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From the team at Gardeners' World Magazine
Daffodils in bloom

Flowering and foliage plants for graves

Published: Friday, 11 October, 2019 at 11:26 am

We recommend some plants for graves - both colourful flowers and foliage plants.

Planting up a grave can be a consoling and meditative way to remember a loved one.

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The area you have to work with might be small, but there's lots you can do in a small space. It should be relatively easy to maintain, so choose low maintenance plants that will look good for a long time.

In doing so, you'll be greeted by cheery plants, which, unlike cut flowers, won't wither while you're not visiting. Flowering bulbs are one of the easiest places to start if you're unsure, as they need minimal digging to plant.

Before you start, it's worth checking with whoever maintains the grave site that it is okay to plant it up, and whether they have any guidelines or restrictions in place. If the grave has 'walls' or boundaries, then it's unlikely that it will be mowed, harming the plants you have added, but it is worth checking.

Take a look at some of the best flowering and foliage plants for graves, below.

Daffodils

Spring bulbs like daffodils, snowdrops, fritillaries and ipheions are one of the loveliest choices for a grave. These tough bulbs will gradually spread and come back year after year, bringing cheering colour while being low-maintenance. Follow this advice on planting bulbs in lawns for step-by-step advice.

Narcissus 'Jet Fire'
Narcissus 'Jet Fire'

Ferns

For graves in shady spots, consider ferns. The soft foliage will help to create a tranquil atmosphere and they're low-maintenance, so you needn't worry if you're not able to visit often. Small ferns to grow include the common polypody, Dryopteris affinis 'Crispa Gracilis', hart's tongue fern (pictured) and Asian hares-foot fern.

Hart's tongue fern growing between rocks
Hart's tongue fern growing between rocks

Portulaca

For summer cover, consider colourful annuals like portulaca. A spring sowing of this creeping annual will provide a carpet of bright blooms in shades of orange, pink, red and yellow. Portulaca need a sunny spot, so for shady graves, try shade-loving annuals like nicotianas, honesty and forget-me-nots. You could also consider a mini wildflower meadow.

Vivid red, pink and yellow portulaca blooms
Vivid red, pink and yellow portulaca blooms

Sweet box

If you're able to plant larger plants, consider a small shrub like sweet box, Sarcococca confusa. This lovely shrub possesses many appealing qualities that make it suitable for the job, chiefly that it's evergreen, can be grown in sun or shade and has scented flowers that appear in winter. Discover more shrubs for shade.

Delicate white flowers hanging from sweet box stems
Delicate white flowers hanging from sweet box stems

Heathers

Heathers are tough dwarf shrubs, so they're ideal if you need a plant that can withstand a more exposed location. They're evergreen, but you could try combining summer heathers (Calluna) and winter heathers (Erica) for flowers most of the year. They'll enjoy growing in a sunny spot in acidic soil.

A golden summer heather with purple-pink flowers
A golden summer heather with purple-pink flowers

Bedding plants

For quick colour, bedding plants can be bought at any time of year, whether it's colourful zinnias for summer or violas in winter. To grow it yourself, follow the advice in our guide to growing summer bedding from seed.

Brightly coloured zinnias
Brightly coloured zinnias

Delospermas

Hardy succulents like delospermas, also called ice plants, are well-suited to grave sites that have walls or boundaries. Within these walls you can add a mix of very free-draining compost, then plant up with these and other hardy succulents like sempervivums and stonecrops. Best of all, many are evergreen so will provide constant colour.

Yellow flowers of Delosperma 'Jewel of the Desert Peridot'
Yellow flowers of Delosperma 'Jewel of the Desert Peridot'

Gillenia

Gillenias are herbaceous perennials with starry blooms in shades of white or pink, depending in the variety you go for. They're usually in flower from early to mid-summer and enjoy growing in partial shade in moist, well-drained soil. Try planting them with other shade-loving plants.

Starry, pale-pink gillenia blooms
Starry, pale-pink gillenia blooms

Trifolium ochroleucon

Trifolium ochroleucon, the sulphur clover, is a lovely UK native species now scarce in the wild, so it's a good example of how graveyards can serve as refuges for plants. This perennial species has creamy, spherical flowerheads and enjoys an alkaline soil in dappled to partial shade. Flowers right through summer.

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Cream, spherical flowers of sulphur clover
Cream, spherical flowers of sulphur clover

Catmint

Catmints (Nepeta) are robust, aromatic plants that thrive in light, well-drained soils. In return, they'll provide a profusion a purple flowers set against silvery foliage, which last for months on end. You'll be able to different varieties and species to suit your needs, from the creeping Nepeta x fassenii to the more voluminous 'Six Hills Giant'.

Silver green foliage and mauve flowers of catmint 'Six Hills Giant'
Silver green foliage and mauve flowers of catmint 'Six Hills Giant'

Plant from the headstone

If you're ever unsure about whether to plant or not, start at the headstone end. The closer to this, the safer your plants will be from the blades of the mower. This is also useful if you're looking to gradually plant up the grave rather than do it in one go.
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