Best garden and outdoor plants come rain or shine

Let the plot thicken with colourful blooms that bring joy whatever the weather.

best garden outdoor plants - garden flowers

by Natalie Knowles |
Updated on

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 Begonia Nonstop Fire will flower from June to October. With 15 plants, you can create a large swathe of rose-like blooms through your garden or divide them up to plant in several areas; either way, they're ensured to bring impact with their fiery colour.

Customer review: "So happy with these plants they are very healthy and an excellent size ready to go in my planters I will definitely buy again thank you."


  • Easy to grow
  • Colourful


  • Pets may become ill if consumed

Best hanging basket plants

VINCA Minor Small Blue Periwinkle creates a beautiful and fragrant display with colourful cascading flowers and trailing plants in a hanging basket. This perennial, with a trailing habit, is ideal for hanging baskets or pots. Being semi-evergreen, this plant will provide a year-round green element in your baskets through a mild winter. Keep it simple and stylish; grow just one type of trailing plant in your hanging planter, such as the beautiful, evergreen blue Lesser Periwinkle. With pretty, blue-violet flowers, it'll evoke feelings of calm on your patio or front porch.

Customer review: "I am a novice gardener and after some research found that a Vinca would suit the half shady spot under my tree perfectly so I ordered this one. It was delivered two days before I expected it so great! plant is in very good condition, comes in a box well packed but not over the top. Plant has been in three days and doing very well."


  • Long flowering season from spring to late summer
  • Hardy


  • 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' Twister' can grow up to one metre high and 50cm wide, so they're ideal for large planters and big borders in sun or semi-shade. This African lily has bicolour petals that are blue at the base and crystal white at the tip. They offer superb value for money and make for a showstopper patio display.

Customer review: "Blooming well in my borders. A great show."


  • 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 great seasonal summer addition to your garden, with bright flowers that resemble birds. Jules recommends: "Popping under-cover before the first frosts, and it'll be back to bloom year after year." It'll grow in height to around two metres and spread one metre.

Customer review: "Very nice plant. Healthy growth and in great condition. Was packaged really securely and arrived very quickly."


  • 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 undersides and pure white, goblet-shaped flowers that open late in summer with an intense, sweet, citrusy fragrance. It doesn't like strong winds, but if you have a sheltered plot, then it'll shield you from your neighbours' gaze in style. For a compact garden, choose smaller varieties, such as 'Little Gem'. This Magnolia will grow to eight to 12 metres high with an eight-metre spread.

Customer review: N/A


  • 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 will achieve six to nine metres in height and are good in sun or shade. They're low maintenance and don't need annual pruning. Clematis grows fast, spreading its delicate pink flowers across fencing, providing a nesting place for small birds. By June, you'll have a stunning array of dense blooms. Clematis dies back in the autumn to flower again in spring.

Customer review: N/A


  • 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 through the roof. A neat, compact Mexican Feather Grass with stiff, thin stems, a strong arching shape, and open structure, it's almost transparent, rather than the dense effect of some other grasses. Also known as ponytails or angel hair, its wispy, pale leaves are topped with fluffy heads of silvery-green flowers from June to September.

Customer review: "Two fine pots of ornamental grasses, arrived in good condition."


  • Natural privacy screen
  • Hardy
  • 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 colourful flower heads. 'Horizon Red' has red leaf zoning and scarlet dome-shaped blooms that'll heat up your hanging basket, perfect for a Mediterranean feel. It features bi-coloured leaves, so even on the rare times there isn't a flower on this plant, its leaves still provide interest. It can be potted up as a windowsill houseplant through winter before replanting outside in a hanging basket in spring. Due to their fast-growing habit, they can become a host for aphids; just pinch off stems with bad cases to promote more flowers.

Customer review: "Excellent plugs, very healthy, now growing very, well packing was spot on, quick delivery. Cheers."


  • Year-round colour and interest
  • Versatile


  • Can attract aphids

Best pollinator plants

Create your own wildflower garden with seedballs that begin sprouting two to four weeks after scattering. Wild Cornflowers attract bees and butterflies and encourage bio-diversity in your garden. You can even add Cornflowers to salads, as the petals are edible. Seed bombs make a wonderful gift idea, and there are several mixes available, including poppies.

Customer review: "Have been able to collect seeds and sow again its the gift that just keeps giving. Now have an area of wildflowers that the bees love and have seen lots of other insects too. The kids love it."


  • 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 Giant Sunflower Seeds need to be scattered near a fence so they have a little support as they grow up to 10 feet high. What's more, the seeds and flowers of a Sunflower are edible, so you get a bumper harvest from the pack of 50 seeds. As the name suggests, Sunflowers thrive on the sun, so position them in full sunlight. They grow fast, so you can plant them in pots in spring for a late summer display.

Customer review: "First up you get loads so if you want a giant sunflower forest, you're making a good choice. Planted these out in a propagator on a heated matt (you don't need this but I'm growing a few things from seed this year and had room) within a week I have 100 per cent success rate… very impressed. Large seedlings already growing around 1/2 inch a day."


  • Fast growing
  • Edible
  • Spectacular


  • 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.

Michaelmas daisies

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.

What to read next:

Best small plant pots for showcasing natural beauty

What to do in your garden in spring expert advice

The best trees for making a big impact in small gardens

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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.

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