Returning from sunny Mediterranean holidays surrounded by pretty, flowering plants can often lead to wistful wishing that we could recreate it in our gardens. The good news is that it is easily achievable. Here are a few suggestions on how to make your dream Mediterranean garden a reality.

What features should be included in a Mediterranean garden?


Many of the plants seen and admired in Mediterranean countries are drought-tolerant and grow best in full sun. For this reason, choose the sunniest part of your garden for your themed borders, ideally south-facing and sheltered.


As drought is a common phenomenon in Mediterranean countries, lawns do not feature highly in their gardens!  For this reason, your Mediterranean-styled garden borders will be stronger if surrounded by gravel and paving rather than a lawn.

Mediterranean garden with gravel

Soil Preparation

As many Mediterranean plants need free-draining soil, you must check and prepare your soil thoroughly before planting. Heavy, clay soils tend to retain water. It’s vital you dig over the soil and incorporate lots of gravel, shingle, or grit before planting to improve drainage. You might also want to consider mounding up parts of the garden with rubble covered with a light sprinkling of soil and sand. This will help with planting extremely drought-tolerant plants.

When and how to plant

Spring is the ideal time to plant as this gives young plants time to get their roots established before the winter.  Ideally, throw a handful of grit or gravel into the bottom of the planting hole. Then, spread out the plant’s roots in the planting hole before adding and firming the soil around it.


Covering the newly planted soil with a mulch of gravel not only completes the Mediterranean look but has practical uses too. It will help hold in moisture as well as provide some much-needed winter warmth for the plants.

What are the best plants for a Mediterranean garden?

Trees for structure

The UK’s wider environment is not generally suitable for olive groves, nor features aged stone towers, and grazing goats. So, creating your slice of Mediterranean heaven will require structural plants to anchor and draw the eye upward.

For tall, narrow, evergreen architectural impact choose Italian Cypress rather than English fastigiate yew.

Mature, gnarled, broad-trunked olive trees provide a contrast to the cypress, but are expensive and becoming more difficult to source. So, consider buying younger olive trees which can be planted into terracotta containers to help give them greater impact.

Italian cypress trees
Gnarled Olive trees
Young olive tree

Hardy palms are a great choice, especially if planted in a sheltered part of the garden. Chamaerops humilis will withstand temperatures as low as minus 13 degrees. Its slow growth rate makes it the perfect choice for a smaller garden or border.

Chamaerops humilis for a mediterranean garden

Evergreen shrubs

Adding a selection of mid-size, evergreen shrubs will help balance the scale and proportion of your design. Also, they add areas of privacy to seating areas.

Spiky-leafed young Cordylines are a brilliant addition but bear in mind that they drop leaves as they grow. This leaves tall, bare stems, with a handsome top knot of leaves, but no privacy!

Although many Phormiums originate from Australasia, their narrow, evergreen, clump-forming leaves make them popular choices for including in Mediterranean gardens.

There are two main types. P. tenax, with upright leaves, and P. cookianum which has more cascading leaves. Both grow happily in part shade as well as full sun.

Phormium tenax for mediterranean gardens

Silver-leafed plants

You’ll notice many Mediterranean plants have silver or silvery-grey colour leaves. This is a good indication of a drought-tolerant plant, as the silver colour reflects heat, helping the plant retain moisture.

Lavender is a classic, well-known example and there are many cultivars available. Flower colours range from dark purple to light pink and white. The English Lavender, L. angustifolia, is one of the hardiest available. This makes it a better choice for colder areas than its less hardy cousin, the French Lavender, L. stoechas.

Look for wide, long flowering, loose stem varieties such as L. x intermedia ‘Grosso.’ It has a height and spread of 90cm.

lavandula angustifolia for mediterranean garden
lavandula stoechas for mediterranean garden

Cotton lavender, although bearing the same common name as Lavandula, is not related.  It also has scented, silvery, small, narrow leaves and develops a loose, straggly, mounded form as it matures. There are more neat, low-growing forms of cotton lavender available, such as S. chamaecyparissus ‘Small-Ness’.


The small, rounded, silver-grey leaves of the evergreen, Mediterranean Saltbush, Atriplex halimus, are edible and also taste salty too!  Its maximum height is around 200cm but is often shorter. It’s hardy down to minus 10 degrees and prefers a sunny location.

For an edible, architectural, medium-height plant why not add artichoke to the border, or its much taller cousin the cardoon?  Both have serrated, silver-grey, large, drooping leaves.

And, if left to flower, make a striking addition to the border. Also, their deep blue-purple, honey-scented flower heads are much loved by bees and butterflies.

Low-growing evergreens

Herbs such as thyme and oregano are wonderful, low-growing additions with the added advantage of giving off a wonderful aroma when their leaves are crushed.  for this reason both are often planted in-between, or at the edge of paving and their stems are allowed to grow onto the slabs.

Silverbush, (Convolvulus cneorum), is a long flowering, silver-leafed, white-flowered, easy to grow plant if given good drainage and full sun.

It has an ultimate height and spread of 60cm x 120cm and is generally pest and disease-free.

The silvery-blue, tufted-leaf grass, Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’, works well dotted amongst other plants around the border.

To keep it looking good, lift, divide and replant every three years.


Flowering perennials

The delicate, airy, spires of white flowers produced by Gaura (Oenothera lindheimeri ‘Whirling Butterflies’) from late spring into early autumn are a joy to behold. And they are a must to include in a Mediterranean-style garden. There are also pink and yellow flowered varieties to choose from, all generally pest and disease-free. They typically have a height and spread of 75cm.

Oenothera lindheimeri 'whirling butterflies'

Agapanthus are superb additions for late-season interest, producing stunning flower heads on long, stout stalks. Flower colours are available ranging from white to shades of dark purple and blue. Their leaves are long and scrappy and there are evergreen as well as deciduous varieties available.

Generally speaking, the evergreen varieties should be given winter protection or alternatively brought inside over winter. Whereas the deciduous varieties tend to be much hardier, although still benefit from being given winter protection.

Other flowering perennials to consider growing are Salvias, Eryngium, Perovskia and Phlomis.


There is something evocative about the sight and smell of lemon, lime and orange citrus trees in a Mediterranean garden. They can be grown here in the UK if given indoor winter protection and watered and fed correctly. And for this reason are best grown in containers.

Generally speaking, during the summer months, they should be watered only when the compost has almost completely dried out and then drenched with water applied to the base of the plant’s stem.  During the winter they should only be watered once or twice.  They benefit from a monthly application of liquid seaweed feed sprayed onto their leaves and a high nitrogen feed monthly between March and October.

Lemon tree

With just a few carefully selected planting choices and landscaping, you can produce a transportive Mediterranean garden space.

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