For a blooming, lovely natural haven, there are some garden and outdoor plants that are the best to choose from. Whether you're looking for colour, easy maintenance or floral-on-a-budget - Modern Gardens rounds up stress-free, picture-perfect and aromatic plants so you can get your zen on this summer. Whatever the Great British weather has in store for us.
Whether it's dazzling dahlias, exotic alstroemeria or exuberant euphorbias, the trend this year is all about bold and random combination planting. Take a stalk on the wild side with ornamental grasses that are great for providing a natural privacy screen. If you're getting on board with plants that are on-trend, we have some stunning yet practical options for vertical planting and for bringing foreign climes into your backyard.
If the shipping forecast isn't filling you with confidence for your upcoming family BBQ, and yet you want to bring a bit of sunshine into the garden, you can't go wrong with sunflowers. These bee-friendly, benevolent golden giants are beloved by children and can't help but raise a smile. In the summer months, a waft of lavender is joyous, and you can collect the flowers for making aromatherapy gifts. Also, luscious lupins are another traditional flower for cottagecore vibes.
The best garden and outdoor plants at a glance:
• Best bedding plant: Begonia Nonstop Fire - View on Amazon UK
• Best hanging basket plants: VINCA Minor Small Blue Periwinkle - View on Amazon UK
• Best garden plant on a budget: Agapanthus africanus' Twister' - View on Thompson & Morgan
• Best exotic garden plant: Strelitzia' Bird of Paradise' - View on Thompson & Morgan
You can squeeze flowers in anywhere, hanging baskets are a great option for smaller gardens and balconies. Additionally, the days of tulip bulbs being worth more than gold are long gone, and there are fantastic garden flowers on a budget. Scroll to the FAQs for expert advice on the best garden and outdoor plants from Modern Gardens writers Geoff Hodge and Jules Barton-Breck.
Best garden and outdoor plants
Best bedding plant
Resembling roses with their packed rows of brilliant petals in shades of gold and orange, these
- Easy to grow
- Pets may become ill if consumed
Best hanging basket plants
VINCA Minor Small Blue Periwinkle creates a beautiful and fragrant display with colourful
- Long flowering season from spring to late summer
- Can be susceptible to rust in the border, but it is not an issue in a basket
Best garden plant on a budget
This hardy perennial results in spectacular mid to late-summer flowering. Agapanthus africanus'
- Stunning blooms
- Value for money
- Need a bit of space for these plants
Best exotic garden plant
First, we recommend this Strelitzia' Bird of Paradise', which is a hardy perennial and will make a
- Striking sculptural bloom
- Can grow indoors or outdoors
- Really large, so not suitable for small gardens
Best garden plant for privacy
This evergreen Magnolia grandiflora 'Alta' tree has gloriously shiny leaves with rust-coloured
- Beautiful fragrance
- Natural screen
- Best suited to large gardens
Best climbing plant
Firstly, late spring flowering types such as deciduous Clematis Montana or evergreen C. armandii
- Dense coverage
- Beautiful pink blooms
- Toxic if eaten by pets
Best ornamental grass
'Stipa tenuissima' always features heavily in gardens at summer flower shows, after which sales go
- Natural privacy screen
- Low maintenance
- Flowers in May, so not one for Hayfever sufferers
Best for a Mediterranean vibe
If you're after a dazzling display, a Pelargonium or Geranium is a great choice with its large
- Year-round colour and interest
- Can attract aphids
Best pollinator plants
Create your own wildflower garden with seedballs that begin sprouting two to four weeks after
- Encourage pollinators into your garden
- Gift idea
- Will result in random flowers, so not one for organised planting
Best outdoor plant for children
Putting on an amazing display of colour and spectacle between July and September, these Super
- Fast growing
- Not for small gardens
Best garden and outdoor plant FAQs
Modern Gardens expert Jules Barton-Breck gives some tips and advice about outdoor planting that will put some exotica in your stumpery this summer.
What are some mood-boosting and easy-to-care-for garden flowers?
Sunny, smiley helianthus blooms offer a fabulous source of food. The generously sized centres are made up of hundreds of tiny, tubular flowers to create a feast for butterflies and other pollinators on the perfect landing pad. Painted lady caterpillars sometimes feed on their leaves too. Faff-free sunflowers can be grown from seed, so they're as cheap as chips. Though they come in all sorts of colours, choose yellow as it's thought these are more attractive to pollinating insects.
Young sunflowers tilt their flowerheads to track the sun. This process, known as heliotropism, is thought to help attract pollinators, as many find warm flowers more attractive.
Asters are stress-free, late summer blooms, and they're really tough and easy to grow. There's a lovely range of colours, including purples and mauves, which seem particularly attractive to butterflies. They bloom right into autumn, providing vital late forage for garden pollinators over winter.
Whether it's just a patio pot of a compact variety or a lovely long lavender hedge, this aromatic plant with its fragrant flowers is a must if you want lots of fluttering wings in your plot. The tubular flowers need a long tongue to access the nectar prize, so they're a favourite with butterflies, who can efficiently feed from the clusters of flowers by alighting at the top of each stem.
A fantastic choice for beginner gardeners, these bedding plants allow you to get creative and test out new designs each year. Begonias are exceptionally versatile and can be planted in beds, hanging baskets, containers and window boxes. They come in all shapes, sizes and colours and will quickly fill your containers and hanging baskets for a beautiful splash of colour. They are also very affordable and will transform your outdoor space at very little expense.
When should you plant hanging baskets?
You can plant summer hanging baskets from April onwards, but keep them protected from frosts in your greenhouse until the end of May. If you don't have a greenhouse or means of keeping your planter protected, it's best to plant them in early summer when the risk of frost has passed. For winter hanging baskets, plant between September and October.
How many plants do you need in a hanging basket?
As a general rule of thumb, plant specialists recommend using one plant per inch of basket diameter, so for a standard 30cm hanging basket, this would be about 12 plants. The only exception to this is with strong-growing plants such as Fuchsias and Geraniums, where it's best to use five plants per 30cm hanging basket.
How do I look after sunflowers?
Modern Gardens expert Geoff Hodge advises:
Pick healthy plants
You can buy young plants from garden centres and plug plants from mail-order suppliers. Look for compact, bushy plants with a good covering of healthy, well-coloured leaves. Reject anything with lots of dying, off-colour or yellowing leaves. It's also super-easy - and very satisfying - to grow sunflowers from seed. Either sow indoors on a sunny windowsill in small pots in April or sow them directly outside where you want them to grow at the end of April or in early May.
Keep them alive
Sunflowers need a sunny spot and well-drained but water-retentive soil that doesn't dry out in summer. This is easy to achieve by simply digging in plenty of moisture-holding organic material such as Verve Horse Manure Soil Conditioner. In containers, use multipurpose compost.
Help them thrive
Sunflowers will grow and flower more profusely if the soil or compost remains moist, so water thoroughly whenever it starts to dry out. Feed regularly with a high potash liquid fertiliser such as Phostrogen All Purpose Plant Food, following the instructions on the label.
Deadheading the faded blooms will help promote further flowering, but do leave the last of the flowers towards the end of the summer to allow them to set seeds for the birds. Then, in autumn, cut the seed heads right underneath where it join the stem and hang upside down for the birds to enjoy.
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Natalie Knowles is a Homes & Garden Product Writer for Modern Gardens, specialising in garden trends. When she's not flexing her mow-how, Natalie is a successful artist and illustrator.