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Easy-Care Cottage Garden Ideas

Want to grow a low-maintenance flower garden that you can enjoy with a little less work? Wait until you try these easy-care cottage garden ideas.

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.

Nope.

My garden needed to look beautiful, bloom like crazy from spring through fall, and be 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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What Is a Cottage Garden?

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 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!

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 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.

Since I wanted to enjoy one, I learned what looked good with less work from me overall.

close up of foxglove digitalis flowers
Foxgloves

Now that’s not to say you won’t do anything in the 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 plants 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 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 a cottage garden.

Choose a Mix of Plants in Your Hardiness Zone

As I mentioned earlier, one of the key characteristics of a 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 your social media.

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 your hardiness zone, you can check it here.

coreopsis, coneflowers and yarrow in small cottage garden - perennial flowers list that bloom in midsummer
Coreopsis ‘caramel creme’

Consider the Layout

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 plants.

Create groupings of plants with similar water and sunlight needs together.

But also 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 cottage 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 a cottage garden, consider using natural materials such as wood, stone, and clay in your design.

Add a wood picket fence to define your garden, add layers, and create boundaries.

Or make a beautiful stone pathway to create a charming and inviting look.

Garden Shed with Cut flower Garden nj in late summer

Personalize Your Garden

Add your own personality into the design of your cottage garden.

Choose plants that have a personal or special meaning to you. 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 flower garden is to have fun and enjoy the process of creating a space that is uniquely yours.

close up of yellow bearded irises

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 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.

And 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

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.

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 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 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.

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

Water Regularly

Water your plants regularly, taking care not to overwater, as this can lead to problems such as root rot.

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.

close up of swallowtail butterfly on blazing star
Siberian Iris and yellow loosestrife
Siberian Iris

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 superwave 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.

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 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 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

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.

  • Hellebores
  • Creeping Phlox
  • Pansies
  • Daffodils
  • Tulips
  • Salvia
  • Nepeta
  • Baptisia
  • Siberian and Bearded Irises
  • Geraniums
  • Petunias
  • Marigolds
  • Coreopsis
  • Echinacea
  • Daylillies
  • Rudbeckia
  • Alliums
  • Sedum Autumn Joy

There are so many more to choose, 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.

fall garden flowers like chrysanthemums, pansies, sedum autumn joy and rudbeckia in the front porch garden

Thanks so much for dropping by the blog today.

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

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.

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
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

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Stacy Ling

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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

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4 Comments

  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