How to Design Flower Gardens


Flower gardens are like icing on the cake of your landscape. They give a finished look with a colors and tones that accent dull brick or wood structures and complement landscape shrubs and trees. Not only are flower gardens a feast for the eyes, they attract butterflies, bees and birds. There is no absolutely right way to design a flower garden. There are a few basic design guidelines and a lot of what you like. And, if something does not work well in your flower garden, it is easy to change.

How to Design Flower Gardens

Step 1

Develop a general idea of what you want in terms of the size and location of flower beds by walking your property. Do not limit yourself to just placing a straight line of plants around the border of your house or fence. Flower beds can be separate areas in the yard away from structures, too.

Step 2

Investigate options and get ideas. Drive around your area and see what others have done and what plants they use. Identify styles and plants that you like and try to understand why those plants and that design please you.

Step 3

Review flower garden design books and articles that are specific to your geographic area either on-line or at the library. Again, see if you can describe the look and feel you want in your flower garden(s) so you can use that insight when designing your own flower garden. Cornell University offers some excellent guidance on Flower Garden Design Basics.

Step 4

Use the garden hose to lay out some potential flower gardens. The flexibility of the hose allows you to do curved as well as straight lines easily. Take measurements of the selected areas.

Step 5

Draw a representation to scale of the proposed flower beds and the fixed features in your landscape like the buildings, trees, shrubs, walkways, patios, fences and decks using either the graph paper or the design software.

Step 6

Give your creativity free reign in your design. If you like formal beds, you will probably tend toward angular designs with straight lines. A more natural or informal look will include curved spaces with areas that are wider than others. Grouping plants in small clusters and repeating the pattern in several places pulls the overall flower garden design together.

Step 7

Select your flowering plants. The top criteria are what grows well in your area using flower reference books as guides and what do you like. Many flowers bloom only at certain times of the year, so you need enough variety to ensure flowers during most months. You can add some plants with attractive leaves such as Dusty Miller or selected Artemisia that provide color even when there are no flowers.

Step 8

Place flowers into your flower garden design. Here you need to consider the growing characteristics of the individual plants. How tall will they get? How much spread? How well will the colors complement one another and the fixed features in the landscape? According to Flower Gardening Made Easy "The most appealing flower garden designs include accents that immediately catches your eye. A bench, an arbor, a gate, art or statuary can all be good focal points."

Tips and Warnings

  • One of the tempting places to put flower gardens is under trees. Unfortunately that is also a challenging environment for flowers to grow because of the constant shade. You may be better off choosing colorful ground covers for underneath trees.

Things You'll Need

  • Graph paper
  • Colored pencils or pens
  • Computer with flower garden or landscape design software (optional)
  • Garden hose to layout different lines
  • Reference book on regionally adapted flowers
  • Measuring tape


  • Flower Garden Design Basics from Cornell University
  • Landscape and Flower Garden Design Software Reviews
  • Flower Gardening Made Easy
Keywords: flower gardens, design flower gardens, create flower gardens

About this Author

Barbara Brown has been a freelance writer since 2006. She worked 10 years performing psychological testing before moving into information research. She worked as a knowledge management specialist and project manager in defense and health research. She is studying to be a master gardener and has a master's degree in psychology from Southern Methodist University.