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Red flowers for your garden

Sharon Amos / 24 February 2015

We share some ideas for red flowering plants and shrubs - ideal for a warm garden colour scheme.

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, the Chinese rose, is only half-hardy so is tyically grown as a summer bedding flower

Flowering seasons will overlap, especially when the weather is variable.

Research the plants you like to check that your garden can provide their growing requirements; for example, whether the plants need a sunny spot or shade, sandy or moist soil, and so on.

Red is another of those colours that provoke debate, especially at opposite ends of the spectrum where deep pink intensifies into red or where the line between red and orange starts to blur.

Here we’ve tried to stick with scarlet pillar-box red shades. If you're more interested in paler colours, see our ideas for pink flowers.

Red flowers for a spring garden

Red tulips

There are plenty of red tulips to choose from, from the smaller species tulips such as Tulipa praestans, which has clusters of three to five flowers on one stem, to classic cup-shaped ‘Kingsblood’, which are ideal to grow for cut flowers.

More red tulips:

  • ‘Madame Lefeber’
  • ‘Bing Crosby’
  • ‘Uncle Tom’
  • Tulipa linifolia
  • T. hageri ‘Splendens’
  • T. sprengeri

More spring-flowering red flowers

The scarlet anemones you buy as cut flowers can also be grown in the garden: Anemone x fulgens is the scarlet Mediterranean species; you can also look out for corms of Anemone De Caen Group and Anemone pavonina to plant, but they come in mixed colours so not all will be red.

For a spring shrub or small tree try Crataegus laevigata ‘Paul’s Scarlet’, a variety of hawthorn with light red flowers instead of the usual white.

Red flowers for your summer garden

Red summer-flowering climbers

The choice of red flowers widens considerably once summer arrives. Starting with climbers, the last colour you’d expect to see in a clematis is red yet there are several. ‘Rebecca’ is the newest variety, only recently commercially available; it has big red flowers with a contrasting central ‘boss’ of white stamens that highlight its colour. It has the edge over older variety ‘Gravetye Beauty’ which has fewer petals.

Two climbing honeysuckles have red blooms: Lonicera x brownie ‘Dropmore Scarlet’ and L. sempervirens – the latter has red berries too and unusual leaves where the flower stem passes right through the centre of the leaf (technical term, perfoliate).

Phygelius is a hardy climber that deserves to be better known for its sprays of tubular red flowers. For a splash of red in the conservatory there’s tender climber Clerondendron splendens with little clusters of scarlet flowers.

Red summer-flowering shrubs

Red is such an exotic colour in the garden it’s not surprising that these shrubs have faraway origins. Embothrium coccineum, the Chilean fire bush, has brilliant scarlet clusters of narrow tubular flowers – it’s not reliably hardy in the UK.

Callistemons or bottlebrush plants are from Australia – C. citrinus ‘Splendens’ has fabulous scarlet ‘bottlebrush’ flower spikes.

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, the Chinese rose, has bright red flowers with distinctively long central stamen – it is typically grown for summer bedding as it is only half-hardy. Incidentally, if you like colour clashes, many varieties of fuchsias have flowers that feature red and purple flowers – typically with red sepals (the upper parts of the flower) and purple corolla (the lower, bell-like petals). Find out how to grow fuchsias.

Other hot reds in the garden

One of the biggest surprises is the red delphinium, Delphinium cardinal, which doesn’t seem quite right, somehow. A red delphinium?

Potentillas and geums are similar to each other, with simple flowers in true reds – Potentilla ‘Gibson’s Scarlet’ and Geum ‘Mrs J Bradshaw’ are garden centre stalwarts. Lychnis chalcedonica has odd cross-shaped scarlet flowers.

Plenty of Penstemon varieties, with their tubular, vaguely foxglove-like flowers come in red, including ‘Tubular Bells’ and ‘Riding Hood Red’. And don’t forget peonies with their fabulous blowsy double blooms – ‘Buckeye Belle’ is a deep, deep red.

Red roses

‘Geranium’ has single flowers to rival the brightest red geranium, with slightly waxy petals. ‘Paul’s Scarlet’ is a rambler with small clusters of red flowers.

Red flowers for an autumn garden

Dahlias once again bring colour to autumn beds. ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ is probably the best known, but there are others too: ‘Bishop of Lancaster’, ‘Bishop of Auckland’ (what is it with clerics and dahlias?) and ‘Red Fox’.

Zinnias have dahlia-like flowers and carry on flowering well into autumn – you can grow them from seed to flower in the same year. Try ‘Dreamland Red F1’ – the F1 means they are a hybrid so there’s no point saving seed from your plants as it won’t produce similar plants next year.

Some salvias flower into autumn too – they’re related to the herb sage, with similar two-lipped flowers – look out for Salvia coccinea, S. fulgens and S. splendens.

Red flowers for a winter garden

For fiery late winter colour the best option is rhododendrons. Their dark evergreen leaves are a great foil for scarlet flowers. Look for ‘Dopey’, ‘President Roosevelt’, which has variegated leaves, Rhododendron arboretum ‘Rubaiyat’ and ‘Matador’ to get you started.


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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.