12 Flower Gardening Tips for Designing a Beautiful Landscape

Brewer garden with flowering shrubs
Photo: Jamie Hadley

Flowers make any landscape more beautiful. But, there are a few things to know about how to design a flowerbed for maximum impact. By keeping these concepts in mind, even beginners can create a bloom-filled yard that will look pro-level.

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Research Flower Characteristics

garden with golden smokebush
Laurie Black

The best flower garden designers incorporate various flowering plants, including long-living perennials, short-term (but long-blooming) annuals, seasonal bulbs, ornamental grasses, and vines. Before starting your flower garden design, understand what plants will grow best in your area, their colors and blooms, and any special care they might need.

02 of 12

Choose Your Style as a Flower Garden Designer

cottage garden landscaped path flowers planks rocks
Ed Gohlich

Your personal preferences (or your home's architectural style) can help set parameters for your garden's style and size. Also, different flower garden design ideas and techniques lend themselves to different types of plants. For example, a contemporary-leaning landscape might take a minimalist approach and clearly define flower beds with hard lines. Or a cottage-style garden like the one pictured here encourages a mix-and-match approach with meandering paths and bed shapes.

Note: Consider creating a perennial cutting garden if you enjoy bringing flowers indoors.

03 of 12

Determine the Garden's Shape and Size

Tough-as-Nails Perennial Garden Plan
Ed Gohlich

Flowering plants can be arranged in beds of almost any shape and size, from expansive rectangles to petite corner beds. To get an idea of how your flower garden will fit into the rest of your landscape, use a garden hose to outline the edges before you start digging. Then, walk around the bed; look at the proposed garden from every viewpoint. Test if you'll be able to access plants in the middle or if you'll need to include a path.

If you're looking for flower garden ideas for beginners, start small: You can continually expand your plan if you want or go bigger next year.

04 of 12

Select Flowering Plants

Allium flowers in garden
Carson Downing

Once you've decided on your flower garden's design, shape, and size, it's time to put your plant research into action. Decide on show-stopping plants you want for a focal point, flower sizes, year-round interest, bloom time, and color combinations. Also, consider bonus attributes such as fragrance and whether the flowers attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators.

05 of 12

Evaluate Plant Size

garden path along home exterior
Rick Taylor

Consider a plant's full height when making your selections. For example, if you want to plant a colorful foundation garden along the front of your house, the tallest plants will need to go in the back, but they shouldn't be so tall that they block windows or doors.

The tallest plants should go in the center if your flower garden design is an island. Also, keep a plant's mature overall size in mind to ensure it has enough room to grow without crowding its neighbors or spilling out of the bed too much.

06 of 12

Review Bloom Times

curved path through full shade garden
Lynn Karlin

Experienced flower garden designers always include a variety of plants with year-round interest and staggered bloom times. Evaluate both factors before selecting plants. You don't want to create a garden full of color in the summertime but bare in autumn. That's another reason it's essential to combine different types of plants: It's easier to cover all the seasons. For example, you can rely on shrubs to provide spring blooms and winter structure, summertime perennials, and fall-blooming annuals.

07 of 12

Select Complementary Flowers and Foliage

Pink and purple flowers in field
Kritsada Panichgul

Creating the best color combinations in your flower garden design can be tricky. A good place to start is the color wheel. For example, gardens planted in shades of the same hue, like pink, are pleasing to the eye. Colors next to each other on the color wheel, like purple and red, look good together. So do colors across from each other, like purple and yellow. Foliage can provide much-needed texture and color for visual interest when blooms are wilted away.

08 of 12

Rely on Repetition

flower garden pathway to gazebo

When laying out your flower garden design, aim to have more than one of each type of plant repeated throughout the bed. It's a visual design trick that creates cohesiveness, so flowerbeds feel less jumbled than a hodge-podge collection of plants. Flower garden designers know that including at least three (or any odd number) of the same kind of plant in a grouping is most pleasing to the eye. It also feels more dynamic (as opposed to a more symmetrical look from even numbers).

09 of 12

Supply a Focal Point

sustainable garden design blue bottles outdoor art tree
Laurie Black

Every garden bed, no matter how big or small, needs a focal point that gives the eye a place to start before moving on to the rest of the flowerbed. That could mean anchoring a large bed with boxwood shrubs in the corners and a flowering shrub in the middle or planting a mass of a single flower type in the center of a skinny border. You can also add an exciting piece of garden art.

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Incorporate Hardscape

simple white painted curved arbor in flower garden
D. Randolph Foulds

Hardscape elements, like pergolas, trellises, and arbors are beautiful complements to flower garden design. For example, if you're crafting a bed that flows from the front yard to the backyard, a simple arbor draped with a climbing rose can help mark the transition from public to private spaces. They also work as focal points.

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Prepare the Planting Bed

leaf stepping stones garden path
Peter Krumhardt

Once you've decided on all the elements in your flower garden design, it's time to prep the bed by clearing away grass, weeds, or other debris where you want to plant. If it's a new, empty bed, add plenty of compost to boost the soil quality for your flowers. If you have a path running through your flower garden, lay that out before planting to ensure there's enough space for everything. You may also want to add edging, such as pavers or other materials.

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Plant, Water, Mulch, and Enjoy the Show

woman planting pink flowers into soil
Marty Baldwin

Now, it's time to buy your plants! Do your best to stick to your list; it's easy to get carried away when you're face-to-face with all the beautiful options. While still in their nursery pots, place your plants on top of the soil where you want them to go before you dig any holes. That way, it's easy to see if you have enough plants to fill the space adequately or make adjustments to the arrangement. Once satisfied, start digging and popping the plants into their new homes. Any newly planted flowers should be well-watered. Then add an inch or two of mulch over the whole bed. Monitor your rainfall and water as needed, ensuring that your plants receive about an inch of water a week.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the easiest flowering plants to grow?

    How easy a plant is to grow and care for often depends on your landscape and the location of your home. That being said, some flowering plants have a reputation for being great for beginners, or anyone looking for a low-maintenance (but beautiful) blooming garden. They include catmint, aster, zinnia, impatiens, coneflower, chrysanthemum, and more.

  • What are the best flowers for attracting butterflies?

    If you're looking to attract butterflies to your garden, focus on plantings that provide a variety of food sources, including nectar for adult butterflies and suitable host plants for caterpillars. You should also look into plants that are native to your area to support your specific pollinator population. Caterpillars tend to like plants like milkweed, dill, and asters, while butterflies enjoy the nectar from flowers like phlox, coneflower, butterfly weed, cosmos, and more.

  • How much care does a flower garden need?

    The amount of care your flower garden needs depends primarily on the type (and amount) of flowers that you plant. That being said, there are several care tasks you can expect to do regularly to guarantee the best blooms. At minimum, you will have to water your flowers regularly, remove any weeds, deadhead any spent blooms, and cut-back perennial flowers at the end of the growing season.

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