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Low-Maintenance Cottage Garden Ideas for Busy Gardeners

Want to grow a beautiful, fuss-free flower garden with a little less work? Wait until you try these low-maintenance cottage garden ideas for busy gardeners.

When I started growing a flower garden, I dreamed of having one that was informal, beautiful, and easy to grow.

I couldn’t be bothered with plants that were finicky, needed additional support to avoid toppling over, or needed to be dug up and stored during the winter.


My garden needed to look beautiful, bloom like crazy from spring through fall, and be really low-maintenance.

Sound like a flower garden you want to grow too?

Read on and try these easy-care cottage garden ideas this year.

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Achieving Cottage Garden Style

Characterized by a charming, informal design with a mix of plants, cottage gardens evoke a sense of rustic, old-fashioned beauty that is often associated with the English countryside.

The cottage garden is not highly manicured or formal, but rather has a natural, relaxed look with plants growing in a seemingly haphazard manner.

A sense of abundance is created with an eclectic mix of colors and textures that are pleasing to the eye.

Sometimes these plant combinations are intentional, but others happen by accident in the manner that flowers weave among one another.

Limelight hydrangea flowers with benary giant wine zinnia and rudbekia -garden nj in late summer
closeup of limelight hydrangea flowers with tall phlox in fallWhy Aren't My Hydrangeas Blooming

You’ll often find a mix of perennials and annuals, as well as herbs and vegetables. Many cottage gardens also include fruit trees and flowering shrubs too.

But the best part about growing a cottage garden?

It’s lower maintenance so gardeners of all skill levels can easily enjoy one.

Growing a cottage garden is a great way to bring a little bit of the countryside to your home while creating a beautiful, relaxing space that is perfect for spending time with friends and family.

small cottage garden near the front porch with yarrow, coneflowers, seniorita zinnias and more.

Flower Gardening Tips for the Beginner

While we gather cottage style inspiration, it’s important to keep in mind that no two gardens will ever look the same.

In fact, not even the same garden will look the same from year to year as each home and garden has their own microclimate.

So as hard as we might try to replicate a look, it’s pretty likely it won’t look the same.

And that’s OK! Because your garden is uniquely you.

close up of globemaster alliums and red knockout roses - easy care cottage garden ideas

Plants that do well for me, may not grow as well for you. The varieties I grow may not be available in your area, but the ideas are there.

So take that bit of information and don’t feel discouraged if your garden grows differently.

Cause it will.

I grew my flower gardens for 23 years at my former home and let me tell you how different the gardening is here at my new house.

And I’m only 20 minutes away in the same hardiness zone!

front porch cottage gardens with rudbeckia, alliums, garden mums, pumpkins and cornstalks

My Cottage Garden Style

My style of growing a cottage garden is to work with plants that are easy-to-grow, easy-to-care for, and low maintenance for you as a gardener.

They are flowers that are more pest and disease resistant. They don’t need staking. And they bloom for a long time.

For many years, I had to garden with this perspective because I had three kids to run around with and care for, I just couldn’t give that much more to my garden.

But I still wanted that old English cottage garden charm. So I learned what perennial plants looked good with less work from me overall.

close up of foxglove digitalis flowers

Now that’s not to say you won’t do anything in your cottage garden, cause you will. But it is more manageable to work with plants that grow with ease.

As my kids have grown and I’ve gained experience through the years, I’ve begun working with plants that require more time and energy from me like dahlias and other flowers I grow for cutting.

So if you are just starting out, I don’t recommend these types of plants for you and want you to work with flowers that require less time from you.

Keep things easy for yourself, start small, and learn as you grow to see how much work you really want to do in your flower gardens.

Gorgeous cottage garden in the backyard in front of a garden shed with sedum autumn joy and wood picket fence with dahlias and zinniasin front of garden shed in backyard garden with green garden stakes topped with terra cotta clay pots - My cut flower garden in front of the shed in the backyard with a wood picket fence and sedum autumn joy - How to Save Money at the Garden Nursery
How My Cottage Garden Grew in 2021

Easy Care Cottage Garden Ideas and Design Tips

Designing a dreamy cottage garden can be a fun and rewarding process, as it allows you to create a space that is uniquely your own.

Here are a few tips for designing an old country garden.

Choose a Mix of Cottage Garden Flowers in Your Hardiness Zone

As I mentioned earlier, one of the key characteristics of an old fashioned cottage garden is the mix of different plants, including annuals, perennials, bulbs, flowering shrubs, herbs, vegetables, and fruit trees.

This will give your garden a diverse and interesting look, with a range of colors and textures.

So look on Pinterest. Search Google. Scroll Instagram and TikTok for ideas.

Speak with other gardeners. And find what types of flowers are easy to grow that you are drawn to that will thrive in your climate.

If you aren’t sure of what cottage garden flowers work well in your hardiness zone, you can check it here.

gomphrena, rudbeckia, celosia, zinnias, lantana in fall cottage garden in new jersey gardening zone 6a
coreopsis, coneflowers and yarrow in small cottage garden - perennial flowers list that bloom in midsummer
Coreopsis ‘caramel creme’

Consider a Carefree Cottage Garden Layout

Old fashioned cottage gardens often have a natural, informal layout, with plants growing in a seemingly haphazard manner.

However, you can still think about the overall design and consider how you want to arrange the different flowering annuals, perennials and shrubs.

Create groupings of plants with similar water and sunlight needs together. Most cottage garden flowers need full sun. However, you can add a cottage garden feel to a shade loving garden.

Plant in odd numbers so it’s more aesthetically pleasing to the eye. I typically plant in 3’s, 5’s, 7’s, and 9’s depending on the size of the garden and plants I’m using.

Create a focal point with a larger plant or structure and then design your flower garden around it.

Front yard cottage garden in fall with rubeckia and small birdhouse from Good directions with copper roof

Add Vertical Elements

To add depth and interest to your old country garden, consider including some vertical elements, like trellises, arbors, or obelisks.

These can provide support for climbing plants and create a sense of height and structure within the garden.

Plus, it gives the eye a place to rest when looking at the garden.

pink Roses climbing up obelisk -The Complete Guide to Roses Care
The Complete Guide to Roses Care

Use Natural Materials

To enhance the rustic, old-fashioned feel of an old English cottage garden, consider using natural materials such as wood, stone, and clay in your design.

Include a wood picket fence to define your garden, add layers of plants and flowers, and create defined boundaries.

Or make a beautiful stone pathway to create a charming and inviting look that adds lots of cottage garden style.

Garden Shed with Cut flower Garden nj in late summer

Personalize Your Cottage Garden Design

While we can try to make gardens look like others we are inspired by, add your own personality into the cottage garden design.

Choose flowers that resonate with you or have a personal or special meaning. Or incorporate decorative elements that reflect your personal style and interests.

At the end of the day, the most important part about creating, designing and growing your own cottage style garden is to have fun and enjoy the process of creating a space that is uniquely yours.

close up of yellow bearded irises
Bearded Iris

How to Grow an Easy-Care Cottage Garden

As with any garden, keep the basics in mind when you design, plant, and grow your garden.

Here are a few tips for growing a cottage garden with success.

Choose the Right Location

Before you start planting, consider the location of your English style garden.

Most cottage garden flowers thrive in areas with full sun or partial shade, and in soil that is well-draining and rich in organic matter.

It needs to be located in an area that’s easy for you to access that’s close to a water source.

But be mindful of planting flowers that will thrive in the soil you have. For example, if you have soil that doesn’t drain well and retains moisture, lavender won’t do as well there.

So I recommend getting a soil test as the results will tell you what nutrients are present and lacking, as well as how to improve it.

close up of lavender flowers
Lavender flowers

Plant a Mix of Annuals, Perennials, Bulbs, and Flowering Shrubs

To create a garden that is full of color and interest throughout the growing season, plant a mix of annuals, perennials, spring flowering bulbs and shrubs.

Annuals will provide a burst of color in the first year, while perennials will come back year after year.

Planting spring flowering bulbs will kick the garden off in early spring with little to no work from you after planting.

It’s also a good idea to plant flowering shrubs with foliage that provides seasonal interest and small evergreen trees and shrubs for additional structure and year-round color.

Just make sure you keep the overall size at maturity in mind before planting. It might look small at the nursery, but that shrub will grow!

Fall garden in front of vintage farmhouse with rudbeckia, hostas, sedum autumn joy and hardy hibiscus on a sunny day

Consider Your Climate

Different plants are suited to different climates, so it’s important to consider your local conditions when selecting plants for your cottage garden.

Know your hardiness zone and look for plants that are native to your area or that are known to thrive in similar conditions.

Embracing native plants that have a cottage garden style is a great way to grow an old English garden without the fuss.

Because plants that are native to your locality have been growing there for a very long time. They are used to the weather conditions making them very low-maintenance options.

If you aren’t sure what’s native, reach out to your local cooperative extension and check plant tags at the garden nursery as some are labeled.

Fall cottage garden with a sunset view with lantana, celosia, rudbeckia and pumpkins in zone 6a new jersey

Keep Up on the Weeds

All gardens grow weeds. There’s just no way around them.

While there are things we can do to prevent them from popping up, we still need to pull them as we see them so they don’t get out of control and take over your garden flowers.

Cause trust me, that has happened to me before and I don’t recommend waiting to weed.

Close up of Seniorita Zinnias and sunflowers by front porch- easy care cottage garden ideas

Here are a few ideas to help suppress weeds in your cottage garden without the need to pull them.

  • Mulching your garden early in the growing season can help to retain moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature.
  • Plant flowers a little closer together to help choke out the weeds.
  • Apply corn gluten around the beds when crabgrass germinates in spring. This is typically when the forsythia start to bloom for about two weeks after. You can learn more about how to apply corn gluten here.
  • Spread layers of newspaper or cardboard beneath mulch to smother weeds and keep them at bay. This usually lasts about a season. But the benefit is, both will break down and enrich the soil.

Avoid using weed fabric as they don’t work well in flower gardens. They make it more difficult for flowers to spread, grow, and mature over time.

Because it never breaks down, it will always be there and if you want to plant more in the garden, you’ll need to cut through it so it’s more laborious.

I also find weeds grow on top of the fabric so it’s not really worth it in the long run.

zinnia flowers in the cottage garden
'Senora' zinnias at sunset in the front porch cottage garden

Water Your Cottage Garden Regularly

Water your plants regularly, taking care not to overwater, as this can lead to pest and disease problems.

I tend to let the elements take care of my flower gardens. However, when we experience hot, dry summers with little to no rain, I supplement with long, deep watering a few times a week.

Drip irrigation set on timers are a great idea if you want to water with a set-and-forget approach.

close up of swallowtail butterfly on blazing star
zinnias in the potager garden on a gorgeous sunny day
Zinnias and dahlia flowers

Fertilize Annuals and Container Gardens

To keep your annual flowers and outdoor planters healthy with abundant blooms, it’s necessary to fertilize them on a regular basis.

You can opt for a liquid fertilizer which usually lasts about a week or you can apply a slow-release fertilizer that lasts a few months.

I recommend using the latter and setting a reminder on your phone to reapply when the package directions say it will expire.

Perennials, shrubs and trees do not need to be fertilized. Instead, focus on providing them with good soil that is rich in organic matter. Add compost and leaf mold to your gardens to improve the overall soil quality.

Close up of supertunia bubble gum pink petunias, geraniums, coleus and sweet potato vine in backyard container gardens

Deadhead and Prune When Needed

You can also prune your plants to encourage new growth and remove any dead or diseased branches.

This will neaten up your garden’s appearance while keeping your plants healthy and looking beautiful.

Keep in mind that not all plants need to be deadheaded or pruned. So read the plant tags and know before you grow.

If you want to grow a cottage garden that’s a little less work, opt for plants that bloom long like nepeta, salvia, sedum autumn joy and hydrangeas, and don’t require as much maintenance in terms of deadheading flowers and pruning.

White and blue hydrangea flowers in the garden

Watch for Pests and Disease

And finally, walk your cottage gardens every single day.

It’s not only joyful to do as you want the plants grow and change, but you’ll notice pest and diseases problems much sooner that may affect your plants before it gets out of control.

Look for nibbles on plants, insects, and diseased foliage.

Never blindly apply pesticides from the nursery without knowing what the problem is on a plant because not all pesticides, both organic and synthetic control or cure the same things.

When problems arise that you are unsure off, reach out to your local cooperative extension and speak with a master gardener to help you best identify garden problems and how to solve them.

close up of echinacea and coreopsis
close up of caramel creme coreopsis

Best Easy-Care Cottage Garden Flowers to Grow

After growing flowers for more than 25 years, I’ve gained experience with both easy-care and high maintenance flowers.

So, here’s a quick list of my favorite easy-care cottage garden flowers to grow.

There are so many more to choose from, but these are some easy-care flowers that I regularly plant and grow in my cottage gardens because they are low maintenance and easy to grow.

Before you plant, check the bloom times so you can overlap them and plant small groupings to create more visual impact.

As you practice and learn as you grow things, you’ll gain experience and become a better gardener with a bed of blooms that flower all season long.

Thanks so much for dropping by the blog today.

I hope you are inspired to grow your own cottage garden!

Happy Gardening! xo

front porch cottage garden with rudbeckia, sunflowers and gomphrena

More About Easy Care Cottage Garden Ideas

Are you growing a cottage garden too? What are your favorite plants to include? I would love to know more in the comments below.

And don’t miss joining my Gardening DIY and Decorating Community on Facebook for more chatter. And follow along there and on Instagram as well. There are behind-the-scenes daily things that I share on Instagram that don’t make it to the blog. Would love to see you there too!

If you prefer to binge-watch Bricks ’n Blooms on TV, we go more in-depth with tours and posts on my YouTube channel. Would love to hang out with you there!

And… If you’re catching up on blog posts you may have missed, be sure to sign-up to get my newest posts via email to stay up to date with everything that’s happening here on the blog and more.

front porch and small cottage garden of 1850 farmhouse with hardy hibiscus and sunflowers

Looking for More Flower Garden Ideas?

If you love flowers and want to grow more in your garden, here are some posts that will get you on your way.

From tucking in flowering plants that are deer-resistant or ones that attract more butterflies and hummingbirds, to shade-loving flowers like the lenten rose, these posts will get you on your way to growing a garden that will bring joy for years to come.

Here are more cut flower and cottage garden growing tips, tricks, and design inspiration.

view of the front porch cottage garden with sugar pumpkins, sedum autumn joy, rudbeckia, celosia and snapdragons

Garden Supplies I Use

I’m often asked about the garden supplies and tools that I use most. From pruners to deer repellents, here are some of my favorites in no particular order.

preorder my book the bricks 'n blooms guide to a beautiful and easy care flower garden

Want to Learn How to Grow Flowers With Ease?

If you’ve always wanted to grow flowers with ease, I got you. I wrote a book that shares all the things you need to know to grow a beautiful and easy-care flower garden.

What’s In the Bricks ‘n Blooms Guide?

  • Gardening basics to set you up for success
  • Great garden design ideas with ready-made plans for you to follow
  • Easy-care instructions for a wide variety of flowering annuals, perennials, and shrubs
  • Helpful how-tos for container and cut flower gardening
  • Graphs, charts, and lists to help you stay organized

My book publishes on February 6, 2024, but you can preorder now and get a special pre-order bonus chapter you can’t get when the preorder period closes.

Preorder your copy here and get a free, downloadable guide that shares bonus information with tips and unique garden designs to get year-round color in your landscape. Offer ends 2/5/24.

close up of caramel creme coreopsis

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cottage garden with farmhouse
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Thank you so much for following along.

Enjoy a beautiful day! xo

Stacy Ling

About Me

Want to learn more about me?

I’m a master gardener who’s been gardening and growing things for over 25 years. With a deep passion for gardening, I enjoy helping others find their inner green thumb with all things plants and flowers, as well as find ways to bring the outdoors inside their homes too.

Get the inside scoop about my background as a master gardener, education, and experience, as well as why I started blogging.

stacy ling cutting dahlias in her garden

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Home and Garden Blogger Stacy Ling cutting zinnia flowers in her cottage garden with wood picket fence in front of garden shed
Siberian Iris and yellow loosestrife
Siberian Iris
fall garden flowers like chrysanthemums, pansies, sedum autumn joy and rudbeckia in the front porch garden
my new cottage garden in front of wood picket fence that is painted green with a concrete planter. Garden is filled with flowers and green garden stakes with terra cotta clay pots on top

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  1. There’s nothing prettier than a cottage garden and yours is gorgeous Stacy. Can’t wait to see what you do this year.

    1. I have been a subscriber for many years. I like your garden advice very much. However lately the ads are making it hard to read the article. I know you don’t have a lot of say about that. The cottage garden article had 27 pics of gardens and 46 ads plus some more pop ups.
      I’m not sure if others are struggling or not or if there is way to cut down on them. I know this a source of revenue for you. Any thoughts on this dilema?

      1. Hi Kathryn! Thank you so much for joining me for so long. I truly appreciate you being here and it’s wonderful to meet you! I’m terribly sorry you are having that experience and will look into it with the ad network. I appreciate your feedback so much. Enjoy a beautiful day! xo

  2. Hi Stacy – You are an encourager for sure. My health is not good and you inspired me to get out to my patio and clean it up. Didn’t take as long as I thought. This weekend I will tackle my side garden as it needs some attention. The patio looks so nice and peaceful now, and, thanks to you, I will gather true grit and continue on.
    On a note about advertisers, commercials about movies are a bit irritating, but once I get thru that maze, I don’t get a lot of advertisers.
    Blessings to you.

    1. Thank you so much Diana, I’m thrilled to hear that you are inspired to enjoy your patio more! I will look into the ads – appreciate your feedback!