health benefits as well.


Close-up of Thymus vulgaris blooming in a garden. Thymus vulgaris, commonly known as thyme, is a low-growing herb with a compact and bushy appearance. It is characterized by small, elliptical leaves that are gray-green in color. Thyme plants produce tiny, tubular flowers in pink-purple shades.
A must-have for Mediterranean cuisine, thyme is versatile for cooking and beneficial for honeybees.
botanical-name botanical name Thymus vulgaris
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 6”-12”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones Perennial in 5-10, annual elsewhere

Thyme is a Mediterranean herb, so if you do a lot of cooking based on recipes from that region (i.e., Greek, Italian, Spanish, French), this is an herb you need in your garden. It can be eaten fresh, but it dries nicely as well. Thymol, a compound in thyme, is also great for the health of nearby honeybees. It is good for the bees but bad for the mites, which helps tackle the mite problem in honey bee hives. 

Plant your thyme in full sun and sandy, well-drained soil. Mediterranean plants like thyme and lavender do very well in rocky, sandy soil types with little fertilizer. It is a perennial in Zones 5-10 and can be put in a greenhouse to overwinter or planted annually in colder climates.


Close-up of a growing Parsley in the garden. Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a biennial herb with a distinctive appearance. It features bright green, delicate, and deeply divided leaves that grow in a rosette pattern close to the ground. The leaves have a flat-leaf variety.
For quicker growth, start with established parsley plants. Harvest frequently to prevent bolting.
botanical-name botanical name Petroselinum crispum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 8”-2’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

Parsley seeds take an extended time to germinate, so if you’re in a hurry, it’s best to grow this herb from nursery starts. Once it sprouts, it is a fast grower and should be harvested often to avoid bolting. Allow your parsley to bolt in the late summer, and it will reseed itself and return in the spring.

In moderate climates, parsley can be evergreen. It survives a light frost and even some snow. Many cuisines feature parsley in some of their popular and well-known dishes. It is known to freshen breath and contains quite a few beneficial nutrients. 


Top view, close-up of a growing Mint plant in the garden. Mint (Mentha) is a fragrant herb known for its lush, bright green leaves and square stems. The leaves are opposite, simple, and serrated, with a strong, refreshing aroma.
Fast-spreading mint is best grown in containers to keep it in check.
botanical-name botanical name Mentha
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1’-2’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Mint has so many uses in foods and desserts. It makes wonderfully refreshing iced tea, and don’t forget about mojitos, yum!  Mint is easy to grow, preferring partial sun to full, although it will grow in full sun as long as it gets sufficient water. 

I prefer to grow mint in containers, as it has a habit of taking over when it has space to spread out. Some of the lower-growing varieties make a nice ground cover. If you have the space to give them, walking on a bed of mint leaves will release a wonderful fragrance, and bees love the flowers. It also repels other less desirable pests in the garden. 


Close-up of a flowering Salvia officinalis plant. Salvia officinalis, commonly known as sage, is a hardy perennial herb with distinctive gray-green leaves. The leaves are lance-shaped and covered in fine, soft hairs, giving them a textured, fuzzy appearance. The plant produces upright spikes of small, tubular flowers of purple-pink color.
Sage is a Mediterranean herb with a significant culinary role that adds texture and contrasts well with other herbs.
botanical-name botanical name Salvia officinalis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 1’-3’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-10

Sage is an herb in the mint family that is also native to the Mediterranean region and has a well-defined role in the kitchen, meaning it definitely belongs in the kitchen garden. Whether that is a separate space in your cottage garden or you mingle your herbs with your other plants, sage is definitely a keeper. 

The soft green of sage foliage offers a lovely contrast to the deeper green, often smooth or shiny leaves of other herbs. I love the texture sage brings to the garden. Other members of the salvia genus are not commonly used as edibles but are very appealing to pollinators with their tubular, brightly colored flowers. 


Many of the plants I’ve shared so far are full sun to partial shade plants, with a heavy emphasis on the full sun. However, the closeness of a cottage garden can leave you looking at shaded spots and fretting over which plants can thrive under those conditions.

A handful of pretty, flowering plants can survive in full shade, but ferns can really play a starring role in these cool spots in the cottage garden. Not to mention, ferns often have really great, unique textures that add to the overall cottage garden aesthetic. 

Autumn Fern

Close-up of Dryopteris erythrosora leaves in an autumn garden. Dryopteris erythrosora, commonly known as the autumn fern, is a deciduous fern with a distinctive appearance. Its fronds are a vibrant green when they first unfurl in the spring, gradually transitioning to a rich, coppery-red color as they mature. The fronds are finely divided and have a lacy, delicate appearance.
The aptly named autumn fern displays vibrant, changing foliage.
botanical-name botanical name Dryopteris erythrosora
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 18”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

Autumn fern is aptly named for the stunning color of its young foliage. New leaves unfurl in shades of rusty red and orange, with touches of chartreuse. As they mature, the color deepens to a deep green shade, which makes the new leaves stand out beautifully. 

This fern has great cold tolerance and spreads slowly, so it’s unlikely to get out of hand. Plant a grouping of these beneath a large shrub or small tree to increase the woodland feel of your cottage garden. A garden gnome would be perfectly at home in a patch of autumn ferns. 

Maidenhair Fern

Close-up of Adiantum in the garden. Adiantum, commonly known as maidenhair fern, is a delicate and graceful fern species. Its appearance is characterized by finely divided fronds that resemble the delicate appearance of a maiden's hair. The fronds are dark green and feathery, with a fan-like arrangement.
Choose from various maidenhair fern species for shaded cottage gardens with ample moisture and well-draining soil.
botanical-name botanical name Adiantum
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 1’-3’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-10

There are several species of maidenhair ferns to choose from for shaded spaces in the cottage garden. These bouncy, delicate ferns look like something from a fairy story. In nature, maidenhair ferns grow near water, so ensure this plant is placed where it will get plenty of moisture, but keep the soil draining well by adding organic material. 

Maidenhair fern can tolerate a little direct sun if it has adequate moisture. Too much sun will cause the lease first to curl and then to scorch. If your fern leaves begin to look crisp, they need more water or shade. This fern also prefers soil that is slightly alkaline.

Bird’s Nest Fern

Close-up of Asplenium nidus in the garden. Asplenium nidus, commonly known as the bird's nest fern. Its appearance is characterized by long, arching fronds with a central rib that resembles a nest. The fronds are glossy and dark green, with a wavy or undulating shape.
Ideal for tropical cottage gardens, the bird’s nest fern thrives in bright, indirect sunlight.
botanical-name botanical name Asplenium nidus
sun-requirements sun requirements Filtered sunlight to partial shade
height height up to 5’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 11-12

For the tropical cottage garden, a bird’s nest fern is a wonderful epiphytic plant that loves bright but indirect sunlight. Treat this plant like an orchid, and place it beneath a tree for the perfect filtered sun. 

Bird’s nest is a larger fern, and its leaves are smooth and shiny, unlike the complex leaves of most ferns. It likes water but needs well-drained soil and has slightly different needs than other ferns

Japanese Painted Fern

Close-up of Athyrium niponicum leaves in a garden. Athyrium niponicum, commonly known as Japanese painted fern, is admired for its striking foliage. Its fronds are delicate and finely textured, with a distinctive silvery-gray hue. These fronts also feature prominent, deep purple veins.
This elegant and slow-growing fern has distinctive dark and silvery leaves.
botanical-name botanical name Athyrium niponicum
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial to full shade
height height 1’-2’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

This elegant and slow-growing fern has a very unique appearance. While the leaf formation is distinctively fernlike, it has a dark and moody color combination that makes it more eye-catching. Silvery leaves bounce light from their surfaces, while deep purple ribs give the small plant a wonderful amount of depth. 

Don’t worry about this plant taking over the garden. Japanese painted ferns take their time about spreading. Plant this fern in soil that holds some moisture but doesn’t get soggy. It likes some protection from the elements, including sun and rain. 


Don’t forget to leave room for annuals in your cottage garden. These are the bright and cheerful pops of long-lasting seasonal color that are ever-changing in the cottage garden. I like to choose annuals that make nice cut flowers so that I can bring the garden indoors to enjoy twice as much!


Close-up of blooming Zinnia plants in the garden. Zinnia plants are characterized by their lush, bushy growth and vibrant, eye-catching flowers. The leaves are lance-shaped and medium green, forming a dense backdrop for the dazzling blossoms. Zinnia flowers come in hot pink, pom-pom-like blooms with double petals and yellow centers.
Zinnias are hardy, versatile flowers that thrive in full sun and well-draining soil.
botanical-name botanical name Zinnia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height up to 4’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-10

You genuinely can’t go wrong with zinnias. They are some of the sturdiest flowers around, growing well in many varied conditions. A spot with full sun and well-draining soil is a great place to throw down a handful of zinnia seeds. 

There are so many varieties of zinnias to choose from. From dwarf varieties to California giants, they come in many different petal formations, colors, and sizes. I’ll plant the ‘Queeny Lime’ variety en masse next spring. Zinnias are wonderful for cutting. They love to be deadheaded and have an extra long vase life. 


Close-up of flowering Dahlia plants in the garden. The Dahlia plant showcases lush, dark green, serrated leaves arranged symmetrically along sturdy, upright stems. The flowers are large and pom-pom-like. The petals are double, bright pink.
Dahlias offer a stunning array of flowers in various colors and sizes but demand sunlight, water, and effort for their beauty.
botanical-name botanical name Dahlia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 1’-6’+
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

I’ve just embarked upon my adventure with dahlias this year, and I’m already hooked. These plants produce some of the most gorgeous flowers in a grand variety of colors and petal variations. From petite, pompom varieties that barely skim one foot tall to giant dinnerplate-size varieties that tower over my head, growing dahlias can be quite addictive.

Dahlias are beautiful and a little needy. They do require a fair amount of sunlight and plenty of water to produce their stunning blooms. Once they bloom, though, you will agree that the flowers are worth the effort. This year, ‘Rip City’ and ‘Tartan’ are my favorite varieties. 

Bachelor’s Button

Close-up of blooming Centaurea cyanus in the garden, against a blurred green background. Centaurea cyanus, commonly known as cornflower or bachelor's button, boasts slender, lance-shaped leaves with a grayish-green hue that form a compact basal rosette. Rising from this foliage are tall, slender stems adorned with striking, vibrant blue flowers featuring a distinctive, spiky center disk. These flowers have a daisy-like appearance with delicate, finely fringed petals radiating from the center.
Bachelor’s buttons are a colorful addition that’s easy to grow from seed in loose soil while attracting butterflies.
botanical-name botanical name Centaurea cyanus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 1’-4’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

As fussy as dahlias can be, bachelor’s buttons are the complete opposite. Simply broadcast sow a handful of seeds into loose soil, and about two months later, you’ll start seeing flowers that butterflies adore. These plants like full sun, and they are not fussy about water. 

Also referred to as cornflowers, these are the flowers for which cornflower blue was named. They can also be purple or pink, but the most coveted shade is the true blue that so few flowers possess. 


Close-up of flowering Cosmos plants in a sunny garden. The Cosmos plant is characterized by its delicate and fernlike appearance, with fine, feathery green leaves. Its tall, slender stems bear an abundance of daisy-like flowers with single petals in shades of white, pink, or vibrant magenta. These flowers have a prominent yellow or dark center, creating a striking contrast against the petals.
Cosmos, despite their delicate appearance, become sturdy once established.
botanical-name botanical name Cosmos
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 18”-60”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

Cosmos are nice and sturdy despite their delicate, fernlike appearance. Seedlings can be a bit vulnerable to heavy rain or wind, but once established, they are great bloomers that make wonderful cut flowers and attract many pollinators.

These plants do quite well in poor soil. They will flower more this way. Full sun is the way to go, and their water needs are low to moderate. If you allow the flowers to dry, these will reseed themselves, and you won’t need to plant next year!


Close-up of flowering Tropaeolum plants in a garden near a rusty fence. The Tropaeolum plant, commonly known as nasturtium, features distinctive soft, rounded leaves and vibrant, boldly colored flowers. The leaves are shapely and dark green. Nasturtium flowers come in bright orange and bright yellow, have a unique, trumpet-like shape and a delicate, ruffled texture.
Nasturtiums thrive in full sun and prefer poor soil without fertilizer.
botanical-name botanical name Tropaeolum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 6”-12”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

Nasturtiums are a wonderful addition to the cottage garden. Their soft, shapely leaves and boldly colored flowers are very attractive, and all parts of the plant, including the lovely flowers, are edible!

Nasturtiums can be upright and bushy or trailing and climbing. The trailing varieties look gorgeous, whether spilling from a planter or climbing a trellis. Give them a spot that receives full sun and well-drained soil. They prefer poorer soil and no fertilizer. 

Final Thoughts

I could go on and on about which plants would look great in a cottage garden. Trailing and climbing vines make a great addition to this gardening style, and it’s easy to work seasonal vegetable plants into this whimsical landscape. A well-planned and tended cottage garden will bring a lifetime of enjoyment to its owner. 

A collection of strawflowers displays a variety of hues, from soft pinks to vibrant yellows, all with striking yellow central disks. Their slender stems are crowned with delicate, elongated leaves that add to their charm and elegance.


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