Choosing plants and flowers to grow in the garden can seem rather daunting, especially if you’re new to gardening. One of the best ways to plant a successful garden that thrives in the British climate is to opt for native species. These plants have evolved to withstand the Great British weather – even when we experience 4 seasons in one day!
While imported plants can add texture and a tropical feel to an outdoor space, they can be trickier to look after. But that’s not to say they don’t have a place in British gardens. Plants from other parts of the world can flourish here, bringing a tropical feel that can’t be replicated by native species. All of the plants featured on this list have been tried and tested by gardeners in the UK and grow well in the British climate.
Take inspiration from some of the most common garden plants, and your garden will surely thrive. While you’re here check out the range of common outdoor plants at Gardeners Dream.
What is an Annual Plant?
Annual plants complete their life cycle in just one year. They germinate, grow, bloom, set seed and die all in the same growing season. Annual flowering plants usually produce the most vibrant, showy blooms, so are most often used as bedding plants for borders, flower beds, window boxes and hanging baskets.
Top Annuals to Grow
Okay, so technically, tulips are perennials. However, most cultivars only bloom for one season in the UK. For this reason, we’ve included them with the annuals, as it’s likely that these flowers will need replanted every year.
Available in stunning shades of red, yellow, orange, white, pink and purple, tulips grow just as well in pots as they do in the ground. This makes them ideal for container gardening and brightening up patio areas. Plant tulip bulbs in autumn for an impressive show of blooms the following spring.
These tall bright yellow blooms put a smile on anyone’s face. They are easy to look after and are often grown as a project for children to enjoy. As you’d expect from the name, sunflowers like a bright spot where they can soak up the sun all day long. They prefer free-draining soil and bloom their large yellow flowers in late summer.
Like tulips, begonias are perennial plants in warmer climates, but are tender plants usually treated as annuals in the UK. Begonias produce a show of vibrant flowers for a long period, from summer until the first frosts and are a popular choice for flower beds, pots and hanging baskets. They grow well in a sheltered, shaded part of the garden and prefer loose soil that drains well.
Perfect for a kitchen garden, basil is a fragrant herb often used to flavor pasta sauces, pizzas, pesto and many other dishes. It is easy to grow from seed and can be harvested from early summer to autumn. Tiny flowers often appear on basil plants. These white flowers are edible, with a milder flavor than the leaves. Most gardeners choose to remove the flowers as they appear, as once the plant has gone to seed, it will stop growing and die.
Read about the 9 Tips to Make Your Garden More Manageable.
What is a Perennial Plant?
While annuals live for only one year before dying off, perennials live for 3 or more years. They can be evergreen plants that keep their foliage all year round, or herbaceous plants, which die back each autumn and burst to life again in spring. Because perennials flower year after year, they often provide much better value for money than annuals.
Trees and shrubs are technically perennials, but the term is most often used to describe plants without woody growth.
Top Perennials to Grow
Known by the Latin Digitalis purpurea, foxglove is a pretty herbaceous perennial with tall stems boasting bell-shaped pink-purple flowers in summer. It reaches its ultimate height in 1-2 years and thrives in moist, well-drained soil. Foxglove prefers a spot in full sun but will grow happily in partial shade.
Primroses bloom from late winter to spring, making them a popular choice for early season color. Large evergreen leaves create a rosette at the base of the plant, from which clusters of pale yellow flowers appear on long stalks. These herbaceous perennials are fully hardy and flourish in full sun or partial shade.
Native to Asia, hostas are great additions to shady borders. They also grow well in pots and containers, adding greenery to patios and terraces. Although mainly chosen for their striking foliage and large leaves, hostas produce purple or white flowers on tall stems in mid-summer. Hosta flowers are loved by bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects, attracting wildlife to the garden. These low-maintenance, drought-tolerant perennials grow best in a loamy soil type that drains well and is slightly acidic.
Salvias are popular perennials for their long-lasting blooms that often flower from June to November. Also known as ornamental sage, salvia has aromatic foliage and spires of flowers that are a favorite nectar source for bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects. Flowers come in a rainbow of color options from pastel pink to bold blue. Salvia enjoys a sheltered spot in full sun. It prefers well-draining soil and grows just as well in pots as in the ground.
Learn about Drip Irrigation.
Evergreen Trees and Shrubs
What is an Evergreen Plant?
As you’d imagine, an evergreen plant retains its foliage all throughout the year. Some are flowering shrubs that bloom in early summer, while others rely on their foliage for year-round interest. Planting evergreen trees and shrubs in the garden is a great way to add height to displays, create soft boundaries with hedging, and ensure wildlife is catered for throughout the year.
Top Evergreens to Grow
With its glossy leaves and bright red berries, holly is synonymous with Christmas. However, it is a valuable garden plant that is attractive in all seasons, not just winter. Holly is easy to grow, requiring very little maintenance other than pruning dead or damaged branches. They prefer moist but well-drained soil in a sunny or partially shaded spot. The berries are a favorite food source for birds in late autumn and winter.
Box is arguably the most common evergreen garden plant in the UK. Also known as buxus or boxwood, box is a versatile plant usually grown as hedging or topiary. Its small, dense leaves are perfect for privacy screening and respond well to being trimmed into balls, spirals and cones for topiary features. Fully hardy, tolerant of shade and suited to most soil types, it’s easy to see why box is such a popular choice among British gardeners.
Looking for year-round greenery with added summer-blooming flowers? If so, hebe is your answer. These bushy shrubs produce large clusters of small white, purple or pink flowers from summer to mid-autumn. They like a sheltered spot, preferably in full sun and in soil that is kept moist but well-drained. Hebe is often grown as hedging but does well in pots too, making it perfect for container gardening.
Cordylines bring an exotic look and feel to the garden. Young plants are small shrubs with long slender foliage emerging from a central clump. As the plant matures, it grows a trunk from the middle of the plant, giving the appearance of a tropical palm.
The long arching leaves can be green or reddish in color, and some are variegated with pink or cream stripes. In summer, mature plants produce flower spikes that attract bees and butterflies to the garden. Cordylines aren’t the hardiest of evergreens and benefit from extra insulation during the coldest and wettest months of the year.
Do you know How To Safely Trim Large Trees?
Deciduous Trees and Shrubs
What is a Deciduous Plant?
Unlike evergreen plants, deciduous trees and shrubs lose their foliage in autumn, often after it has turned dramatic shades of red, orange, copper and gold. Following the dormant winter period, the leaves start to return in early spring and usually grow fully back by late spring.
Top Deciduous Trees and Shrubs to Grow
Hydrangeas can be shrubby or climbing plants that produce a spectacular display of long-lasting white, pink or blue flowers. It’s worth noting that blue flowers are most likely to grow when the hydrangea is in acidic soil. This plant flowers best in a spot where it can soak up the morning sun but bask in partial shade in the afternoon.
It prefers the soil to be kept moist but not overly wet or waterlogged. Climbing hydrangeas can cling to surfaces on their own, but young plants will need some wire or other support to begin their climb.
Also known as Japanese maple, acers are a great choice for adding height and color interest to the garden. Their slow-growing nature and limited size make them great for planting in containers but they also work well as a statement tree planted in the ground.
Several species of acer trees are available, each with unique coloring in shades of yellow, green and burgundy that are glorious in autumn. The darker the hue, the more sunlight the tree needs. So red-toned trees do best in full sun, while lime green and yellow trees cope well in shaded parts of the garden.
One of the most popular trees to grace UK gardens, the apple tree is easy to grow and has everything you could ask for in a tree, from rich green foliage to pretty flowers and even edible fruit. Apple trees blossom in mid-spring with masses of delicate white and pink flowers.
These are a magnet for honey bees, butterflies and other pollinators. The fruit appears in late summer, becoming ripe and ready to eat in autumn. Apple trees flourish in a sheltered sunny spot with free-draining fertile soil.
Better known as the butterfly bush, buddleia is a magnet for butterflies and other welcome insects. It is one of the most common summer-blooming shrubs in the country. Different colored species are available with flowering colors including pink, white and blue.
Growing opposite colors close together in the same pot can result in a striking mix of hues as they intertwine and grow together. Buddleias will grow almost anywhere – but for the best chance of success, plant them in a sunny spot with moist but well-draining soil.
Most common plants are popular because not only are they attractive, they grow well in the local climate. These favorite garden plants may not all be native to the UK, but they all thrive in these conditions. Whether you want to fill your own garden with masses of beautiful flowers, colorful foliage, year-round greenery or a combination of the above, choosing commonly grown plants is a surefire way to succeed.
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